Be Careful Shopping Online – The Avios/Nectar Anomaly

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I posted yesterday on how shopping or cashback portals can offer some really good added value on online spends. In doing so, I featured the BA eStore (Avios-earning) and Topcashback (cash-earning).

However, there are various options, and so “shopping around before you shop around”, to determine the best place to get your rebate, is almost always advisable.

The problem is, the best value is sometimes simply not where you would expect it to be. Hence the need to have a really good look at the available options!

A clear and surprising example

The example I am using here is Argos. If we simplify the corporate structure somewhat, Argos is owned by Sainsbury’s. Sainsbury’s also owns Nectar.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, Argos is a “Nectar partner”, and you earn Nectar points when you shop online at Argos through the Nectar Partners portal.

The earning rate here is 1 Avios per £1 spent.

Given that Sainsburys own Nectar and Argos, this is all giving and receiving that is taking place within the Sainsbury’s group. It would be very reasonable to assume, therefore, that this would be the most generous rebate available.

Looking at Topcashback (which I always do for comparison purposes), this appears to be the case:

However, I then had a look at the BA eStore, and this is where I was extremely surprised by the results.

Until 11 April, you will earn 2 Avios per £1 spent at Argos via a BA special offer, and 1 Avios per £1 spent as a standard rate.

Given that 1 Avios can be converted into 1.6 Nectar points, the BA earning rate of 1 or 2 Avios (1.6 or 3.2 Nectar points) is substantially better than the Nectar rate of 1 Nectar point (0.625 Avios).

What is particularly notable is that even outside of the BA bonus window, you get better value with Argos via BA eStore than you do with the integrated Argos partner, Nectar. This is very odd.

The same bonus and standard earning rate also applies with Virgin Flying Club points, via Shops Away.

For completeness, I should add that Quidco also offers 4% cashback (i.e. 4p per £1 spent)… but basically only on gardening stuff.

My recommendation

Clearly, the general recommendation her is to have a good look at what’s available before you shop. Set a value in your head for the miles/points earned (e.g. 1 Avios at 0.8p) and then compare that to the other options. Ultimately, if your purchase is for a few pounds then there’s no real point in painstakingly working out the best option (and I tend to go with the consistent value and flexibility of TopCashback here).

However, if you’re making a substantial online purchase, you may end up with a significant additional rebate, simply by looking at the various online rebate portals and comparing what’s available. At the very least I would take a look at BA, Virgin, TopCashback and Quidco.

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