Barclaycard has vied to shake up the "fatigued" voucher market and save consumers thousands of pounds with the launch of a new discounts website.
But Moneywise has found that the Barclaycard Bespoke Offers service is offering almost identical discounts to those available from existing voucher firms such as Groupon and LivingSocial.
The "bespoke" offers are tailored to individual users based on 'lifestyle factors' they can select – such as their location and areas of interest, as well as their purchase history once they start redeeming offers.
Consumers do not have to be a Barclaycard customer to take advantage of the promotions and the service does not require people to sign up to daily emails, in the way rival discount voucher operators do.
But Barclaycard's claim that its Bespoke service could save consumers as much as £2,100 a year is already being contested.
Valerie Soranno-Keating, Barclaycard's chief executive, said: "We estimate that if the typical UK consumer made maximum use of bespoke offers across their household spend they could potentially save as much as £2,100 a year."
But Sarah Pennells, founder of SavvyWoman.co.uk, argued: "You'd have to spend around £15,000 to make those savings."
A Barclaycard spokesman acknowledged that the average household would have to spend £15,508 across all 11 categories to make the annual saving of £2,100. He added: "The annual savings to British households has been calculated by comparing the average UK shopping basket with the mix of bespoke offer categories – estimating the average achievable saving per category (based on the offers available)."
At launch, Barclaycard Bespoke's offers include:
- Buy a £10 Starbucks Card for £5
- Save 5p per litre off any fuel at Shell
- 25% off main courses at Pizza Express
- 3 for 2 dry cleaning offer at Johnson Cleaners
- £10 off when you spend £50 or more at House of Fraser
- RAC Breakdown and Rescue Package. Original price £144.99, Bespoke price £99
- Family bowling at Tenpin for £20.
The majority are neither new nor exclusive to Bespoke Offers. The Starbucks promotion, for example, is currently available on the LivingSocial website; the House of Fraser deal is available direct from the retailer, albeit only within individual departments such as beauty; and the Johnson deal is regularly available throughout the year direct from the dry cleaner's own website.
Similarly, the Tenpin family discount is just 99p cheaper than the offer the company is currently advertising on its website.
Barclaycard hopes targeted deals from big name retailers such as Tesco and House of Fraser will attract large numbers of shoppers to the Bespoke site (and encourage more retailers to pay to feature their deals on the website), but a large number of the vouchers available within individual categories – such as fashion – are for small companies and thus unlikely to have mass appeal with shoppers.
To obtain one travel deal – 6% off Virgin Holidays when you upgrade to Premium Economy or Upper Class – users would have to fork out thousands in return for a discount worth just a few hundred pounds. A Virgin Holidays representative told Moneywise it would cost up to £3,000 to upgrade a family of four's return flights to Florida to Premium Economy. The extra outlay of £3,000, on top of the initial holiday cost of around £4,000, would see the family recoup just £400 of that using the Bespoke deal.
"Many people are finding it hard enough to pay for the essentials, nevermind splashing out on treats and it's not very savvy to buy something – no matter how much you'll save – if you don't need or can't afford in the first place," Pennells adds.
"I'm not convinced it's going to 'shake up shopping' as Barclaycard promises."