A guide to ‘Purchase Necessary’ promotions

“Spend money on entering a competition? Are you kidding?”

Many compers choose to keep their hobby ‘free’, only entering online competitions and draws – and that’s fine! After all, there are thousands of free prize draws and competitions online. But venture into text, phone, postal and POP (‘proof of purchase’) required promotions and you’ll find they can be very rewarding. I’ve won a VW Beetle, a holiday to Brazil, a trip to New York and plenty of cash and voucher prizes in ‘purchase necessary’ comps – in fact I’d rather spend £2 on a stamp, a few text messages, a promotional KitKat and a newspaper than a Lottery ticket because the chance of winning a prize is so much better!

This post will give an overview of the different types of ‘purchase necessary’ promotion. You might also find these links helpful:

These days, promoters like to mix the formats for their on-pack promotions to give extra chances to win – so you’re likely to find lots of winning moments/prize draw combinations, or an algorithm instant win combined with guaranteed winning moments. For most purchase-necessary promotions, entry will be on a competition website, or by a standard rate text message.

On pack code promotions

For on-pack coded promotions, the code may be visible on a neck collar, or printed onto a bottle, under a label or on a sticker. The codes are usually entered online – or sometimes via text – and they are usually unique, so can only be used once. Hidden codes inside packaging offer the best chance of winning – unfortunately, when codes are freely available on neck collars or stickers, dishonest people could easily swipe extra ones in the supermarket, or even take photos of the codes to use.

There are several types of on-pack code promotions, the most common are:

Winning moment (instant win)

  • Open Winning Moments – For the first type of ‘winning moment’, the first entry received after the randomly generated ‘winning moment’ will bag the prize – it could be seconds afterwards, or hours afterwards. There could be one winning moment in a week, or a hundred a day! If there is no entry between one winning moment and the next, two prizes will usually be awarded after the next winning moment instead, so all prizes are awarded. Sometimes, if a prize isn’t won it will be offered in a prize draw for all losing entries at the end of the promotion.
  • Precise Winning Moments – For the second type, you actually need to enter during the winning moment rather than afterwards – it could be a moment that’s just one second long! For these, only a small percentage of the prizes will be given away. An example is McDonald’s Monopoly where they usually have two winning moments every minute – enter during that exact second to win a prize.
  • Winning moment comps usually require a code from a promotional pack or a receipt upload, but not always.
  • If you win, you’ll get the winning notification immediately, either online, by email or by text

Winning code (instant win)

  • For the first type of winning code, all winning codes are pre-assigned and printed onto packs. Usually, if the winning code is never entered into the competition, the prize will not be won – although occasionally some nice promoters might offer the unclaimed prizes in a prize draw after the competition ends. These promotions will always seem overly generous – eg. a Highland Spring promotion offered 15,686 tennis sets to be won but only gave away 1,474 (9%). Pre-assigned printed winning codes are rarely used now, as there could be a risk that the batch of winners might get accidentally lost or destroyed!
  • For the second type, each code on packaging has an equal chance of being a winner, and rather than being a lucky or unlucky code at the time of purchase, it’s simply a way to verify you made a purchase. This is much more popular with promoters. Odds will be decided in advance using an ‘algorithm’ – e.g. 10,000,000 crisp packets are printed with the promotional codes on, and there are 1,000 prizes. In this example, when you input your code, a computer program will assign your entry a unique number which would have a 1-in-10,000 chance of winning. In this case, the codes on packaging may not be unique – you may be required to input the batch and time code from your pack. T&Cs usually state ‘although all prizes are available to be won, there is no guarantee they will all be won’
  • There’s also a slightly different way of running an algorithmic instant win, where the odds change dependent on how many entries are received. The promoter will advertise prizes that are ‘available to be won’ but will have an idea of the exact number of prizes they want to award. They will begin the promotion with set odds (eg. 1 in 50 entries is a winner). If the promotion gets lower entry numbers than expected, they may increase the odds of winning to 1-in-20 (for example) in order to hit their prize targets. This format isn’t usually mentioned in the terms & conditions,  but entering a promotion like this towards the end can be fruitful!
  • Again – if you win, you’ll get the winning notification immediately, either online, by email or by text

