How to earn Avios buying and recycling ink cartridges with Tesco

Love Clubcard, don’t collect Avios?  You should be reading our sister site, Shopper Points (, which covers the latest Clubcard and Nectar offers without any distracting frequent flyer talk!  Why not check it out now?

An interesting way to earn a large quantity of Tesco Clubcard points, to transfer to Avios or Virgin Flying Club, is to use Tesco to recycle inkjet cartridges.  Via its partner, The Recycling Factory, Tesco will give 50-100 Clubcard points (120-240 Avios, 125-250 Virgin miles) for many popular cartridges.

It is a simple structure – see if the cartridges you use qualify for recycling and then pick up a pre-paid envelope in your local Tesco or request one online.

If you do this with the old cartridges from your home printer, you will be able to pick up a few hundred points per year.  However, it is possible to scale this up if you want to make the effort.

If you search on ebay for ‘empty ink cartridges’ (click here to do the search automatically) you will see plenty of people selling.  Since early 2012, Tesco now allows you to recycle up to 100 cartridges per household (not per Clubcard) each year.

It is worth mentioning at this point that buying cartridges on ebay is not as lucrative as it was.  In February 2013, Tesco revised the list of qualifying cartridges.  Some of the most popular ones to buy, eg HP 364’s, dropped from 100 points to 50 points.  You will now need to be a bit savvier in tracking down cartridges which qualify for the full 100 points.

You need to do the maths carefully to make this work.  Not all cartridges you send can be recycled – some will be damaged, even if you can’t see it from the outside, and some will get damaged in transit.  You need to build in at least 10% – 20% wastage.  Any cartridges marked SETUP or INTRO (the free ones you get with a new printer which only hold a small amount of ink) are also not accepted.

If I was doing this (which, for clarity, I’m not) I would be looking to pay no more than 90p per ‘100 point’ cartridge.  That would be 99p with a 10% failure rate, for 240 Avios, so around 0.4p per Avios.  I always aim to get at least 0.75p of value per Avios, so I would just about be doubling my money – but there is of course quite a bit of effort involved, and there is a risk of a higher failure rate.

If there was another Tesco-to-Avios ’30% conversion bonus’, of course, then I would be paying a lot less per Avios.  You can’t guarantee that another bonus will come along, though.

Small quantities of cartridges can be sent in using the free postage bags that you can request online.  For larger quantities, request a bag to get the address and then send in a parcel (the same box you receive from your ebay seller!).

This is not something to jump into without giving it some thought.  You need to research ebay pricing, for a start.  However, the time / effort / Avios trade off may be worth it for some.

Love Clubcard, don’t collect Avios?  You should be reading our sister site, Shopper Points (, which covers the latest Clubcard and Nectar offers without any distracting frequent flyer talk!  Why not check it out now?

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  1. Interesting post, but once you’ve factored in time and eBay postage it seems less attractive…not to mention messy….I posted 6 ink cartridges off and got covered in old residual ink!

  2. Some people had big problems sending big boxes obviously bought from eBay, they were held up for weeks. I can’t remember the outcome but I’m sure someone else will.
    I got caught out with with the HP364 devaluation, I had just bought a couple of hundred (to use across several addresses) when that happened.

  3. I did this last year and tesco got very annoyed with boxes of cartridges. They held my cartridges and those of many others while the investigated for fraud. They did not find any but delayed the allocation of points from November 12 till Jan 13. There was a lot of chatter on this at Flyertalk this time last year.

    My wastage rate was very low but not one of the further 5 cartridges sent this year have been credited and there is no way to find out why.
    I will try again in 2014 but anyone doing this needs to do so with eyes open and prepared to lose.

  4. I’m not sure the situation now but sending in boxes last year resulted in quite a few people’s ink cartridges being helding due to an investigation, it seemed like The Recycling Factory had received quite a lot of identical boxes from people buying off the same ebay seller, I think most people got their points in the end but it took a while.

    One other thing to bear in mind is the list of cartridges can change at any time and the points are awarded based on the list when they are processed so if you send in 50 cartridges and then that type is removed from the list before they are processed you’ll get nothing.

    • I think there may be some wierd circularity going on … Perhaps Recycling Factory sells some cartridges back into the market as empties, which are then resold on ebay and sent back to them!

