(EDIT October 2014 – whilst originally written in May 2014, all of the information in this review is still accurate.)
This is the 21st of my series of posts looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether of not they are worth applying for. These posts will be linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page. My other UK airline and hotel credit card overviews can be found here.
About the card
The Tesco Clubcard MasterCard is issued by Tesco Bank, which is now wholly owned by Tesco following its acquisition of Royal Bank of Scotland’s stake.
The card has no annual fee. The representative APR is 18.9% variable.
What is the sign-up bonus?
There is also a ‘refer a friend’ bonus. This allows an existing cardholder to refer a new cardholder, with both people receiving 1,000 Clubcard points in return. This is equivalent to 2,400 Avios points or 2,500 Virgin Flying Club miles.
I am able to refer you for this card. Once you have the card, e-mail me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk and I will send you the referral form. You fill in your card number, post the form to Tesco and they add 1,000 points to your account. You can still claim this bonus even if you received your Tesco credit card a few months ago.
Any other benefits?
What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?
Cardholders earn 1 Clubcard point for every £4 spent on the card, on a ‘per transaction’ basis.
It is important that potential applicants understand what this means. At the most extreme, if you bought 100 items at £3.99 in separate transactions, then you would earn zero Clubcard points. A £7.99 transaction would only earn one point, whilst an £8.00 transaction would earn two points.
One Clubcard point is worth 2.4 Avios or 2.5 Virgin Flying Club miles, so every £1 spent on the card gets you up to 0.6 Avios or 0.625 Virgin miles.
You will receive a statement once a quarter containing your Clubcard vouchers, and you can convert these online to Avios or Virgin or redeem them for any of Tesco’s other ‘Clubcard Boost’ deals. You can even spend the vouchers in-store at Tesco, although this is a poor use of them.
In recent years, Tesco has run fairly regular transfer bonuses with Avios. The last transfer bonus was August 2012 when you would have received 3.6 Avios per Clubcard point, a 50% bonus. There has been no sign of one since despite regular Virgin Flying Club bonus deals.
A 25% bonus would mean 3 Avios per point. This would mean that your MasterCard would be earning you 0.75 Avios per £1 spent (subject to rounding down due to the £4 rule) which is attractive for a non-Amex card. There is no guarantee, of course, that Avios and Tesco will continue to offer such bonuses in the future. To take full advantage you would need to keep your Clubcard vouchers in a drawer until the next transfer bonus came along – this could be 6-12 months.
Even without a conversion bonus, this is the most generous non-Amex card available for earning Avios. The only exception would be if you met the very stringent wealth criteria for the HSBC Premier MasterCard.
Any other quirks?
Yes. Your credit card doubles up as a standard Tesco Clubcard.
It is perfectly acceptable to hand over your Tesco credit card in a Tesco store and ask them to swipe it as a Clubcard. You can then pay for your shopping on a more lucrative credit card!
Tesco petrol stations have an additional quirk. For reasons that no-one quite understands, although it is a stated feature of the card, you receive double Clubcard points at Tesco garages when you use your Tesco credit card as Clubcard. You receive these points irrespective of whether you pay with the Tesco credit card or not.
(The most lucrative way of earning Avios for buying petrol is to visit a Tesco garage, use a Tesco credit card as a Clubcard and pay with an American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card which gives 2 Amex points per £1 in petrol stations. This post explains how to maximise Avios when buying petrol.)
What is an Avios point worth?
This post outlines my view of what an Avios point is worth, based on your typical redemption patterns.
One key benefit of Tesco Clubcard points is that you do not have to convert to Avios. Unlike dedicated airline credit cards, you have the option to convert to Avios or Virgin miles, but there is also the flexibility to use them for any other good Tesco deals that come along. I used a large pile of vouchers to pay a Safestore bill last year ….
How does this compare to a cashback credit card?
The best cashback card on the market which offers a) a MasterCard or Visa, b) no annual fee and c) unlimited cashback is the Asda card, which pays 0.5%. The best ‘pseudo cashback’ card is the House of Fraser MasterCard, which offers 1% of your spend in House of Fraser gift vouchers.
For an average spender, the Tesco MasterCard is therefore acceptable value given the range of Clubcard redemption partners.
Other points to note
This is not a sexy credit card, and the girls (or guys) are unlikely to be impressed when you pull it out in a bar or restaurant!
The Head for Points Verdict:
Score for the sign-up bonus – 0/10. There isn’t a sign-up bonus at the moment, although the refer-a-friend bonus of 1,000 Clubcard points is worth 2,400 Avios or 2,500 Virgin Flying Club miles at the standard conversion rate.
Score for on-going earning – 6/10. 0.6 Avios points per £1 is not great at the standard rate. It is more than twice as good as the Lloyds Avios Rewards MasterCard however! If Tesco runs another conversion bonus to Avios then this rate will look better, but there was no bonus at all during 2013. Conversion bonuses to Virgin Flying Club from Tesco are more common so you may rate the card higher if you collect Virgin miles.
(Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.)