By Jenny | Edited by Steve N Updated 25 Nov 2014
Many supermarkets urge you to save for up to 4% bonuses in their (not Government-protected) savings-stamps schemes.
The top 2014 schemes
How supermarket savings stamps work
Supermarket savings stamp schemes encourage year-long saving for Christmas, yet a loophole allows you to get the year's bonus in just one day. Most supermarkets pay out the bonus based on how much you’ve saved by a specific day or month, so dunk the cash in just before and they’ll add up to 4% on top.
The savings themselves come in the form of booklets or electronic cards. Some supermarkets only allow stamps to be redeemed at set points in the year, while others will let you spend at any time.
Don't think of this as a gift
It isn't the supermarkets being generous, it's good business acumen. You save for a year, they earn interest on your money, and eventually give you a little back. And more importantly:
You must spend the cash at that specific retailer, so they effectively lock in your custom
You won't be surprised to hear there are some exclusions on what you can buy with the stamps - you can't usually spend them on lottery tickets, petrol or goods from third party concessions (when a retailer has a space in a larger department store). Some supermarkets also don't allow you to redeem them online.
How safe are supermarket savings schemes?
It's important to understand these DO NOT have the same protection as savings in a bank (supermarket bank savings do though, eg, Tesco Bank - see the Safe Savings guide for more). In fact, this is exactly what happened with the Farepak debacle back in 2006. It's the reason we've always cautioned against savings clubs.
If saving for Christmas over the year - a fantastic aim - save in the bank (see Top Savings Accounts and Top Cash ISAs ). Then withdraw it and buy savings stamps the day before the bonus date to bag double interest.
As this technique's about keeping a small sum of cash on the cards for just a couple of days, the risk's reduced. The chance of a big supermarket going bust in that time is pretty slim, though nothing's impossible.
Supermarkets tend to pay the bonus on a specific day or month, normally during November or December. The bonus earned only depends on how much is in there, not how long it's been there. Therefore, you can simply.
Buy all the stamps/credit required just before the bonus date, get the full bonus, then use the funds to shop.
The cash must be spent at that specific store, so only do it if you would've spent there anyway. Keep your card safe, as many don't keep a record of your savings, unless it's an online scheme. So lose it, and your money's gone.
Top supermarket savings stamp schemes
No two schemes are alike, and some of the following are more Scrooge than Santa. Ensure you make a careful note of the timings.
Up to 4% - pays out once a year
Asda's Christmas Savings Card scheme pays the bonus, depending on how much you’ve saved, on Sun 16 Nov. So if you were planning on using Asda's savings stamp scheme bonus in 2014 you've missed the boat. Don't worry though, you can always start saving for next year.
How to do it. Pick up an Asda card in-store and pay into the account at any till. Those with between Ј49 and Ј96 get a Ј1 bonus, those with Ј97 to Ј143 gain Ј3, and those with Ј144 get Ј6. There's a limit of Ј144 per card but you can have more than one card.
In 2014 you had to add credit by 5pm on Sat 15 Nov and the bonus arrived at 8am on Sun 16 Nov. The date for 2015 isn't known yet, but we will update this page as soon as we do know.
To check your balance and top up online, register your card. Plus if it's registered, Asda lets you transfer the balance to a new card if you lose it.
There's no limit on how many cards you can get, and you have two years from your last transaction to spend the balance. So, providing you use the card at least once every two years, you won't lose the credit. You don't have to spend all the credit on the card in one go either.
Anything to watch out for? Remember, as with most other supermarket savings schemes, any credit must be spent at its stores - it's not valid online. You can't use the card balance to pay for petrol or lottery tickets but see its terms and conditions for more.
Up to 4% - pays any day in Dec
For every Ј48 you collect, Co-op's saving scheme adds Ј2 when you spend in December. You can collect as many cards as you like.
- Max payout: 4%
- Payout limit: Unlimited (use multiple cards)
- Bonus date: Any day in December
- Type: Stick on by hand
How to do it. Pick up a booklet at any Co-operative Food store and buy the stamps at the till. The card has no expiry date, though you must spend in December (no specific bonus date applies) to bag the bonus. You can get as many cards as you like.
Anything to watch out for? Cards can't be used in Co-op concessions (such as Peacocks or Greggs) or on petrol, anything from the coffee shop or lottery tickets. You can only use the card in-store, not online. Look after your booklet, as you can't register it online.
If it gets lost, you lose the cash but in the event the Co-op gets into trouble, your money is fully protected (it's held separately by an independent trustee).