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COST OF LIVING

Migros vs Coop: Which Swiss supermarket has the best bonus point system?

Migros vs Coop is Switzerland’s version of Montague and Capulet - and you've probably already picked a side. But which one comes out on top when it comes to bonus points?

A shopping trolley full of stuff from Migros in Switzerland
Both of Switzerland's two major supermarkets have a bonus scheme - which is the best? Photo by NIKLAS LINIGER on Unsplash

Supermarkets in Switzerland are more than just supermarkets. 

With restaurants, charity initiatives and (comparatively) cheap prices, Switzerland’s restaurants play a much bigger role in the community than in many other countries. 

Supermarkets are so ever-present that people actually identify with their supermarket the way they would with a football team – particularly when it comes to the big two of Migros and Coop. 

The question of loyalty goes far beyond loyalty points as people will actually identify as ‘Migros Kids’ or ‘Coop Kids’ depending on who they support – which often comes down to which of the two their parents shopped at when they were kids.

Each supermarket offer their own brands and will also only stock certain well-known brands (although Migros has more own brand offerings), which can lead to people developing a preference for one over the other.  

But bonus point schemes do go some way towards building this loyalty, not least because of Switzerland’s high prices. 

A 2018 study found that the average person in Switzerland has between four and five bonus cards in their wallet, while Swiss newspaper Blick reports that no European country has a higher use of bonus systems than Switzerland. 

The following is a comparison of the loyalty schemes at Migros and Coop, Switzerland’s main two supermarkets. 

These are by far the most well-established loyalty schemes, with other supermarkets either having an ad hoc system, a credit card-based system or no loyalty scheme at all. 

Indeed, the only other major Swiss supermarket to have a loyalty scheme is the upmarket Manor, with each of Denner, Lidl and Aldi Suisse doing without a bonus point scheme. 

For an overview of Switzerland’s supermarkets, including which ones are expensive, what they offer and whether or not they sell essential items like booze, check out the following link. 

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about Switzerland’s supermarkets

Overview: What are Switzerland’s supermarket loyalty schemes?

Both Migros and Coop have loyalty schemes where you can accrue points with every purchase. 

You’ll be offered rewards for your loyalty, while in other cases your points become purchase credits. 

These loyalty schemes will usually be available at all retail outlets operated by the same company, i.e. Coop’s Supercard program is available at Coop Pronto (gas stations and convenience stores) and Coop City, while Migros’ Cumulus program is also available at Migrolino and Migrol (gas stations). 

As with all loyalty schemes, the idea is to get you to spend more at the one store, so be careful to ensure you don’t end up spending more than you otherwise would if you weren’t being loyal. 

Cost of living: How to save on groceries in Switzerland

What loyalty systems do they offer – and how do they work?

Coop’s loyalty scheme is called the Coop Supercard, while Migros offers the Cumulus program. 

According to estimates from 2019, there are around 3.2 million Coop Supercard users in Switzerland (which the supermarket claims is the most in Europe), compared with 2.2 million Migros Cumulus users. 

Both work in the same basic way, with customers accruing one bonus point with each franc spent. 

Bonus points can be redeemed like cash for products in the supermarkets.

One franc spent basically equals one cent, i.e. if you spend 100 francs you will have 100 bonus points – which will equate to one franc you can spend. 

Both schemes also have a range of specials and offers to get more points. 

One current promotion on the Migros website encourages people to use the Migros Online service, by offering vouchers for double points with purchases over 200 francs – or five times the value with purchases over 500 francs. 

There will also be offers where your points will get you more or be worth more for certain purchases. 

Some will be themed around particular holidays, i.e. bonuses for Valentines Day or Christmas, or others will be online-only offers. 

These promotions are largely similar as each of the two will want to keep up with their main rivals, although a 2018 study from Blick showed a slight advantage for Migros customers who took advantage of these promotions. 

How do the schemes differ?

One major difference between the schemes is the way points are accrued over time and the way they are cashed in. 

At Migros, you will receive a voucher every two months via mail or digitally with your points to be cashed in. 

For each 500 points you have, you will receive a 500-point voucher. If you have 1000 points, you receive a 1000-point voucher, etc. 

If you have less than 500 points, the balance will carry on to the next two-month period. 

At Coop, it is up to you to cash in your points, i.e. you will not receive regular vouchers and your balance will continue to go up over time.  

Swiss customers accrued so many Coop super points that their accountants become worried about what would happen if customers tried to cash them in all at once. 

So much so that they launched special Supercash days in 2015 to encourage people to spend their points before the totals became too high. 

