M&S Sparks revamp: How the reward scheme will work

Marks & Spencer’s reward scheme – Sparks – has always been one of the most pointless. But that could now be changing in a substantial makeover.

There aren’t really any loyalty schemes worth going out of your way to use, but if you shop regularly at the same retailer it make sense to take advantange of any rewards and discounts you can get by signing up.

Some have a very clear proposition. The ones which offer points when you spend are the clearest. Tesco Clubcard, for instance, gives you a point per £1 you spend, and that point is worth 1p. And you can then trade that up to triple value.

Others give you freebies when you shop. The MyWaitrose scheme for example gives you a free hot drink (if you bring your own cup) or a free newspaper if you spend £10.

Both are good. But the Marks & Spencer Sparks scheme, launched in 2015, hasn’t done either at all well. It’s confusing and doesn’t give you much of an incentive to use it.

There are currently seven million people signed up to Sparks, but direct feedback from 250,000 of them has led M&S to launch a new look Sparks from July 2020.

How the M&S Sparks scheme used to work

Here’s what we’ve had since 2015.

You earn points but they don’t really do anything. They might have given me early access to sales but little else. The fact that I’ve currently got 37,378 Sparks points on my account is essentially meaningless.

You sometimes get discounts but the ones I’ve used have been very few and far in between. And they’re often very specific to certain products. For example, right now I can save 10% on M&S West Country yogurts. Not something I’m bothered about.

One of the very few positives was the semi-regular 20% off code – though these haven’t been offered for a while (due understandably to lockdown).

In practice there has been very little point scanning your card unless there’s a specific voucher to use – although until writing this I hadn’t realised that M&S gave 1p to charity every time you shopped.

How the new M&S Sparks scheme will work

The new scheme launches on 9th July 2020. It’s not a complete overhaul, but it should be a lot easier to understand what you’re getting, and maybe even get your shopping for free!

No more Sparks points

The headline change is that the points are out of the window. You will no longer earn points, and existing points will disappear. But since they don’t mean much it won’t make any difference. 

New Instant Rewards

Rather than have to wait for savings as you do with Tesco’s points, there will be discounts and freebies when you shop.

This seems to be split between “little thank yous” each week, such as a free pastry or pack of Percy Pigs, or “thousands of pounds to spend”. 

I imagine the latter will be in the form of money off coupons, though we won’t know for sure until the scheme launches.

Update 9/7/20 – I’ve checked the app on launch and I’ve got a £5 off when I spend £5 on clothes, beauty or home. There’s also a free tote bag that can be claimed in store. Hopefully there will be more of this kind of thing!

Personalised offers will stay

The offers which currently appear on your online account or app will still be there. As I said, these can be hit and miss, but it’s worth keeping an eye on what is showing. Until now these have tended to change every couple of weeks.

These offers are personalised and switch between food, fashion and home offers. In my experience this means if you are a man, you’ll see fashion offers for men. Which is fine for me, but not for my wife. So you might want to have your own accounts in your household.

M&S say that they’ll be able to make these offers even more specific to your shopping, so the more you use the card the more likely you’ll be able to save on something you actually buy. I guess we’ll find out if this is true in the coming months.

Hopefully there will still be the occasional 20% off everything or £10 off when you spend £30 (or similar) at M&S Food vouchers. The latter in particular can be great value and stacked with other promotions such as three for £10 and so on.

It can be easy to miss these offers, so I’ll continue to share when 20% events happen (if they do), on my M&S deals page.

A chance you’ll get your shopping for free

Every week a Sparks member will get their shopping for free. You’ll obviously have to swipe your card to be in the running. And the more you shop at M&S the more chances you’ll have of winning.

Even so, it’s not a reason to shop more at Marks & Spencer as your overall chances are going to be slim.

A donation to charity when you shop

This part of the Sparks scheme completely passed me by (or I simply forgot as I seem to have selected Shelter), and it’ll continue.

So far nearly £7 million has been raised via Sparks, so that would be great to see this increase if more people use their cards.

Charities for 2020 / 21 include NHS Charities Together, MIND, RNKI, National Trust, Unicef and WWF. You can choose the one you want to get money raised via your purchases via your online account.

Digital first offers

Though you’ll still be able to get and use a physical card, M&S say they best experience will be via the app on your phone or your online account at the Marks & Spencer website.

This likely means even fewer vouchers in the post, which I know some people find frustrating, but they tended to just be the larger 20% off vouchers rather than the more regular weekly offers.

I’ve actually been using the app for years when in-store, and often it just won’t scan. Hopefully this will be rectified in the new look app, but if not the cashier can enter the card number, or show you how to do it on the self-service tills.

To get your new offers on your phone you’ll have to update the app. On your computer you’ll just need to log-in as usual.

M&S Credit card points

The points you earn if you have a Marks & Spencer Bank credit card are completely different to Sparks and won’t be affected.

If you do use one of these cards, it might not actually be the best reward credit card out there. Here’s my regularly updated guide to the best cashback and reward credit cards.

My top loyalty schemes

The best schemes really are the ones for those you use. Personally I think Clubcard is the simplest, which Nectar has got a little better but still disappoints.

Here’s more about what points are worth at the different supermarkets.

What are loyalty card points worth?

Marks & Spencer deals – How to save up to 20% off (May 2021)

7 thoughts on “M&S Sparks revamp: How the reward scheme will work

  1. My mum is 82 and shops at M&S regularly, & uses her sparks card.
    She recently found out the points system has been changed, all the advice regarding this says to use the app or claim rewards online, she doesn’t have a smart phone or a computer, how can she still benefit with the scheme?

    1. I’ve had a look on the M&S help section and it says you can ask one of the staff who will be able to check the offers and activate them. Not ideal really.

  2. Since I lost my old card and have registered a new card I am only getting food offers that I don’t want!

  3. How do I get the offers on my phone for sparks

    1. Have you downloaded the app? Once you’ve done that and logged in you’ll see a Sparks tab at the bottom, and that’ll show you the offers. You then need to add the offers you want to your card before spending.

  4. The M&S system is not working now must be too many people trying to register

  5. Clubcard would be better if it was more transparent and easy to use. With nectar the app and website are crystal clear what your balance are, and it’s easy to redeem points at the till. Then you get regular offers, meaning for example, with 100 bonus points (50p) when you buy basics mushy peas (21p and my favourite) they are actually paying you 29p to take them away. Other similar offers and regular points from nectar canvass surveys mean the balance tots up quite quickly.

    By comparison, clubcard is slow and confusing. They kept allocating me different account numbers for no apparent reason.


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