Prize draw

  • For some promotions, you enter your unique code, batch code or bar code via text or online for a prize draw rather than an instant win. There may be hourly or daily prizes, or perhaps just one draw for a big holiday prize.
  • For some promotions, as well as having a chance at an instant win prize you’re also entered into a draw for a grand prize – eg. Yeo Valley had an instant win for a camper van (nobody won!), but all losing entries went into a draw for a second camper van
  • For ‘Rewards Club’ promotions, codes from packs are required and can be exchanged for prize draw entries – eg. Yeo Valley
  • If you win, you’ll find out either after the end of the draw window (eg. at the end of the hour), or after the final closing date of the promotion

Winning packaging (instant win)

  • Occasionally the winning message is printed or enclosed in the packaging, in which case you need to keep it to claim your prize. It might be a winning Creme Egg!
  • Chances of winning a big prize this way are small! Companies might use ‘reverse shoplifting’ to put the winning packs on shop shelves, to ensure they are sold – so if you see someone doing this, watch carefully just in case they’re planting the prize chocolate…

Proof-of-purchase (receipt and/or packaging required)

  • You might be asked to upload a photo of your receipt online, or enter the numbers from it at the time of entry
  • You don’t need a separate receipt for your qualifying promotional product – a regular receipt will do, and it can have multiple promotional products on the same receipt
  • For some comps you keep the receipt and post/email it only if you’re a winner – entry is usually via a simple text message or online. This type of promotion can be open to abuse, as people will enter without having a POP (Proof Of Purchase) and then ask for one on comping forums if they win. Most compers – including me! – would prefer that receipt details were required and validated at the point of entry. NEVER give up your POP to a winner who doesn’t have one – the company may redraw prizes and pick you the next time round!
  • Some promoters will ask to see receipts and/or packaging for all your losing entries when you win – so keep those too! This is usually for promotions that require a batch code rather than a unique code, just in case you’ve entered ten times with the same code/receipt, but only bought one product. If a promoter plans to do this, it should be stated clearly in T&Cs.
  • You’ll occasionally see an old fashioned slogan competition where you need to buy the product AND complete a tiebreaker to enter – sadly these are few and far between!

Swipe to win/automatic entry

  • For a Swipe-to-win or Scan-to-Win, you’re entered into a prize draw when you buy a certain product and swipe/scan your loyalty card or app (Nectar, Tesco, Superdrug, BPMe, Shell etc) when you pay. It might also be hosted online, where purchase of a certain product automatically enters you into a prize draw.
  • With these promotions, even people who don’t want the prize and know nothing about the competition will be in the draw, so chances of winning are minimal – there’s also the risk that a car will be awarded to someone without a driving licence, or an 18 year old student will win a family holiday for 4!
  • Just to prove that people DO win ‘swipe-to-win’ comps though, a Compers News member won a Vauxhall car in a Tesco/Mars promotion a few years ago!
  • Read more in my blog post about swipe to win promotions

Phone and Text competitions

  • Most magazines and newspapers have moved from postal entry to text entry for their prize promotions to increase their revenue – some texts can cost £2 or more, but this means that entry numbers will be low!
  • For some on-pack promotions, you might have to text the last few digits from the barcode to enter – a proof of purchase (receipt) may or may not be required so check the T&Cs carefully!
  • Check T&Cs for the call or message cost – sometimes it’s well hidden!
  • Beware text comps advertised in local papers or on local radio – they might actually be hosted across nationwide publications, meaning a slim chance of winning.
  • Tesco run a mix of no purchase necessary AND purchase necessary text-to-win comps, all charged at standard rate (approx 15p). Find the latest text to win competitions listed here.

Scan a product or QR code

  • There are also instant win promotions where you use your phone to ‘scan’ a product – for example a Cadbury bar, or Budweiser bottle. The technology used can detect a logo in the photo and validates the entry.
  • Some products feature QR codes on the packaging, which when scanned by a mobile app will take you directly to a competition website.
  • In some cases winners may need to send a photo of their proof of purchase, so hold on to that receipt!

Using a product in a photo, video or recipe competition

  • In lots of promotions now, you have to feature a product in a photo, recipe or video, so you’ll need to buy it if you don’t have it hanging around at home! You’ll find lots of photo comps on social media, especially from smaller brands trying to raise brand awareness.

Charity competitions

  • Charity promotions could be a raffle, or a competition where you make a donation for every entry. As well as having the chance to win a prize, you’ll also know that you’ve done a good deed by giving money to charity! A few years ago I won a £400 spa day in an Asda Tickled Pink promotion where almost every entrant won a prize – the minimum donation was just £1!

