You don’t need me to tell you the cost of everything is rocketing and we’re all in need of some money-saving tips.

So let’s skip to the good part.

Loyalty cards used to be the kind of fad where you picked up three stamps, and then either lost your card or forgot you ever had it…

But recently they have become more than just collecting points, there’s actually some instant money-saving offers along the way.

I tried 5 high street loyalty cards this summer to see how much I could save and whether it was worth the hassle.

Five ways you can save money on your weekly food shop

Marks and Spencer Sparks card

The idea of ‘personalised offers’ based on the things I ‘love’ and potentially free shopping sounded too good to turn down with this one.

I signed up and found my first available offers were 10% off clothing and homeware or £5 off any £40 food shop.

I wanted to get a treat tea for Father’s Day but wasn’t prepared to spend anywhere near the £40 price tag needed for a discount.

Instead, I also added to my basket some Percy Pigs in the hope of signalling to the app they were a fave for future discounts.*

I scanned my card in the hope of being one of the lucky winners to get their shopping for free that week but sadly there was no beginners’ luck this time. 

No points accrued, no money saved but I can feel good about myself knowing scanning my card means M&S has donated to my chosen charity.

*Sad to report there’s been no Percy Pig discounts while I’ve been using the app. Other offers have included:

  • £1.50 off £10 spend on prepared meals
  • 15% off online flowers and plants
  • 50p off a pack of M&S burgers

Total saving: £0 but plenty of potential discounts available for more regular M&S shoppers

Tesco Clubcard

This one seems to have started the trend for instant discounts rather than just collecting points.

And if you haven’t already got one of these in your purse or wallet, where have you been?

The yellow signs highlighting cheaper Clubcard prices are everywhere in store.

With this card I could get a meal deal for £3 rather than £3.50, save £2.75 on a pack of batteries, 50p off ice lollies and £3 off a pack of nappies, to name just a few.

In fact, I asked the Tesco press office just how many Clubcard prices there were in stores and was told they would normally have at least 4,000 discounted products for Clubcard users at any one time.

Considering it’s a free card and all you have to do to get discounts is to scan it at the checkout, I would imagine all regular Tesco shoppers already have one of these.

But it’s also worth it even if you occasionally shop at a Tesco Express. For example, I saved £1.30 on a pizza and a couple of share bags of sweets during one trip.

And then during my big supermarket shops my Clubcard knocked £5 off the total bill on three occasions, as well as a £7 discount and then finally a whopping £12.60.

Total saving: £40.60


Warrington Guardian: An example of some of the Clubcard savingsAn example of some of the Clubcard savings


You probably need to be one of Martin Lewis’ money-saving experts to truly get the most out of this card.

Alongside collecting points at Sainsbury’s, there’s a headache-inducing list of 300 other partners where you can collect points, including ASOS, River Island and New Look.

Generally it’s 2 points for every £1 spent but it seems to vary a lot with a wide range of offers.

(And it’s definitely a test of your memory heading to the Nectar app before you make your purchase.)

It also took me an age to eventually work out I would have to collect 500 points just to get £2.50 off my shop.

But after downloading the Nectar card app, I found there were also some instant savings to be had.

There were 12 items listed I could buy for a cheaper price if I also downloaded the Sainsbury’s SmartShop app.

Heinz ketchup was now £1.73 rather than the usual price of £2.30, for example, as long as I scanned each item using the app and then went to the checkout with my barcode once I had completed my shop.

The twist in the tale with this one is that it turns out ‘SmartShop’ does what it says on the tin and is actually rather clever.

After a couple of visits, I noticed the next time I checked the Nectar app the items I had previously bought now had SmartShop discounts ranging from 30p to 50p.

@wetrythingsontiktok I saved £100 this summer using loyalty cards - here’s how I did it #YourMoneyMatters #TescoClubcard #Nectar #bootsadvantagecard #MoneySavingTips #Moneysavingtipsuk ♬ Canyons - Official Sound Studio


While it’s going to take a while for my points to result in any big savings (they’re currently worth £3.70) the discounts on items I already buy made shopping in Sainsbury’s much more tempting.

And then right at the end of the experiment, my receipt was accompanied with an £18 Nectar card discount for my first online Sainsbury’s order over £60. Result!

Total saving: £42.15


Waterstones Plus

This one is very straightforward.

Earn a Plus Stamp for every £10 you spend.

Ten stamps = £10 to spend in Waterstones shops, cafés or online with no minimum redemption.

I picked up a couple of books for my little boy’s birthday to get my first stamps and now I’ll just have to remember to keep it in my purse for my next visit.

A decent deal for book lovers or families.

Total saving: £0 but potential to save £10

Warrington Guardian: Money Matters Facebook promo banner


I’ll be honest with you, this was the only loyalty card I already had before my experiment started.

I downloaded the app last year while I was on maternity leave and joined the Parenting Club, which gets you 8 points per £1 spend on baby items.

The app is a must with this one and before going on holiday I picked up bonus points for buying Boots own brand suncream and spending over £35 in one shop.

The points scheme is pretty generous compared to other loyalty cards and on other purchases you get 4 points for every £1 so this summer my points were worth £15.

More recently, Boots has also followed Tesco’s lead with an increasing number of items marked with Advantage card prices, ranging from £5 off the mascara I wanted to £2 off a fancy baby shampoo as well as various other discounts on hayfever tablets and conditioner.

Total saving: £22.50 plus my points from the past year are worth £15 to spend in store

Warrington Guardian: Examples of Boots Advantage card pricesExamples of Boots Advantage card prices

The verdict

With a toddler in tow, I generally don’t have the time or patience to complete all the quizzes and surveys that will earn you more points with a Tesco Clubcard or Nectar card.

But if you’re going to give me instant money off my shop just for carrying around a bit of plastic in my purse or downloading an app on my phone then sign me up.

And as long as you don’t end up buying items just because there’s a big discount (I admit I went for the fancy baby shampoo in Boots only because there was £2 knocked off the price) then signing up for loyalty cards at the stores you shop at the most seem like a smart money-saving move ahead of this winter.

We’re running a campaign to help you save money

Your Money Matters is a campaign launched by us and our sister titles across Newsquest to help you overcome the surge in the cost of living.

This year has seen a whole host of household price increases — from the energy price cap rise to surging inflation and food prices — costing your family hundreds or even thousands of pounds extra per year.

We’re making it our mission to look out for your cash, offering money-saving deals, competitions, giveaways and insightful stories from your community on the impact this cost-of-living crisis is having on our readers.

The worldwide energy crisis exacerbated by the Ukraine invasion, the financial impact of the Covid pandemic, record inflation figures and a surge in the cost of goods, fuel and travel means we will all feel the pinch.

Through our newspaper, we want to do what we can to help make your cash go further because we know your money matters.

And you can see all the latest money-saving advice from our readers in our new Facebook group. Click here to join