  5. you do not need to use the envelopes. you can put 1.7kg in a big envelope and stick 1 envelope on the front, or just pay a courier £10 to send al 100 in a box. well worth it to save time. as someone who sent off 600 of these in feb 2013 . (6 cc accounts) i had a reject rate of between 5%-13% but maybe i had a good batch. i paid £240 for 600.

    • Do me a favour and do some maths for me (just back from an overnight flight from SFO) and work out how much it cost you per avios please? I started the math then quit…

      • Looks like 0.16p per Avios to me.

        • sorry i should of mentioned i can only use £300 in cc vouchers to go to ba exec club, (3 accounts linked household. the other £300 (minus 10% approx) have gone for pizza express, hotels, bought a sat nav on the x2 value promo. also a tissot watch from goldsmiths. (3x value) but lets say i spent £120 on £300 cc points – losses so £275.

          £275/2.5 = 110 110x 600= 66k avios £120/66k = 19p/avios

    • pazza2000 says:

      Richie, care to share where you sourced these so cheaply? At that price, it might be worth the risk, and in my case the ‘tediousness’ of it all. Tip: watch you don’t get covered in ink, hard to remove from clothes.

      • I just bought on ebay they were priced at £55 per 100 if I remember correctly. I offered a price of £ 40. And we had a deal. I don’t think there is any risk at all. And as for tedious it takes 10mins to weigh out 1.7 kg in a bubble wrap bag. Sellotape an envelope to he front (for. Address) and fill out one slip. And seal the thing up. I found 25 per envelope was about 1.5 kg. so I had to do it 4 times for 24000 avios. Hardly what I would call tediousness.

  6. No matter what way you look at it, this is a damn cheap way of buying avios. Not had any problems when using the supplied envelopes and for the small amount of time it takes to do so I believe this is completely worth it.

    As soon as we tick over into 2014, I will again be buying either the 50 or 100 cc points cartridges and again start sending them in. Such an easy, cheap and simple method of hitting the 30k limit on your clubcard account each quarter.

    • you cannot hit the 30000 limit with this offer alone. you can only hit 10,000 maximum in 1 year. not 120k as you are suggesting

      • but agreed , i think its the cheapest way to get avios

      • I meant as a tool to aid reaching the 30k max per quarter. My method is to send batches in every few months. I was in no way suggesting this would hit the 30k limit :)

        And agreed on its low low cost, and I’m unsure why Raffles isn’t doing this, and doesn’t really advocate that others should do so also?

        • I am sitting on 2.9m Avios across my account and my wifes, that’s why! I’ve no problem picking up gift cards in Tesco to add to my stash, but this crosses the ‘reward to effort’ line for me. My situation is not exactly typical, though.

          My ‘warning’ was really just because of the inconsistency – as per other comments, there was a period this year when they took ages to credit cartridges, and there is always some risk that you buy a pile of duff ones on ebay without knowing it. Of course, this means that those who do make the effort to get to understand the ins and outs properly have less competition and get better prices as a result. I don’t want someone going out and buying 100 cartridges without fully understanding how the deal works.

          • You can never have too many Avios 😉 But point taken. Perhaps a few large redemptions down the line may have you reviewing that reward to effort ratio.

            Of course all readers should be aware of the possible negatives, but I think the possible benefits are slightly under advertised in this post. Ultimately, with just 1 clubcard, for an outlay of as little as ~£40 you can be looking at again ~24000 avios. Much much cheaper than any other method of purchasing them. And the effort involved really is minimal. Using the individual envelope method (5 per envelope) you are looking at using less than 45mins of your day to complete the whole lot. But as stated, each individual has different criteria to base each earning opportunity on. For me, its a no brainer. For others, 24k and having to ‘do’ something is just not worth it.

  7. Oh Matron! says:

    Richie is right…. Not only that, as I started out by sending mine in the envelopes, as a test, and then got bored and sent the whole lot in the box, the boxes tend to get processed much more quickly compared to envelopes

    • and you dont end up waiting for odd ones. when i did the envelopes i got 75 credited , then waited anothe month for the other 20 odd. a box gets done as a box so they all go the same day.

  8. For completeness I should add that there is at least one seller who sends the cartridges for you. I’m not linking anything as I offer this, and whilst I want to inform you all I also don’t want to advertise.

  9. I’ve never done this before, but was just inspired to go through our stash of empty cartridges in the office and found 100 that are on the list in about 2 minutes!!
    Is the ‘100 per household’ each calendar year? If so, could someone possibly say what address I need to post a box of them off to and what info (clubcard number etc) I need to include? I can’t see it on the site anywhere but apologies if it’s already there… Then I’ll get them posted off today to try and make it before the end of 2013!

