Would you spend €350 to get a box of tea?

Fiona Reddan asks if loyalty cards are worth the effort?

It seems that loyalty cards are everywhere these days, with most of the larger chains and department stores – and many of the smaller ones – now offering loyalty schemes

It seems that loyalty cards are everywhere these days, with most of the larger chains and department stores – and many of the smaller ones – now offering loyalty schemes


Do you have a wallet full to over-flowing? A bunch of keys so heavy they weigh down your pocket? If so, it may be that loyalty cards are a part of this largesse. But the question to consider is, are they really helping you financially or are they just weighing you down?

It seems that loyalty cards are everywhere these days, with most of the larger chains and department stores – and many of the smaller ones – now offering loyalty schemes, although Marks & Spencer remains an obvious outlier. While it launched its loyalty scheme “Sparks” in the UK last year, a spokeswoman says that the group has no current plans to roll it out in Ireland.

Nonetheless it can be hard to shop almost anywhere without being asked if you have a loyalty card, or if you would like one.

The benefits to retailers of such schemes are clear: if effective, they keep you coming back, they may encourage you to spend more, and when you receive reward vouchers, you’re likely to put it towards a purchase you wouldn’t have otherwise made.

For the consumer, the benefits are the cashbacks. Most cards offer 1 per cent back on purchases, while some, in particular Boots Advantage Card, are more generous, at 4 per cent cashback.

But are these rewards enough to keep you interested?

Boots Advantage Card

Boots offers one of the most generous cards in the Irish market, giving you 4 points for every €1 you spend, or a return of 4 per cent.

Each point is worth a cent, which means that a spend of €50 will give you 200 points, which will be worth €2 in vouchers. Remember you won’t earn points on prescriptions or baby formula.

But, depending on your age or buying habits, you may find that you’ll be entitled to more. The over-60s for example, can earn 10 points per €1 spent, but only on Boots branded products. Parents can also earn 10 points per €1 on baby products until their child turns three, while the pharmacy regularly runs offers which allow you to pick up extra points when you purchase certain products.

Boots helpfully indicates on its website how many points you would need to purchase certain items – a 200ml bottle of Ambre Solaire Factor 30 suncream for example, costs €10.80 or requires 1,080 points.

Worth the effort?

With a cashback of at least 4 per cent on everything you spend, the card is undoubtedly one of the most generous. However, be mindful of forfeiting cheaper offers elsewhere just to build up points.

Best for coffee

Most of the major coffee chains now offer loyalty schemes in an effort to keep your business.

How much do I need to spend to get something free back with my loyalty card?

Adult ticket to Dublin Zoo (€17)
Tesco Clubcard
Spend required: €400
Barry's Tea (€3.50)
Dunnes Stores ValueCard
Spend required: €350
No7 Lift & Luminate Triple Action Serum 30ml (€38)
Boots Advantage Card
Spend required: €950
Flat white
Spend required: €45 (approx)
Jo Malone hand & body wash €35
Brown Thomas
Spend required: €3,500

At Butlers for example, you don’t get just a “free” chocolate. With its Happiness card, you’re also entitled to a free coffee once you’ve bought nine. So, to put a monetary price on this, if you spend €27(or nine coffees priced €3), you’ll get a value of €3 back. With Costa Coffee, you’ll get 5 points for every €1 you spend (or a 5 per cent cashback), and each point translates to €0.01. So, for example, 200 points will equal €2. Based on a typical spend of about €3, each coffee will earn you 15 points, or 15 cent. So, to earn a free coffee, you will need about 300 points, which will cost you €60 to earn.

At Starbucks, its rewards scheme offers you a free drink once you collect 15 stars, which you get each time you buy a drink. So, after spending €45, you will get a free drink back. If you collect 50 stars within 12 months you’ll move up a level to gold, and will be entitled to additional benefits such as a free shot of coffee or syrup.

Over at Insomnia, every 10th coffee is free, like with Butlers. But there are additional benefits, too, and you can earn also “beans” on every purchase. For every €1 you spend, you will earn 2 beans, which equates to €0.02. So, to get a free €3 latte, you will need 300 beans, which will cost you €150 in purchases to earn.

Worth the effort?

If you’re happy to do the office run, it most definitely may be worth your while availing of the various loyalty schemes on offer. Otherwise, it’s worth getting a card but don’t expect to save too much; you may in fact be better off looking for a cheaper coffee outlet.

