Tesco Clubcard Plus: is the new £8-a-month deal worth it?


It feels a like a return to the 1980s. Tesco is to launch a new Clubcard squarely aimed at getting big-spending householders back into its stores at least twice a month – with the promise of a 10% discount.

From 8 November, the chain will start signing up customers to its new Clubcard Plus programme. Agree to pay its £7.99 monthly fee, and you’ll be rewarded with the 10% discount on two shops of up to £200 each, or one shop costing £200-£400 each month.

On the face of it, a discount of £20-£40 for an £8 outlay looks like a great deal. However, the discount only applies in store, not to online orders.

You only get two bites of the cherry each month – so if you use it one week on a £40 shop, then two weeks later on a £30 shop, you will get just £7 off in total. Forget to use it at all, and you still pay the £7.99 fee.

The move is arguably the biggest change yet to the Clubcard scheme, which was launched in 1995 and now has more than 19 million users.

Almost every other supermarket has launched loyalty cards since, although critics say they are less and less worthwhile (see below).

Shoppers who want Clubcard Plus will need to have a smartphone to download the new special app, which they will have to present at the checkout to gain the discount.

For Tesco customers who don’t want to sign up to the app, the existing free Clubcard rewards scheme will continue to operate as it does now, the store says.

Shoppers will, in effect, want to pre-plan their big monthly purchases to use the “discount” to best effect.

The monthly offer begins when you sign up, so if that’s on 8 November, it will renew on the eighth of each month – until you cancel. You are not locked into a contract and can cancel at any time. Tesco is very clear that users will not be able to apply the discount retrospectively.

The scheme, which has been likened to Amazon Prime, is also similar to a £10 a month Marks & Spencer deal launched in 2009. That offers its credit card customers £40 M&S vouchers a year, 48 hot drink vouchers, and triple rewards vouchers that equate to 9% cashback.

There are some key exclusions to the new Tesco programme, with all fuel purchases at Tesco forecourts being the most notable.

Spending on lottery tickets, gift vouchers, tobacco products, baby formula milk and in Tesco cafés are all excluded. Significantly, wine and other booze are included in the deal – except when the store offers its periodic “25% off six bottles” offers.

Purchases of electrical items, such as microwaves and blenders, are also excluded. But shoppers also get 10% off all its own-brand F&F clothing, Fred & Flo nappies and Tesco Pet items – all the time – not just at the elected two “discount” outings.

Tesco Mobile customers get a free doubling of their data allowance, which is worth around £1.50 a month, for up to one mobile account per Clubcard Plus-holding household.

Plus holders will have the option to apply for a Tesco Bank credit card, with no foreign exchange fees on purchases abroad, when it opens for applications from next year, although there are plenty of other cards out there that offer that.

Alessandra Bellini, Tesco’s chief customer officer, said the package had been launched in time for customers to save money on their Christmas shopping, with the average UK family spending around twice their usual budget for groceries in December. She claims some will save as much as £400 a year, even after they have paid the £95.88 a year in monthly payments.

So is it a good deal? Clearly, if your household regularly spends £100-£200 a couple of times a month in a Tesco store this is a no-brainer – assuming you plan to continue shopping at Tesco. Even if you don’t, you can cancel at any time.

However, if you only shop online – and are not prepared to start pushing a trolley around the aisles again, or make regular, smaller shops, then it’s unlikely to be worth the £96 annual fee.

Anika Newjoto of the loyalty points site Shopperpoints.co.uk says the scheme appears stuck in the days when a family bought all their food in one big weekly shop.

“This feels like a mistake from Tesco. The trend now is towards doing smaller shopping trips for fresher food,” she says.

“It is possible that this could breed resentment among people who visit Tesco every few days – for example pensioners trying to survive week-to-week. They will know those people who, over a month, spend less in total than they do – but are getting a better deal. Some big-spending online shoppers will also feel particularly aggrieved.”

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