It seems every restaurant, supermarket and hotel has a loyalty program these days. But if you have ignored these cards until now, it might be wise to reconsider. After all, if you were going to spend the money anyway, earning points or rewards on that spend is effectively giving you something for nothing.

Let’s say, for example, you do your grocery shopping at your favorite supermarket every week. It would be unwise not to have the affiliated loyalty card, as the card builds up points to be redeemed against a future grocery bill or, perhaps, other retail goods.

However, customers must remember that, whilst loyalty cards reward you, they also reward the company. Effectively promotional marketing tools used by businesses to secure your regular custom, loyalty cards demand loyalty – in other words, the more you spend at a particular establishment, the more rewards you receive. It can mean that customers end up spending more than they would otherwise in a shop or on a service to clock up more points.

Plus, the schemes are used as a rich source of data for the companies behind the cards, as they have your email address and telephone number and can therefore bombard you with endless promotional material. The simple advice is to never choose where you eat out or shop based on a loyalty scheme alone. Instead, only sign up for a loyalty card if it is an establishment or service you use regularly and will continue to do so.

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We based our list on what value you got and how easy it was to get rewards for your loyalty; for instance you can use a credit card linked to Air Miles (such as HSBC) enough in a year or two to get a free flight back. Even a small amount of Air Miles can be cashed in for a Lamcy Plaza voucher, which gives you a wide choice as a department store. The Time Out card gives some really excellent discounts at 230 restaurants, salons etc. Check the website before you go – for instance, we got a hefty 20 percent discount at Karma Cafe in Souq Al Bahar. Sirius, the Jumeirah card, gives you special offers for Sirius members and reasonable discounts – right now, for instance, 200 Sirius points gets you a home delivery Noodle House meal for two.

It’s worth getting the cards that are most valuable to you – Carrefour’s card, or the Air Miles card if you shop at Spinneys, for example. Some cards, such as the Jumeirah card, are higher-end. Loyalty cards for places like Tips ’n’ Toes and The Nail Spa are always good value and work out at about a 10 percent discount on every visit. Even something as simple as a Marble Slab card gets you one free ice cream for every five you buy. It’s all about getting cards from the places you frequent the most.

1. Air Miles UAE

  • Theme: Grocery shopping
  • Earn: Spend at selected shops in the UAE or Oman and earn 1 to 3 Air Miles per AED1.
  • Redeem on: Flights or accommodation, instantly at selected retail partners or at the Air Miles’ online store.
  • Membership: The card is free but membership will close if the account is inactive for 15 months.
  • Expiry: Air Miles have a 36-month shelf life.
  • Notes: HSBC debit and credit card holders earn extra Miles if they use their Air Miles card in conjunction with their HSBC card.

2. City Card – Time Out Dubai

  • Theme: Hotels & restaurants
  • Earn: You don’t earn points on this card.
  • Redeem on: Simply scour the website for the latest discounts, dine out and present your card to receive the discount.
  • Membership: Anyone can register online for this free card.
  • Expiry: The website only advertises discounts available at that time.
  • Notes: There are discounts of up to 20 per cent at 230 restaurants, hotels, shops and leisure activities.

3. Sirius

  • Theme: Hotels & restaurants
  • Earn: 1 Sirius Point for every $3 spent on dining, hotels, leisure or shopping within the Jumeirah group
  • Redeem on: Stays, upgrades, dining and flights on airlines, including Emirates Airlines
  • Membership: The free scheme is tiered with members with more points graduating from blue to silver and gold membership –the top tier offers the most savings
  • Expiry: Points are valid for one year
  • Notes: An off-peak deluxe room for one night at Jumeirah Beach Hotel is 1500 points. (requiring a spend of $4500.

