Does the double points offer really reward loyalty?

Does a double points offer really reward loyalty?

Currently Virgin Trains (both East and West Coast) are offering double Nectar points on train tickets booked online, but are double points a compelling reason to book rail tickets through their site? 

The answer is still no. If your tickets qualify it just means the points you earn are worth 2% of your ticket price rather than 1% it's still exceedingly poor compared to East Coast Rewards. 

Unless you're spending a lot on your travel you're unlikely to earn enough to really make a difference. For example if you spend £255 before the deadline of 30 November 2015 you will get £5.10 worth or points rather than £2.55 but with East Coast Rewards the same spend would have got you a free Standard Class ticket anywhere on the East Coast route. You can't even travel between London and Stevenage for anywhere near £5.10 never mind London to Aberdeen.

For us to get our message loud and clear across to Virgin Trains East Coast that Nectar is not acceptable we need your help.

Please resist the temptation to add a Nectar card to your profile as it's 'better than nothing', if you have already signed up for Nectar then we recommend that you remove Nectar from your profile, if you think Flying Club will be of use to you then you can sign up for that otherwise we suggest that you leave your loyalty preferences set to empty. If you do want to sign up to one or the other, then we would recommend Flying Club as its a better scheme than Nectar, and the points can be exchanged for other benefits - not just flights. 

Ticket Type East Coast Rewards Nectar (usual rate) Nectar Double Points
Spend Standard Class First Class Virgin Trains East Coast Only
Standard Class Single £255 £170 £2500 £1250
First Class Single £460 £307 £5000 £2500
4 Standard Class Singles £920 £614 £10,000 £5000
4 First Class Singles £1565 £1044 £20,000 £10,000

Unlike East Coast Rewards Nectar doesn't officially offer free tickets instead you spend your points based on the total fare. The chart above assumes a standard class ticket costs £25 and a first class ticket costs £50. In many cases the actual cost will be higher so the costs to buy a ticket with Nectar will be even greater.

If you still want to collect Nectar points as you believe they're 'better than nothing' we suggest you book through a FirstGroup website such as Great Western Railway (formerly First Great Western) for the following reasons:

  • FirstGroup gives Nectar points on all rail travel (so if you travel on various operators you'll earn more points as they're all eligible for points)
  • FirstGroup also has points promotions throughout the year and again, unlike Virgin, they tend to apply to all rail travel.
  • FirstGroup uses the same ticket booking system as Virgin Trains East Coast so the functionality is the same.
  • Great Western Railway has a good app to use for booking tickets on your phone, again these earn points for all rail travel.
  • There's nothing stopping you spending the Nectar points earned through FirstGroup on Virgin Trains East Coast tickets.

We believe this just shows what nonsense scrapping rewards and partnering with Nectar was. If there's really many Nectar fans out there they'd already have been booking through a FirstGroup website and not The reason East Coast Rewards was so successful was because it offered something better, it was different and made the customer feel valued. 

Other benefits of East Coast Rewards:

  • East Coast were in charge of running their own scheme. Unlike Nectar, there was no risk of other partners adding promotions to the scheme that would discourage rail travel. An example of this is the 10x points bonuses on fuel purchases they often run. This makes it more rewarding to drive than to take the train.
  • East Coast Rewards rewarded you for all rail travel meaning it encouraged rail travel in general over other modes of transport. You could book directly with East Coast knowing you were getting the best deal and the best rewards for loyalty. 
  • You didn't have to spend a lot to get a nice reward and it promoted the good things about the service. Rewards allowed people to try East Coast products such as being able to redeem tickets for first class or for a first class lounge pass. 
  • The other rewards on offer apart from train travel were still better than Nectar! You could redeem cinema tickets, beer, wine, books, M&S vouchers and more, and they were all better value than the equivalent Nectar offers. 

On the other hand Nectar:

  • Nectar is a cross-partner scheme. While this does bring new places to earn and spend points, it also adds in restrictions. As each partner has to pay for their customers to earn points, they will never have huge earning promotions. Theres no incentive for Sainsbury's to give you 5x points if you then go and redeem them with another partner. 
  • Theres absolutely no reward or incentive to travel by rail. Nectar is doing nothing to incentivise you to travel with Virgin Trains apart from the odd promotion, and as we have shown even with doubling the offer, the promotion is still very poor.
  • The scheme only rarely offers more than the basic rate of 2 points = 1p, there's a few items where 3 points = 2p but they're few and far between. Whereas true loyalty schemes like East Coast Rewards offer tangible benefits for a set number of points rather than just money off.