Postal entry competitions

  • Much rarer than they used to be, entry forms in publications give you a great chance of winning. You have to buy the magazine or newspaper, AND you have to pay for a stamp to post it off. I have had success with entry forms in kids comics like Epic and Kick!
  • There are still postcard entry comps listed in publications, but they are rare (you can find lots in Compers News magazine each month).

And there you have it – some options if you want to spend a little money on your hobby. Also check out my tips on winning prizes in on-pack promotions  and my blog post on how to organise your POPs, receipts and quallies!

NI ‘No Purchase Necessary’ route is being phased out

It used to be the case that every purchase-necessary promotion had to include a ‘no purchase necessary’ entry route for Northern Ireland residents, because they weren’t covered by GB’s gambling laws. But on 26 April 2022, the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 was passed. The update finally brings Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK, allowing purchase-necessary prize draws and instant wins – as long as the price of a promotional product is not increased to cover the cost of running the prize promotion.

In the long term it should simplify things for promoters, who will no longer have to restrict their instant wins and prize draws to GB residents – and won’t need to spend time planning a ‘no purchase necessary’ alternative entry route to add to the terms and conditions.

Find out more in my blog post No more NPN route: a rule change for purchase necessary promotions in NI

Do you spend much money on your hobby – and what’s the best prize you’ve won in a purchase comp?

12 Responses

  1. Jean Vaughan says:

    My best win was years ago. Making hot chocolate on Boxing Day I noticed a ‘win’ flash on the front of the pack of Supercook marshmallows I was adding. Reading the back you had to state in 8 words why you loved the marshmallows. Up for the challenge I wrote my 8 words as a rhyming slogan and posted straight off as had to be received by 31st December. Mid January the phone call came and my husband and I won a 10 day all inclusive holiday in California – 48p and a stamp is all it cost me.

  2. Kay Evans says:

    I’m new to comping and a bit confused as to which of the current Tesco text to enter comps require a proof of purchase. I’ve read the T & Cs for most of them and none I’ve read so far mention a receipt being required but some of the expired ones (eg. The Dorito one) does. Is it safe to assume that a receipt will not be required unless it is expressly stated?

  3. Nonoorbam says:

    See during lockdown I always order food online. Can I still enter ? If they ask can I send a picture of the receipt via email?

    • Di says:

      A screenshot of your emailed order confirmation, or photo of the delivery receipt is fine for purchase necessary competitions!

  4. sue johnson says:

    I won an i pod a couple of years ago from a boots receipt, has to print a form and fax it to italy!!!!, but once i’d done that it arrived quickly

  5. Rosalind Blight says:

    Fantastic post as always Di. Just wandering, on supermarket receipts occasionally there will be a prize draw if you complete a survey for how your visit went, do you need to keep the receipt for these do you know??

    • I’ve never heard of a winner from these draws, although I do them when I have time! I would imagine as the receipt doesn’t mention it, you don’t need to keep hold of it – you usually need to enter a few details from it as part of the survey though.

  6. Tamalyn Roberts says:

    i agree with sharon, am getting sick of seeing people win who didnt buy the item! also the codes on apples – i recently entered my code and it had already been entered by someone else, i did wonder why the sticker wasnt stuck so well, shame the company didn’t ask for receipts from their winners as am sure loads cheated. i recently won £5000 on the asda pepsi competition, the last few comps they didnt ask for a receipt but i bought the pepsi anyway, one per week to make sure and lo and behold i won and they asked me for a receipt! am just so glad i bought one just incase.

    • Congrats on the Pepsi win! I hate the comps where you only need the receipt if you win – I hate that some chancer can enter without a receipt and win! I would much prefer to be uploading receipt details or photos when I enter.

  7. Sharon Arnott says:

    I enjoyed this reading this Di. My biggest moan about POP competitions these days is the fact that the receipts are rarely ever asked for. People seem to have sussed out which promoters won’t ask for POPs and more often than not enter without purchasing the product. It annoys the hell out of me when I see somebody bragging about a win that they didn’t get a POP for because that particular promoter rarely if ever asks for them. What is the point of making them purchase necessary competitions if they have no intention of asking for proof of purchase from the winners. I despair. 🙂

    • You’ll have to let me know which promoters they are Sharon – and let me know if you see somebody bragging about a win from a product that they didn’t buy too! If it states in T&Cs that receipts will be asked for, then that would be an investigation for the ASA and hopefully the promoter would have a rethink. If I spent £10 on a qualifying product and the winner is not asked for their receipt, I would be pretty annoyed!

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