Although I dislike carrying dross around in my purse, I still tote around a selection of loyalty and membership cards. Let's list them.
Cards that must be considered 'essential', even though rarely or never used
LV/Britannia Rescue car-breakdown card (includes the caravan)
Volvo Assistance car-breakdown card (excludes the caravan)
CSMA Boundless card (ties in with LV for car insurance, and Britannia Rescue)
EHIC medical card
You do need to carry cards like these at all times. They are 'insurance policy' cards for that unpredictable, emergency occasion.
Cards that are often used, and clearly worth keeping handy
National Trust Life Membership card
Caravan Club Membership card
My NT card is my free entry not only to properties and gardens to visit, but to safe, serene places where I can get a light lunch, or afternoon tea, or just reliably pleasant loos. My Caravan Club card is the key to endless easy-to-book holiday breaks all over the country.
Cards where the benefit is questionable
Boots Advantage Card
My Waitrose card
The Waterstones Card
Wroes loyalty card
Darcey loyalty card
Hmmm. Six bits of plastic that would slim down my purse noticeably if I took them out and carried them no more! None of them offer substantial benefits that I would be loath to give up. The main incentives for carrying them are:
# to get a small price reduction on items that I have pre-chosen (Waitrose)
# to accumulate points that can be converted into a small cash credit against the full amount of the bill (Nectar)
# to accumulate points that will wholly cover a particular small purchase (Boots)
The other three cards (Waterstones, Wroes, Darcey) are hardly used. I tend to forget that I possess a Waterstones card, and the other two can only be used in their particular localities (Cornwall, East Sussex). Really it would make no difference whatever to my daily life if I snipped them up and closed the accounts.
The Nectar, Boots and Waitrose cards need a little more thought.
Nectar is a national card points scheme not exclusive to one retailer, although the main place where I get points is Sainsbury's - a supermarket I consider one of the best, but one I don't often use when home because the nearest store is just too far away for convenience. So I accumulate points only very slowly. A couple of days ago, at Sainsbury's in Barnstaple, I used 500 points on my Nectar card (almost the while lot, the accumulation of about a year) to get a £2.50 credit against my food bill at the till. I'm not sneering at £2.50 off. But this little once-a-year saving doesn't justify the nuisance of carrying a Nectar card all the time. I'm reaching for my scissors.
What about the Boots Advantage card? Well, I do go to Boots pretty often, and the points accumulate pretty rapidly. And I find myself in a position to redeem them against small items two or three times a year. I'm not talking about much: over twelve months I might get £15 worth of goods with those points. Still, it does happen, and so I will spare the scissors!
The My Waitrose card is exclusive to Waitrose, and they aim to give the customer something rather different. So you don't accumulate points. Instead you get free coffee (if you have bought something in the store), reduced-price newspapers, and the chance to attend cookery courses and similar offers. None of those things appeal strongly to me. You can also however self-select a range of items to purchase at a discount. Now that sounds worthwhile - but there are four snags: you can only make your selection every few months; you do in fact have to renew your choices every few months; you choose from a changing list that Waitrose put to you - it's not a genuinely unrestricted choice; and you have to do it all online - which is in practice rather a faff, because their webpages are slow to navigate. Given the high level of personal input needed, I find myself disinclined to refresh my choices, and so I'm gradually losing out as one by one my selected discounts disappear. I don't always get even a pound off nowadays. To be honest, it hardly matters to me.
Waitrose of course get a complete profile of what I buy from them. Actually, I don't mind that. I want them to know what my favourite purchases are, so that they will, hopefully, continue to stock them.
So far as I'm concerned, Waitrose have three big things going for them. One: at home, their nearest store is only ten minutes drive away, and I justly call them my 'handy corner shop'. Two: they stock many deli-type things I never see in the other stores. Three: of all the stores I could go to, Waitrose consistently has (for me) the most appealing look, layout and atmosphere, and their staff seem the friendliest and most helpful. That said, from the cash-savings point of view presenting my My Waitrose card at the till, every time, two or three times a week, seems an empty and pointless ritual.
But, as I say, I really do want them to know what I like to buy. And in a sense (note carefully that I am making a mild joke here) that card is a Middle-Class Badge. So that if ever arrested by the police, and called upon to empty my bag and purse at the station, the discovery of a My Waitrose card should assure me of polite and deferential treatment, and an airy cell with canapés, freshly-poured prosecco and flowers in it. I don't think your Tesco Clubcard will get you that.