Another difference between the two schemes comes down to differences between the supermarkets. 

At present, Migros doesn’t sell alcohol – which of course means you won’t accrue bonus points on alcohol. 

Migros Online does however sell alcohol, but while they’re happy to sell it, you won’t get any bonus points on it. 

EXPLAINED: The real reason Swiss supermarket Migros doesn’t sell alcohol

Many promotions with Coop also include alcohol, like a recent points promotion giving discounts on sparkling wine for Valentines Day, would not be offered at Migros.

While the alcohol rule will gradually change in the coming years after a decision in 2021, this is worth keeping in mind.

In fact, probably more important than the differences between the loyalty schemes is the difference between the supermarkets. 

For other differences between the supermarkets, check out the following link. 

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about Switzerland’s supermarkets

Which one is the best? 

Obviously there are a range of factors to consider in determining which supermarket loyalty scheme is the best for you. 

Given how similar the loyalty schemes are, the first thing is to consider which supermarket is the best for you, i.e. which is closer to you and has the best range. 

In 2018, a market survey comparing loyalty schemes found Migros came out on top – but only just. 

Of the ten schemes considered, Migros Cumulus was in first place on 61/100 ‘points’, while Coop’s Supercard was second on 57/100. 

Ikea family came in third on 41/100, with no other loyalty scheme cracking the 40-point barrier. 

If you like a drink then Coop is probably the one for you anyway, while if you’re a teetotaller then most likely you’re already a Migros ‘kid’. 

If you like to save up for a rainy day – for instance using your points to buy Christmas presents each year – then perhaps Coop works the best as you can keep your points balance increasing for as long as you like. 

If you’re likely to forget, then Migros might be the one for you. 

On the whole, the main thing is to make sure you use the bonus point system as just that – a bonus. 

In effect, each bonus point system works out to a one percent discount as you get one cent for every franc you spend. 

Keep that in mind and don’t get sucked into spending more to get more points, as this is precisely the idea of the scheme in the first place. 

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For members

SWISS CITIZENSHIP

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland wants to cut social assistance for non-Europeans

The Swiss government has unveiled a proposal which would cut social assistance for non-European residents. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland wants to cut social assistance for non-Europeans

As part of a draft revision of the law on foreigners and integration, the Federal Council is proposing to reduce social assistance paid to nationals of third countries.

“During the first three years following the granting a residence permit, the rate of social assistance should be lower than that applied to the native population”, authorities said.

The rationale of the plan is to “create incentives for better work integration”. 

The proposal has been developed by Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter. 

The project was in a consultation phase until May 3rd, after which it will be presented to Swiss parliament.

The cut would save an estimated three million francs per year nationwide. 

What does the proposal say? 

Under the plan, the amount of social assistance will be reduced in the first three years for foreigners in Switzerland, provided they come from outside the EU. 

The social aid paid to non-Europeans is already relatively low, with amounts varying from CHF600 to CHF1,000 depending on the canton. 

READ MORE: How Switzerland wants to cut welfare and boost integration for non-EU citizens

Anyone who has a ‘C’ category residency permit and who receives social assistance will lose it more easily than under the previous scheme. 

The law will also see a more defined set of requirements for integration for temporarily admitted persons. 

In addition, the Federal Statistical Office should regularly report accurate figures of how many foreigners are receiving social assistance. 

In addition, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) must approve the extension of residency permits of individuals who incur “significant” social welfare costs. 

Keller-Sutter will also draw up a uniform set of recommendations for social assistance for foreigners for the cantons. 

What are people saying? 

While the proposal has not yet been finalised, the idea has sparked heavy criticism, while some foreigners are fearful of what it might mean for them should the assistance be lowered. 

A spokesperson for the Social Democrats told Swiss tabloid Blick a cut would be “unworldly and cynical”, while the Greens say such a move would be unconstitutional. 

The proposal sparked criticism from the Swiss Workers’ Welfare Organisation, whose spokesperson, Caroline Morel, pointed out that “in social assistance, the amount of support benefits is calculated according to needs and not the length of stay in Switzerland”.

“We oppose the downgrading of the residence status of foreigners who receive social assistance. We also oppose lower social assistance rates for the first three years, as these are inhumane and hinder professional and social integration.”

“It is clear that these tightening measures will primarily affect vulnerable people such as children, people with special needs, and women”, she added.

The Swiss People’s Party on the other hand have spoken out in favour of the changes, saying it would help curb increases in social assistance contributions. 

 

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