An estimated four million Sainsbury’s shoppers used their Nectar loyalty points to redeem a record amount in the run up to Christmas and New Year, the multiple revealed today.

Use of the cards was up 10% on the previous year, with 22 million points, or £110 million worth, redeemed from 30 September  onwards. The immediate pre-Christmas period was especially busy, with an unprecedented £11 million worth of points redeemed on 22 December.

“We’re delighted that so many customers used their points to make their budgets go further and keep costs down at what can be an expensive time of year,” said Sainsbury’s marketing director Sarah Warby. “Customers are increasingly savvy and many tell us that they save their points, using them at the end of the year to have a great Christmas.”

The news comes ahead of Sainsbury’s Q3 results announcement on Wednesday, which some suggest will be lower than expected, despite the supermarket’s recent strong performance.  It also comes as Morrisons today blamed its 2.5% fall in like for like sales for the six weeks to 30 December on consumers increasingly shopping to a budget and using vouchers.

The largest loyalty scheme in the UK, Nectar has 18.5 million cardholders, with 11.5 million of those regularly using the card when shopping at Sainsbury’s. The retailer is the only supermarket subscribed to the scheme, although BP and Homebase are also members.

In September 2012, The Grocer reported that two-thirds of consumers say they use loyalty schemes to help them save, with 60% of UK households said to hold a Nectar card, and £1 for every £15 spent eligible to collect points.