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How to earn Avios buying and recycling ink cartridges with Tesco

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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.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2023)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (62)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • 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.

  • Matt says:

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

  • 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. 🙂

    • Graham says:

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

  • Paul says:

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

    • Brendan Sweeney says:

      Agreed. I see many cartridges going for £3 and £4 each! I’ve got no idea why!

  • George says:

    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.

  • Nick says:

    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?

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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