Which loyalty scheme is the least rewarding? Part 1 - Coffee.

11 September 2013

coffee-addict-These days everyone wants us to carry around one of their loyalty cards in our wallet but do we ever stop to consider which is best in terms of value?

Whilst that might sound like we would always disregard quality over value, we all have our favourite store or at least know which products we prefer. Therefore it would stand to reason that if a product offers less value it should probably be more rewarding.

As most of us cannot function without a triplo espresso every twenty minutes, coffee houses are big business. We took a look at 4 of the biggest UK chains to compare what you would need to spend in order to get the most in return*. To make it as fair as possible, we based our research on what you would need to spend on a latte in order to get back a free latte. This is what we found...

Caffè Nero

Caffè Nero run a stamp system whereby you get a stamp for every drink purchase. If you buy 9 drinks you get your 10th drink for free. The price of a latte is approximately £2.30 so you would need to spend £20.70 in order to get a free latte.


Starbucks changed their reward system not so long ago so that you have to build your loyalty bonuses to go from "Green" level to "Gold". The old loyalty bonus gave you  free shot if you made payment with your prepaid Starbucks card. Now you would need to buy 15 cups of latte at (roughly) £2.60 per cup to get a free drink. That means an outlay of £39.

Costa Coffee

By registering a Costa Coffee Club card you automatically earn 100 points. In order to claim a free drink you need to earn 215 points (115 after the 100 joining bonus). As you only earn 5 points per £1 spend, you would need to spend £43 on drinks to claim your free coffee 0r £23 after the bonus points.

Pret a Manger

It seems that Pret a Manger does not run a loyalty card inside their London store. The average price of a latte appears to be £2.10 and you would need to get 8 stamps on your loyalty card to claim your free drink. So that would be a rather lowly (in comparison) £16.80.

So, after all that it would seem that Pret a Manger offer the best reward system outside of London and Caffè Nero inside London. This leaves Starbucks and Costa Coffee to fight it out amongst themselves to determine who offers the worst value out of the "Big Coffee 4".

We can't say that we are surprised.

(* We managed to get an average price across stores but of course prices may differ by region)


  • Marky M.
    Caffe Nero has by far the best coffee and a reasonable rewards scheme too. Nicely does it.
  • Touchwood
    Costa often run double points months for card holders so the "price" of a free coffee can vary.
  • jim
    i like tea - so screw all these coffee shops
  • Phuck Y.
    Rewarded for shelling out for expensive piss strained through feces in a cup? Isn't that one of those oxymorons?
  • Me
    Save your money and instead of buying overpriced coffee, buy a bean to cup machine. Much better investiment.
  • fibbingarchie
    Yeah, selling overpriced coffee to the masses has to be one of the biggest marketing coups of all time. Easily influenced silly twat coffee buyers.
  • Kevin
    Did you pay for it? No, so it is free. If you are stupid enough to buy additional drinks or to only go to one coffee shop to get a free drink that's your lookout. Take advantage of all loyalty cards, deals like this but have no loyalty. ONly get what you would get anyway and any free stuff is a bonus.
  • Sawyer
    Could've done with a bit more detail and research on this. Buy anything other than a latte and it works out completely differently. Personally I don't like the overpriced sugary stuff, so I tend to go for Americanos or filter coffee (where available). This can work out just under the £2 mark, which (in your comparison), means I get a free coffee after less than £18 at Caffe Nero. On the other hand, Costa only give you five points for every whole pound spent (it's not cumulative), so buying drinks at £1.95 would mean you have to spend a whopping £76 before you get a free coffee.
  • Ben T.
    Sawyer - the idea was not to explain how you can get the best value out of these cards but instead to show which seems to offer the worst value. Of course we could all buy 10 espressos to then claim a free drink which would cost more but if you are not an espresso drinker that would make no sense. Using one particular drink across the board (as there is not much price difference between a latte all the way to a mocha) gave a better spread for working out which offers the least reward for loyalty.
  • Sawyer
    Ben - the fact that we are not all espresso drinkers (or rather, latte drinkers) was my point, and I wasn't suggesting customers change their preferred drink to get the 'free' drink sooner. That would be silly, and I'm not sure how you read my comment to imply that. Rather I meant that the price-based nature of the Costa scheme means the relative value is highly dependent on your drink of choice, unlike the others. Yes, a latte is a good middle ground 'average' drink, and Costa does come out worst value no matter which way you look at it. Don't get me wrong, I liked your comparison; I just thought fell into a trap by focusing on prices for arbitrary drinks (that vary in price by size and region anyway).
  • Dr T.
    You can get a free cup of tea or coffee everyday in Waitrose with a free mywaitrose card. I am not saying its good coffee or tea it's just free.
  • Teddy E.
    We grow all our coffee from scratch. Beat that.
  • Steve
    There is an unofficial app on the Google Play store for Costa Coffee cards. It allows you to quickly check your current balance, worth to check it out. Just search for "Costa Coffee" on Play store to find it.
  • Selina
    Of course, the other thing you can do is accumulate the stamps on your loyalty card and then order the most expensive drink on the menu that you'd never normally pay money for.... chai tea latte usually works quite well!
  • Which D.
    [...] small comparison, carried out by bitterwallet.com, has shown that (for most of the UK) Pret a Manger has the best reward scheme, with customers only [...]
  • Mocha P.
    Worth remembering that with O2 priority moments you can get a free hot drink every Tuesday, and sometimes collect a stamp for it

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