4. Connector Loyalty Card

  • Theme: Lifestyle
  • Earn: You don’t earn points on this card
  • Redeem on: Receive discounts of up to 20 per cent across Dubai at restaurants, salons and water parks with added monthly offers
  • Membership: Simply sign up online to receive your free card
  • Expiry: Only valid deals are advertised by Connector
  • Notes: Monthly offers and updates are available to cardholders

5. Amber – Al Tayer Group loyalty program

  • Theme: Retail shopping
  • Earn: Classic cardholders earn 1 Point on every AED1 spent, Select 2 Points on every AED1 and Plus 3 Points on every AED1 spent
  • Redeem on: On your shopping at participating outlets – you can only start redemption after accumulating 10,000 Amber Points
  • Membership: The card is free to apply for and there your membership upgrades from Classic to Select to Plus the more points you accumulate
  • Expiry: Two years from the date of purchase
  • Notes: The points you earn depend on the type of purchase you make within the Al Tayer Group in the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain and whether you are a Classic, Select or Plus cardholder

6. Rotana Rewards

  • Theme: Hotels & restaurants
  • Earn: 2 points for every AED1 spend when you dine, stay or use facilities at any Rotana property
  • Redeem on: Room stays, upgrades and dining
  • Membership: Membership entitles you to discounts on hotel rates as well as late check out and internet discounts. Exclusive cardholders receive bigger discounts
  • Expiry: Points are valid for one year
  • Notes: Exclusive membership costs AED950. However, you will receive an AED250 dining voucher to spend at any Rotana outlet when you sign up

7. Carrefour My Club UAE

  • Theme: Grocery shopping
  • Earn: Receive 1 point for every AED10 spent plus specific loyalty card offers
  • Redeem on: For every 500 points accumulated, you receive a AED50 Carrefour loyalty voucher. This can be used against your next purchase in Carrefour stores and at the brand’s web store
  • Membership: The card is free and all customers can apply
  • Expiry: A total of four vouchers can be printed at one time but they do not expire
  • Notes: There are bonus points to collect in the fresh food section

8. Tamayaz – Union Coop

  • Theme: Grocery shopping
  • Earn: One point for every AED1 spent
  • Redeem on: After collecting 3,000 points, the cardholder receives a AED50 voucher, which can be used against a shopping bill.
  • Membership: The card is free and all customers can apply
  • Expiry: The vouchers do not expire
  • Notes: There are also instant discounts available on selected products to cardholders only

9. Wafi Rewards

  • Theme: Lifestyle
  • Earn: Earn one point for every AED1 spent (up to AED50,000 per purchase) on shopping and dining in Wafi Mall and Pyramids – frequency points are also added the more you spend in a particular store or restaurant
  • Redeem on: On selected cafes and restaurants as well as on treatments at Cleopatra’s spa
  • Membership: The card is free and membership is open to all shoppers
  • Expiry: Points have a 12 month life span
  • Notes: Cardholders receive discounts at over 150 stores in Wafi Mall, as well 20% off dining and spa treatments and 10% off membership at Pharaoh’s Club

10. Shukrahn Rewards

  • Theme: Retail shopping
  • Earn: Shop at Landmark Group’s outlets across the GCC and Jordan and earn points.
  • Redeem on: You need a minimum of 500 Shukrahn points to redeem on your shopping and 500 points is equivalent to AED25.
  • Membership: This card is free for life and anyone can apply
  • Expiry: 24 months from date of purchase
  • Notes: The amount you earn depends on where you spend, so a AED2000 purchase at Babyshop, for example, will earn you 2000 Points. The same spend at Fun City gives you 400 Points

11. Costa loyalty card

  • Theme: Lifestyle
  • Earn: Buy 9 coffees or ice beverages of any size at any Costa outlet and receive a complimentary Medio coffee or iced beverage
  • Redeem on: Simply present your loaded loyalty card to receive free beverages
  • Membership: Free, just pick up a card in store
  • Expiry: There is no expiry on the card
  • Notes: The card is not redeemable for cash or credit

12. Club Apparel

  • Theme: Retail shopping
  • Earn: Shop at one of the scheme’s 40 brands and earn 1 Point per AED1 spent.
  • Redeem on: Redeem on shopping at any of the partner outlets.
  • Membership: Free and valid for one year from the date of enrolment.
  • Expiry: At least one purchase in a year ensures your account stays active and you keep your points.
  • Notes: This is a cardless rewards system with your points added to the loyalty program through a mobile device that connects to your mobile phone