    • you need the clubcard, surname and a statement saying you want the 100cc points , not the charity payment. i would send off today as you might just make it before xmas, although i would doubt it. MAKE SURE THEY ARE ALL VIRGIN

  10. gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

    I am actually a user of HP364s which means that I earn a steady, small stream of clubcard points. However, it also means that I only find cartridges in a Tesco when they are NOT having their semi-regular 500 bonus clubcard offers for buying two inks. Too many people buy them for the points and then re-sell on eBay.

  11. OT I realise but quick question… Does anyone have a record of previous occasions when we benefitted from a ‘Tesco-to-Avios ’30% conversion bonus’ as I would like to hazard a guess at when another might likely…

    Also Raffles, could i suggest the subject of conversion bonuses be covered in a separate post sometime (unless i have overlooked a recent one?)

    • If there was any logic or pattern to them, I would!

      July 2012 was the last BA bonus, which was 50%.

      January 2013 was the last Virgin bonus.

      • There was a Tesco – Virgin 30% bonus in September this year as well, (January was 50%).

        Based on comments on HFP I think more people took advantage of the September offer than the January one, I’d been keeping my CC points for an Avios conversion but as none appeared forthcoming sent a load over to Virgin.

        Avios seem to be doing lots of competitions recently with Tesco, I wonder if they will cap the number of bonus miles for any future bonus, I get the feeling a lot of people have a lot of Clubcard points waiting to converted.

      • Thanks for the info, always appreciated

  12. Sending 4 or 5 at a time in the proper envelopes works a treat!

  13. If anyone has the address to post these to at tesco recycling that would be appreciated, I dont have an addressed envelope :)

  14. I’ve sent hundreds of these – many go missing so be warned, Take into account Royal Mail/Recycle factory loosing them, and its not quite as lucrative as planned (worked out its about a 40% loss rate for me)

    • You must have had a damaged batch. Between myself and friends we have sent in over 2000. I know the highest rejection a friend had was 18% everyone else averaged 8 to 10%

    • Richie is indeed correct. In my experience >90% get accepted. Touch wood, I’ve never had a bad batch yet. Just you wait now I’ve said that though!

  15. muttley916 says:

    As a current seller of these cartridges on ebay, I would strongly recommend using the envelopes and not sending in boxes of 100.
    I have a few customers who have encountered problems and been refused points due to “abusing” the system.
    To speed up the envelope process, filling out one form and photocopying it for all the others really helps.

  16. Lady London says:

    Raffles is right to warn caution. I got caught up in the factory refusing to process anything for ages about a year ago. Took months to receive the points and in the end I only got about 60% credited. It really wasn’t worth the aggro and getting caught up in someone else’s fraud investigation. And I say that as someone with not many Avios I still won’t do it again.

  17. pazza2000 says:

    I have had mixed success with this. In the past I purchased carts very cheaply and had a 90%+ success rate. I stopped sending them in last year however when I encountered several of the issues above and it simply was not worth it anymore.

  18. Just bought 150 #940’s for £50 on eBay. Fingers crossed they keep up the redemption!

  19. whiskerxx says:

    Maybe I was lucky.
    I bought 4 x 100 last year at an average cost of 63p per cartridge.
    When the boxes arrived I opened them, inserted my details sealed the box and sent the same box FREEPOST.
    4 cartridges failed.
    The time taken for the points to post varied between 1 to 4 weeks.

    It makes far more sense for people to look for opportunities throughout the year, rather than all at the same time – otherwise Graham will make considerably more than he is anticipating. :-)

    • My last set sold out in a week at the beginning of December. The hardest part is finding the carts!

  20. The main trouble with this scheme seems to be the lack of auctions ending with a purchase price as low as 90p/cartridge…!

  21. I think Raffles is right to suggest proceed with caution. I’ve had a 20% failure rate both this year and last, buying from various sellers. Obviously it’s not a bad way to acquire AVIOS, but it’s good to be mindful of the pitfalls. I normally do five per envelope as many have had issues with sending 100 in a box, and the recycling factor holding them for so long that in effect the person lost out on a postcode’s annual allowance.

  22. I sent in my last lot of 100 cartridges last feb time so does that mean I can send in a load more come Jan 1st?