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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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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Meals, commuting and ‘home office’: What can you claim on tax in Zurich?

Working from home has been mandatory in Zurich for much of the past tax year. What can you claim on tax - and what costs do you have to bear yourself?

Meals, commuting and 'home office': What can you claim on tax in Zurich?

On Thursday, February 17th, the Swiss government rolled back the working from home recommendation, meaning that working from home was purely up to employers for the first time since the start of the pandemic. 

Technological advances and the enduring legacy of the pandemic will see working from home – known in German as ‘Home Office’ – become more common in several industries in the coming years, which has clear tax implications. 

These can be relatively complex, particularly as many of the tax rules are in place at a cantonal level. 

Here’s an overview of what you can claim in Zurich – and what you cannot – when it comes to working from home. 

For a general guide on tax rules in Switzerland when it comes to working from home, check out the following link.

Reader question: Can I deduct working-from-home costs from my Swiss taxes?

Don’t live in Zurich – or want to know what costs other than working from home you can deduct? Check out the following extensive guide. 

EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Switzerland?

What tax deductions can I have working from home in Zurich? 

Along with Zug, Geneva and Basel (both City and Country), Zurich allows residents to claim professional expenses as they would in a normal year, i.e. despite the Covid pandemic.

This means that you can claim meal costs and transport to work, even if you worked from home during this time. 

You can claim up to CHF15 per day, or 3,200 francs per year in Zurich. 

If you employer offers subsidised meals, you can claim a maximum of CHF7.50 per day (or CHF1,600)

Regarding transport costs, you can deduct up to CHF3,000 per year for your commute. 

This includes public transport, bicycles and mopeds. 

If you travel by private car, you can only deduct this if it is difficult to take public transport.

This is deemed to be the case if both your home and workplace are more than a kilometre from the nearest public transport stop, or if more than one hour is saved by travelling by car (per day). 

If you are unable to travel by public transport due to an injury, then you are permitted to deduct your car expenses. 

What about rent, electricity and other working-from-home expenses? 

While several Swiss cantons allow you to claim expenses of working from home like rent, electricity etc, Zurich authorities have expressly ruled this out. 

As the above costs (transport and meal allowances) have been kept in place, this is seen as a form of compromise. 

Taxpayers in Zurich are also able to claim the flat-rate deduction for all professional costs associated with working from home that are not covered by the employer, although this is only in relatively narrow scenarios. 

“This solution is advantageous for most taxpayers” say Zurich cantonal authorities. 

As with all our tax reports, this is intended as a guide only and should not take the place of qualified tax advice. More Zurich-specific information is available at this link. 

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