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Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Co-op all offer Christmas saving schemes with incentives of up to 6% to help fund festive food shopping. Here’s how they work, and how to get the best return possible.

The idea behind these supermarket savings schemes is to help people gradually save up some money that can be used at Christmas when food bills are usually higher.

As an incentive, some supermarkets offer a small bonus, normally between 2% and 6%. It seems like a decent way to get a little extra right? Well, I’ve a few issues with these schemes.

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Why I’m not a fan of Christmas saving stamps

First, you can get much better rates by putting your money in a high paying bank account. Ok, the amount isn’t groundbreaking – 5% on £97 is only a couple of quid more – but it all adds up. Plus, any money held in a bank is protected if the bank goes bust. Yes, so these supermarkets are probably ok right now, but you never know.

You’ve also got less flexibility of how, when and where you spend your savings via these schemes. They tend to require you to spend your stamps in December, and obviously you can only spend them at one retailer. If you have an emergency you can’t use the money you put into stamps for any other reason. You might also not get change from your vouchers, pushing you to buy things you don’t need to hit the voucher value.

And there are better options for people who want help to save regularly in the build-up to Christmas. It’s possible to get up to 5% at Nationwide and 3% at TSB.

So generally I’d say stay clear. But there is a trick where you can avoid most of the pitfuls but gain the free bonus.

How the loophole works

Here’s the cash hack. The bonus isn’t paid until a set bonus day. So it’s only the amount saved on that date which counts. Plus there’s no requirement to save each week or month to use these schemes.

This means you can instead pay in as much as you can (up to the set limits) just before the scheme closes. Literally on the final day if you want.

Say you put in £120. You’ll then be entitled to the same bonus as someone who’s saved £10 a month since last Christmas.

And before the day you make the deposit, you should be paying your money into a high-paying current account. So you’ll have earnt money that way too. Double win!

But just make sure you’re aware of the risks and limitations such as when you need to spend the money on your supermarket Christmas card.

The Christmas saver schemes

I’ve explained each of the main schemes and their deadlines below. But before you try this trick out yourself, do make sure you can spend the amount you save at that supermarket in the time given.

We are talking about small amounts of money unless you buy multiple cards. So it’s only worth the effort if you are shopping at those retailers anyway.

Asda Christmas Savings Card

You can collect your card in-store, and then register it online.

The deadline to add funds onto an Asda Christmas Savings Card is 5pm Sunday 17th November 2019 The bonus is applied by 8am on Monday 19th November.

The bonus increases the more you save

  • £1 bonus when you save between £30 and £79
  • £3 bonus when you save between £80 and £129
  • £6 bonus when you save between £130 and £179
  • £9 bonus when you save between £180 and £229
  • £12 bonus when you save between £230 and £279
  • £15 bonus when you save £280 or more (max amount per card)

However, you don’t need to put the money down gradually – you can do it in one lump sum. So the most effective way to do this is to keep your cash in a savings account, and then to pay whatever you can afford on the 17th November, to earn the bonus.

With the highest level (£280) it’s the equivalent of 5.3% extra free. If you only save £79 it’s 1.25% extra.

There’s no limit to how many cards you can have so it’s better to have say two 30 cards than one. Also you can use them all year round, not just in December.

Tesco Christmas Saver

There isn’t long left to pay into Tesco’s 2019 Christmas Saver, as the deadline is 15th October 2019. If you’re thinking of saving into it, here’s how it works.

You can top-up your Clubcard points throughout the year at the checkout or customer services till, from 50p to £360. Bonuses are up to 6% and are calculated as follows:

  • £1.50 bonus when you save between £25 and £49.50
  • £3 bonus when you save between £50 and £99.50
  • £6 bonus when you save between £100 and £199.50
  • £12 bonus when you save £200 to £360

You get the top-ups and any bonuses sent as vouchers in your November Clubcard statement, alongside any Clubcard vouchers you’ve earned. You can then spend them in Tesco online, in-store or on petrol. You can’t boost them with Clubcard partners.

The bonus voucher is only valid for two months, but the larger top-up vouchers are valid for two years, so there’s no rush to spend them at Christmas.

Morrisons Christmas Savers

The Morrisons scheme is linked to the Morrisons More loyalty scheme. You can buy stamps in store, but it’s all digital so you will need to go online to monitor and manage your savings.

The cut-off point to buy stamps is midnight 31st October 2019, The total saved and bonus added will be converted into a voucher to use in-store or online. You have to select on your Morrisons More account which you want. If it’s in-store you have to collect them yourself.

You have to use it between 6th November and 31st December 2019. You also can’t get change from a voucher. So if you have a £100 voucher you need to spend £100 or more in a single transaction at the till.

The maximum bonus you can get is £6. It’s calculated as follows

  • £1 bonus when you save between £49 and £96
  • £3 bonus when you save between £97 and £145
  • £4 bonus when you save between £146 and £193
  • £6 bonus when you save £194

The biggest return is £6 when you spend £97 or £194, gaining you 3%. I’d be wary of adding too much to this card as you need to spend your voucher in a single transaction, and there’s the end of 2019 deadline to spend it.

Co-op Saving Stamp

You buy actual physical stamps with the Co-op scheme. Each stamp costs £1 and you put them in a booklet which you can use at the till whenever you want.

But to get a bonus you need to have filled a full book, which is 48 stamps. Hand this over at the till and you’ll get £50 knocked off your bill. That’s the equivalent of 4% off. This bonus is only available in December, though you can use and buy the stamps every month of the year.

There’s no limit to the number of cards you can have, so you can have multiple cards to add stamps to. But make sure you don’t lose your cards as there’s no protection.

So the best option here is to buy 48 stamps just before you want to shop. Stick them all in, then hand it over. As with Morrisons, you will need to spend the full amount. So that’s a shop of £50 or more.

Iceland Bonus Card

This scheme from Iceland runs all year so isn’t technically a Christmas scheme, but the loophole works the same. You get £1 for every £20 you add to your account, worth 5%.  The bonus should be added within 48 hours.

Last year, between 29th October until 18th November 2018 Iceland gave a double boost, so it’s £2 for every £20 you add, making it worth 10%. If it runs again it’s worth looking at.

You can pick up a temporary card in Iceland stores, and will be posted a full card once you register. There’s a limit of £1,000 that can be added to your card and cards expire 24 months after you last use them.

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