Warning over gift cards, cheap Christmas decorations and free Nectar points

Gift card warning (and trick), free £50 Nectar points bonus, up to 50% off Christmas decorations, 40% of The Body Shop plus free gift and free Santa video. These are our Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis’ Deals of the Week.

Remember, deals can change quickly, even while I’m on the programme. So always double-check the terms and conditions before spending. Plus, while I hope these deals will save you cash, don’t spend if you can’t afford it, don’t need it, or won’t use it.

Beware giving gift cards this Christmas – and a trick to get a cheap one for yourself

I’m not generally a fan of gift vouchers. For three main reasons…

  • If the shop goes bust, they’re worthless, there’s little recourse. So if you get them don’t hold them for long – and make sure it’s a big solid reputable store.

  • Often they have dates (sometimes hidden) by which they need to be used.

  • Cash is far more flexible. It never dates and you can use it anywhere.

In fact I did a twitter poll of around 6,000 people and while 50% of people prefer to give vouchers, of the same group, 70% refer to receive cash.

Yet there’s a trick to get to get discounted gift cards. Not to give as gifts, but to buy and use yourself. Online marketplace Zeek lets sellers flog unwanted gift cards and e-vouchers from hundreds of retailers, usually at 2%-25% off. So if you know you’re going to be buying in a certain shop soon, then check if there’s a discounted gift voucher on there. Right now there’s a lot of demand, so stock won’t be as high as during other times of the year, and discounts tend to be smaller, yet you can still get £100 John Lewis gift card for £98 (2% discount), a £25 New Look gift card for £23.50 (6% discount), a £50 FeelUnique gift card for £46 (8% discount) and a £100 Forever 21 gift card for £86 (14% discount). And as gift cards count as cash, you can usually combine them with sales or codes for effectively a double discount.

Get a free £50 of Nectar points just for using a different piece of plasticIf you apply and are accepted for Sainsbury’s Nectar credit card by Thursday 28 December (check your chances first for this and other similar cards via Martin’s soft search eligibility checker – this doesn’t impact your credit worthiness.) you’ll earn 1,000 bonus points (worth £5) each time you spend £35 or more on Sainsbury’s shopping with your credit card, up to ten times in your first 2 months - so that’s 10,000 points (worth £50).

You can even max the bonus by doing a big shop and splitting your shopping into chunks of £35 spend. Yet ensure you pay the card off IN FULL each month (preferably direct debit) so you never get charged interest.

However it is worth noting, this is also the longest 0% card on the market, at 31mths 0% for new spending. So if you need to spread the cost of a planned, budgeted for, affordable purchase you can use it for that. Just ensure you make at least the minimum repayments or you could loose the deal. The rate reverts to 18.9% rep APR after the 0% ends.

Martin’s Quickies:

Up to 50% off Xmas decorations: Currently go online or in-store to House of Fraser you can get up to 50% off Christmas decorations and 40% off artificial Christmas trees. For example you can get a Linea 6ft Champoluc pencil Christmas tree for £24 (was £40) and a Champagne star Christmas tree topper for £8 (was £16). Delivery's £3.50 or you can collect from a store for free. Debenhams (online and in-store) also has up to 40% off Christmas decorations, Christmas trees and up to 60% off selected crackers. For example you can get a 12-pack of red and gold Christmas tree crackers for £9 (was £24) and 62-pack of silver and white baubles, beads and star for £10.80 (was £18). If you can wait till after Christmas though, the discounts get boosted to up to 70% off so it's up to you if it's worth the wait.

Plus, if you go online or in-store to M&S you can get 3for2 on selected Christmas decorations and gifts. The discount will be applied automatically at the checkout and the cheapest item will be free. The items included in the offer are clearly marked, and generally includes items like baubles, lights, crackers, wrapping paper, games, pyjamas and gloves. Delivery's £3.50, or you can collect from a store for free.

40% off at The Body Shop plus free £15 body butter. Go online to The Body Shop now and you can get 40% off most items (excluding sale items and some gift sets) when you use the code14671 until 11.59pm this Sunday (17 December). Plus if you spend over £15 after the code (£25 before code), you can get a free 200ml body butter (normally £15) – which is automatically added to your basket – and delivery is free (normally £2.49). You'll only get the free body butter when using the code online, not in The Body Shop stores. Yet if you're only interested in the 40% discount, you can show the code at the till, either printed or on a smartphone, until store closing on Wednesday 20 December.

Free personalised video from Santa. For a bit of fun if you go to the Portable North Polewebsite you’ll be able to create and email (or share via Facebook) a personalised video message from Santa to a friend or family member. Even better add a photo of them and yourself in the message too. Be careful though as it also offers ‘premium videos’ which you’ll have to pay for, so if you’re asked to enter payment details go back and select the free video.