Are supermarket loyalty cards as we know them coming to an end?
After a difficult end to 2022 for many UK families, millions of Brits will be fearing that even tougher times are ahead in 2023 as the cost of living crisis continues to bite.
This year saw inflation hit a 41-year high of 11.1% in October, with energy bills close to double the level of last winter, and food inflation is at a high not seen for decades.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics have even shown that a night in has not escaped steep price rises, with the price of several staples rising sharply between November 2021 and November 2022.
With a continuing squeeze on their finances, Britons are increasingly looking for ways to save money, from curbing energy use to finding the best ways to save on groceries.
Many have switched allegiances in where they shop, with data suggesting people are ditching big-name supermarkets for cheaper chains such as Aldi and Lidl.
Not only that, but consumers are changing how they shop – including the use of loyalty cards and regular visits to multiple supermarkets.
Yahoo News UK speaks to industry experts on how the loyalty card as a concept may be redundant, before analysing what each supermarket's card offers.
How are people saving on their weekly shop?
Consumers are adopting "savvy shopping techniques" to save money on their supermarket purchases.
These include shopping around, using 'value-own-label' brands and maximising loyalty schemes, Bryan Roberts, global insight leader at the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD), told Yahoo News UK.
Tesco Clubcard and Sainsbury’s Nectar Card are the most popular loyalty cards, with 79% of shoppers signed up to Clubcard and 67% with a Nectar Card, Roberts said IGD data showed.
"Loyalty schemes not only offer rewards but are also a way to increase basket size and frequency of shopping," he said.
Watch: Food poverty campaigner Jack Monroe's warning on cost of living crisis
Retail expert Jason Sit, a senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Portsmouth, said a 2013 study identified five drivers influencing consumers' choice of loyalty scheme, including convenience, recognition and economy, but the current cost of living crisis, higher inflation and increased taxes meant they are likely to prioritise economy over the others.
"What consumers really want or desire from supermarkets, especially during the challenging economic climate, is value for money," he said.
"When supermarkets offer the right prices, qualities and choices, is it still necessary to offer a loyalty scheme? Why make things complicated by having consumers go through the reward redemption process of spending, collecting points and then claiming rewards?"
Read more: The stat that shows how badly the UK economy is doing right now
Simplicity is something Will Broome, CEO and founder of grocery retail app Ubamarket, said is key to his own app - tapping into customers' desire for quick, easy savings.
He cited Tesco Clubcard as one of the better schemes, citing its high level of uptake as proof.
"The world has realised that messing around with complicated loyalty points and rewards, there's too much competition, too much noise, too many different schemes. Unless you give instant gratification in this climate, immediate money off something, then it's going to be lost in the mix.
"Points and redemption is an unnecessary step these days. I think as things progress to apps it will cut out points."
Rob Burgess, editor of the UK’s biggest frequent flyer website headforpoints.com, said some schemes such as Clubcard and Nectar had moved from reward schemes to discount schemes.
He said: "All of these stores now force you to carry their loyalty card to get their lowest prices. I question whether this does build loyalty. You're making them jump through a hoop to get the best deal, and does anyone really appreciate that?
"I also think it builds up resentment from occasional customers who can clearly see that they are not getting the best deal but can't claim the lower tagged price because they don't have a card."
Read more: The supermarket shoppers are abandoning amid the cost of living crisis
That in itself is important as customers shop around various brands for the best deal and, in Sit's view, is why supermarkets should rebrand 'loyalty' schemes to 'reward' schemes.
"Today's consumers are hardly loyal to a single supermarket," he said. "Instead, they mix and match their shopping activities to hunt for the best deals and fulfil their shopping needs, especially in the challenging economic climate they are facing.
"The word 'loyalty' is dated at best and spurious at worst. Today's consumers are registered with multiple loyalty schemes."
So, what do various supermarket loyalty schemes offer and how do they differ?
Asda launched its first loyalty scheme, Asda Rewards, earlier this year following a successful trial.
The scheme, which is available in all 633 stores across the UK, as well as online for delivery and its Click and Collect service, allows customers to collect 'Asda Pounds' by buying certain products or completing missions. These can then be spent at Asda in store or online.
Asda also has a Christmas Savings Card which allows you to add money to a 'savings' account in the run-up to Christmas each time you shop. You get £1 when you've saved £30, £3 when you've saved £80 and so on, up to a maximum of £15 on £280 savings.
The Tesco Clubcard scheme, which was introduced in 1995, allows members to collect one point for every £1 they spend in-store and online, and one point for every £2 spent on fuel.
Points are rewarded with money to spend in store or online – £1.50 for every 150 points.
They can also be used with nearly 300 Clubcard partners including Alton Towers, hotels.com and Cafe Rouge, and are often worth more than if used at Tesco.
Tesco also offers Clubcard Plus, which costs £7.99 a month and offers a 10% discount on two 'big shops' per month (in-store only), 10% off selected Tesco brands in-store including F&F and Tesco Pet, double data on Tesco Mobile, and the opportunity to apply for a Clubcard Plus credit card.
Morrisons relaunched its loyalty scheme in May 2021, rebranding it from 'Morrisons More' to 'My Morrisons'.
The change meant it switched from a points-based system to one that offers personalised money-off vouchers and rewards via email or an app that are tailored to your spending, on top of generalised offers.
The supermarket has also recently launched a new feature that gives shoppers offers and discounts on certain items in-store and online.
It has also relaunched its Christmas Collector scheme that gives eligible shoppers money-off vouchers if they spend at Morrisons in-store or online in the five weeks leading up to Christmas. Shoppers then have from 12 December 2022 until 3 January 2023 to spend any vouchers received under the scheme.
Morrisons also has 'clubs' for NHS staff, teachers, students and families with babies, offering exclusive offers, discounts and treats.
Sainsbury's allows shoppers to earn Nectar points at a rate of one point per £1 spent, with each point worth 0.5p. Users can also earn bonus points on some items. It also offers personalised discounts via its 'SmartShop' feature.
The Sainsbury's Nectar scheme allows shoppers to earn one point per £1 spent in-store, online or on fuel at Sainsbury's. 500 Nectar points are worth £2.50, which you can spend at the till or online using your Nectar card or app.
You also get weekly personalised offers via the Sainsbury's website or app and can use your Nectar card to collect and spend points with over 300 big brand partners, including Argos, eBay, Esso, the Sky Store and Vue.
Like Clubcard, many partners will give you two points for every pound you spend, but some are more generous.
M&S Sparks membership gives shoppers personalised offers, the chance to win what they're buying and money donated to a charity of their choice each time they shop.
You can join the scheme at marksandspencer.com and download the app if you want to be able to scan your phone rather than a card.
Waitrose's loyalty scheme is called myWaitrose and rather than collecting points, gives shoppers perks and member-only prices on some grocery items.
The scheme is well-known for offering members a free hot drink when they shop in-store, but they do need to buy something and take a reusable cup.
Other perks include personalised offers based on shopping habits, as well as a free copy of the Waitrose & Partners Food magazine.