Department stores

Brown Thomas will give you 1 point for every €1 you spend, and every point is equal to a €0.01. In addition, you can earn triple points when shopping on your birthday, and the store promises other incentives, such as in-store promotions and invitations to events. So, for example, a Michael Kors bag worth €300 will earn you €3 on your card, while some Charlotte Tilbury make-up valued at €50 will give you €0.50 on your loyalty card.

If you’re more of a Louis Vuitton than a Michael Kors kind of shopper however, the store’s Platinum card may be for you. It is aimed at those spending more than €5,000 in the store in a year, and will give you 2 points for every €1 you spend, as well as triple points on your birthday, and other treats such as free tea or coffee in the store’s restaurants. If you hit the minimum of €5,000, you’ll earn €50 back to spend as you like.

With House of Fraser, you get 1 point for every €1 you spend, instore or online, and each point is worth €0.01, with bonuses available in your birthday month.

More generous is the UK chain Debenhams, which gives you 3 points back per €1, with every point worth €0.01. So, if you spend €100, you’ll earn 300 points, or €3. The store often runs special offers, such as offering triple points (ie 9 per €1) both online and in-store at selected times. But given that the Irish arm of the chain has just gone into examinership, the viability of the shops – as well as the rewards scheme – may now be in doubt.

Worth the effort?

It comes down to how frequently you shop in such stores. To get a voucher worth €10 you’d typically need to spend €1,000 in Brown Thomas or House of Fraser, or about €333 in Debenhams.

Home & furniture

Ikea’s Family card works slightly different to other rewards schemes. It doesn’t allow you to collect points to earn rewards, but rather gives you a discount on certain products, and other incentives, such as an extra 10 per cent off sale prices and free tea or coffee Monday to Friday. For example, the chain’s Knalla umbrella typically costs €6, but Family members can buy it for €4, while a pack of mini tennis rackets costs €28 or €22 for Family members.

Hardware chain B&Q also operates a rewards scheme, the B&Q Club, but again, it doesn’t offer points. Instead, you get rewards based on your shopping history and these are issued in regular vouchers and offers. For example, when you join up, get €5 off a €50 shop.

Worth the effort?

With discounts of the order of 33 per cent, it’s hard to argue against Ikea’s family card.

Supermarket sweep

While discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl don’t offer loyalty schemes, the other three main chains do.

Dunnes Stores Value card allows shoppers to earn one point for every €1 they spend, and every point is worth €0.01. You’ll need to spend at least €200 (or collect 200 points) to start receiving vouchers in the post, and these can’t be used when shopping online. The supermarket has three voucher mailings per year, which this year will be April, August and December.

From time to time the supermarket runs promotional offers on wine and champagne. When these are on you can earn 25 points for every €1 spent on six bottles of wine & champagne. This can massively boost your rewards, as it means that if you spend €40 on the booze, you will get €10 back in vouchers in your next mailing. In effect, it’s like a 25 per cent discount on the cost of the wine.

Tesco also gives you 1 point per €1 spent, so, after a weekly shop worth €150 for example, you’ll earn 150 points. At the petrol pump you can also earn points, but this time you’ll have to spend 2 to earn 1 point. Once you have 150 points collected, Tesco will start sending you vouchers every few months to be used in store.

Of more interest perhaps, is the supermarket’s Boost offers, which allows customers to get up to four times the value of their vouchers by spending them with the supermarket’s partners. While in the UK, the supermarket giant is set to imminently close these offers, a spokeswoman says that the deals will remain in Ireland.

This means that Irish customers can exchange €2.50 in Clubcard vouchers for €10 back in restaurant tokens at Milanos or TGI Friday, for example, while the same amount of vouchers gets you €10 in tokens towards Bunratty Castle in Clare or the Aqua Dome in Tralee. This means that a spend of €250 will get you €10 off the cost of your meal out on a family day out. Customers can also use their vouchers to put money towards the cost of energy bills

It may be now Ireland’s biggest supermarket, according to Kantar’s market share figures, but SuperValu’s Real Rewards card considerably lags behind its competitors.

Unsurprisingly then, the supermarket tells us that its scheme is being revamped ahead of a launch in June. Under the new scheme, for every €1 you spend you will receive 1 point, with each point worth €0.01. Once you earn 250 points you will get money back vouchers in the post or by email. Real rewards also allows you to put your points towards the cost of your Electric Ireland bills, with 500 points giving you a €10 discount on the bill.

Worth the effort?

Supermarket cards typically make sense as you’re likely to spend frequently on groceries. Tesco’s Boost offers can really increase the value of your rewards if they appeal to you, but Dunnes “Shop & Save” offer may be a better deal than its card, giving you €10 back for every €50 spent on your next shop.

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