TopCashBack Or Nectar: Bargaining Power

TopCashBack or Nectar? We all love to get a good bargain, it’s like nectar to our souls (see what I did there? – yeah I know, groans all round).

TopCashBack or Nectar

How do you choose between TopCashBack or Nectar? Getting a good deal on a product or service gives us a warm fuzzy feeling, but what about going one better than that and earn something extra while we spend? That’s what both these services offer.
Most of us are familiar with loyalty schemes from our favourite supermarket or department store but more and more of these schemes are going online.
This article will compare two such services in the UK, so you can decide between TopCashBack or Nectar.
We’ll discuss the differences between them to see which gives you the best return on your purchases. Along the way, we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of each system to help you choose which to use, and when.

Scheming For Your Money – Rewards Or Cash Back?

Nectar and TopCashBack represent the two types of scheme that are commonly available in the internet shopping mall.
Nectar is a loyalty or “Rewards” scheme; while TopCashBack is a “Cash Back” scheme.
What’s the difference?
A Rewards scheme is usually based on a points system.
This allows the operator to vary how much 1 point is worth, although you will often see double (or even triple) points promotions on specific products or stores.
You earn points as you spend money in the store/website and can then use those points to get money off later purchases, typically in discreet “lumps”.
For example, Nectar allows you to spend points in intervals of £2.50 which means you could get £2.50 or £5 off a purchase, but not £1 or £2.70
A Cash Back scheme pays you in cold hard cash, although you can choose to convert your cash into vouchers/coupons for specific stores, sometimes with a bonus attached.
TopCashBack will give you cash (funnily enough!) which you can choose to have paid directly to your bank account via PayPal.
Alternatively, you can convert the cash to voucher codes for use on sites like Amazon and you will get a small “top up” to the amount as a reward for doing so.
We will now summarise the advantages and disadvantages of each.

TopCashBack Or Nectar: Nectar Summary

nectar "royal wedding" spin off advert
nectar “royal wedding” spin off advert (Photo credit: osde8info)

Advantages

  • Simple system to get the hang of
  • The home page for your Nectar account always shows you clearly how many points you have and how much they are worth
  • Points are credited to your account quickly (usually within a day or two)
  • Points can be earned from various online stores, as well as in-store at Sainsburys
  • Points on purchases are guaranteed, as long as you click through to the merchant from the Nectar website
  • Able to earn and spend points in “real world” stores (although limited number)

Disadvantages

  • It’s generally unintuitive turning money into points (and vice versa) in your head
  • It’s not always easy to work out where your points came from
  • Points rewards are generally quite low compared to the products you are buying (often equivalent to less than a 2.5 – 5% ‘discount’)
  • Rewards are generally lower than the equivalent Cash Back offer at TopCashBack
  • Points can only be spent in certain stores and often not the same stores that gave you points in the first place
  • Points can no longer be earned through Amazon purchases, as of 2013

TopCashBack Or Nectar: TopCashBack Summary

Advantages

  • Usually higher payouts compared to equivalent Nectar offers (unless there is a double/triple point offer on Nectar)
  • Clearly states up front what percentage of your purchase you’ll get back as cash
  • Can get cash paid directly into your bank account via PayPal
  • Can get cash converted into Amazon (or other store) vouchers
  • Can get coupon codes for certain retailers, giving you a discount in addition to cash back
  • Reviews of merchants available, showing which ones are reliable with purchases and cash back claims
  • Can sometimes get cash back for free (e.g. on insurance quotes, albeit limited number of times)

Disadvantages

  • More complex system to get your head round
  • Takes longer to get your cash back, sometimes several weeks, or even months
  • No guarantees that you will receive cashback
  • Need to double check individual merchant reviews to ensure they are reliable with cash back claims
  • Can earn and spend cash back online only

 

TopCashBack Or Nectar: The Experience

So how does this work out in practice?
Here are my observations, based on our own ‘real-life’ usage.

Pure Nectar

We’ve been using Nectar since it started up – several years now, I think – and have been very pleased with it.
The fact that you get a loyalty card and can also use it online is a definite bonus and I think I have only had to query points allocations once or twice in all that time.
In order to get the points from online purchases, you *must* remember to login to the Nectar home page first and then click through to the retailer.
With that in mind, we have it set as our home page so it’s easier to get into the habit.
Official policy is that if you don’t click through from Nectar then they cannot give you the points, although I should point out that I once forgot and was given the benefit of the doubt on that occasion after I emailed them.In practice, we have two or three retailers that we click through to via Nectar on a regular basis. We most often spend our points at Argos.
Overall: Nectar just works and usually works well.
It feels safe and reliable and you can spend your points at Argos and Sainsburys on the High Street (which I like).

TopCashBack: And More Cash

I haven’t been using TopCashBack for as long as Nectar, just for 6 months or so, but I am very impressed with the service so far.
When I signed up, the service was advertised as completely free and always would be.
This is still the case, but there is now an option to have a “TopCashBack Plus” account, which you will automatically be asked to join for a trial period.
The idea of this is that you get a higher percentage of cash back as a bonus and additional rewards, in exchange for a small fee (£5 per year, taken from your cashback earnings, not your bank account).
I have joined the trial and it seems to be working ok so far.
TopCashBack is similar to Nectar for online purchases, in that you *must* go to their website first and then click through to the retailer in order to get any cashback.
When you do this, it will open a new tab in your browser.
If you have any doubt about things, you can flip back to the first tab and should see a message saying that your click through has been tracked.
It may just be me, but I find the TopCashBack website much easier to find my way around, despite their ‘system’ being slightly more complex than Nectar.
You can search for a specific item or a particular retailer and it always shows you the one you looked for, plus one or more alternatives in the same category.
This means you can shop around a lot more for the item you want, or for your preferred supplier.
There also seem to be a lot more retailers here than on Nectar.
On the other hand, it is worth reading the rules and reviews carefully next to each retailer.
Some retailers give additional hoops for you to jump through or conditions on the purchase.
For example, I recently looked on there for my home insurance deal for this year and found an option to get cash back on a quote via an online comparison site.
The rules here were that you would get cash back just for having the quote, but if you actually went through and bought a policy via that quote, then you wouldn’t!
In a couple of cases, there has actually been a page stating that you won’t get any cashback from that retailer, Amazon being the chief culprit on this.
I wonder if they previously provided cash back but stopped doing so at the same time they stopped allowing Nectar points to be used.
The reviews often give feedback on how reliable a retailer is in providing the cash back, so are a good place to check out a retailer you haven’t used before.
Each retailer has an estimated time for how long it may take for you to actually receive your cash.
I have found that on the whole this is a reasonably accurate indicator, but have also come across the odd case where it has strayed outside the ETA by a week or two.
Overall: I have earned over £30 cash through TopCashBack in a fairly short space of time.
Some of this is listed as “outstanding” and is still being tracked through the system, but I have already been spending some of it to lighten my Amazon wish list.
I have also had some great bargains.
The best one was where I booked a car service:
TopCashBack had a voucher code which I used for the supplier, when there was already a cheaper price for booking the service online from the retailer’s website.
This meant that I got the service for a substantial discount (I can’t remember exactly, but it was in the region of £60 off) and still got £10 cash back afterwards.

TopCashBack Or Nectar: Conclusion

Why not use both?
You can probably gather by now that I like TopCashBack a lot.
However, both Nectar and TopCashBack are great services and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend both to you.
If you are shopping online and are using one of their retailers, then it makes sense to click through from one or other of their websites.
Since Nectar is more immediate and reliable in their points ‘payout’, they probably have the edge in many cases, but there are fewer ways to spend them.
TopCashBack feels riskier somehow but generally gives greater rewards, unless there is a bonus points deal on Nectar.
With that in mind, I now check both sites to see if the purchase is relevant to them and click through from the one I want to use.
I then double check the click through has been confirmed with the originating website, before continuing on with my shopping.

Useful Links

If you are interested in joining either of these schemes, then follow these links!*

Have you used TopCashBack or Nectar?
What was your experience with it?
Let us know by leaving a comment!
*Disclosure: The above TopCashBack link and banner are referral links that may earn me extra cash back if you click through and then decide to join and use the service on a regular basis.
I am not associated with TopCashBack in any way, other than being a member.

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