Purchase-necessary promotions: just one receipt, or one receipt per entry?

There are absolutely loads of purchase-necessary promotions in the shops at the moment (see the Compers Shopping List as evidence!) but one of the most confusing things about entering them is whether or not you can buy just one product, then enter every day. Or do you need a separate purchase and receipt for every entry you make?

In this blog post, I’m taking a look at the different formats for on-pack and purchase necessary promotions, to try and figure out the answer!

Purchase necessary formats

Every purchase necessary promotion has a different format, and a set of detailed (and often quite puzzling) Terms & Conditions. In most cases, T&Cs aren’t absolutely clear, and you’ll have to make your own decision whether it’s OK to risk sticking with a single purchase. Read more about formats in my guide to purchase necessary promotions.

Having said that, I do have some guidance to share which might help with your dilemma about when to buy your qualifying product, and how many times to buy it. 

In my opinion, the best format for a purchase-necessary promotion is either one where you upload your receipt photo at the point of entry, or one that requires a unique code from inside product packaging. These promotions clearly allow one entry per product purchased and there’s no ambiguity, plus it’s difficult for people to cheat! Unfortunately, brands aren’t keen on these formats due to the expense of printing unique codes, or recruiting staff to check the receipts. Instead, promoters opt for an easier solution of inputting non-unique batch codes and product barcodes – or a simple website/SMS entry where only the winners’ receipts are checked.

Can I buy before the start date?

For a promotion that features on pack it’s generally OK to buy the special flashed product before the promotion actually opens for entries – they are often on the shelves up to a month before the promotion starts, and early receipts will be valid as long as you bought a promotional flashed pack.

A promotion featured on the packaging makes no difference to the product barcode number, and a product barcode is the same code on the same size of product in ALL shops.

However, if you need to buy a product with no special flashed promotional packaging (eg. Waitrose prize draws or Tesco Text-to-wins), you should wait until the start date of the promotion, as older receipts won’t be eligible. Check T&Cs for the important phrase ‘purchase within the promotional period’ to be sure. 

KitKat Break Free 2022

Receipt required

If a receipt photo or number is required at the point of entry, you will usually need to make a new purchase for every entry you make, because you will need to upload a new photo each time. Receipts are usually checked by a computer and/or a human to see that it’s not a duplicate of a receipt that has previously been submitted. Sometimes a receipt number or order number is required, rather than a photo (eg. Waitrose prize draws).

Do check the terms and conditions though – if it does not specifically state “one receipt = one entry”, “a new receipt is required for each entry”, “please enter again with a new receipt” or similar, then you can try to upload a receipt again and see if it is accepted.

Current examples of promotions that require receipts to be uploaded up front: Itsu Zen Water WIn a trip to Japan (ends 31.1.25) , Tesco text competitions.

For other non-code purchase-necessary promotions, a receipt is only required if you win – but this doesn’t mean you can go out and buy the product after you get the winning notification! You need to buy the product within the promotional period, then after buying it, enter your details on a website or text a keyword to a shortcode.

For this type of promotion, check T&Cs – it’s usually one entry per person throughout the whole promotional period. If it’s one entry per week or per day you should read the T&Cs carefully. It’s usually OK to get one receipt and enter once a day or week – as generally the winner will only be asked to send a photo of ONE receipt to validate a win.

If the promoter does intend entrants to buy a new product for each entry they make, the T&Cs should make it clear that a winner may be asked to provide a unique receipt for each entry. For example, in Cadbury’s £5k weekend promotion T&Cs clearly stated “the Promoter will reserve the right to ask for proof of each and every entry in order to award a prize” – and they did indeed ask a potential winner to do this. That person had entered daily but couldn’t provide a receipt to correspond with every entry they made, so lost out on the prize.

Sometimes the promoter won’t even bother to ask for a receipt at all – but not buying the product is a risk most compers don’t like to take! 

Can I upload a receipt and then get a refund?

This is an interesting question! Once you’ve made the purchase of a qualifying product and taken a photo of your receipt, can you return the product to the store? After all, you still have a photo of the receipt – but if you win and the promoter asks you to post off the original receipt, you probably won’t get away with sending one that has ‘REFUNDED’ scribbled across it. So I would suggest it’s not worth the risk – it’s also rather cheeky!

Getting refunds after entry is clearly a worry for some promoters though – Hisense ran a purchase-necessary promotion where you couldn’t actually enter until 30 days after you made your purchase, just to ensure the entrant still had the product and didn’t return it!

Product photo or QR scan required

For a comp where you have to scan a QR code or upload a photo, you should buy one product, then continue to enter daily. You may have to take different photos of the product to upload! If you win with a product photo, you may be asked to provide one receipt which should be dated within the promotion timeframe, although sometimes the fact that you’ve taken a photo is enough evidence for the promoter to know you’ve bought the product.

QR codes are often on alcohol bottles, so usually winners won’t be asked to provide a receipt because the bottle may have been purchased in a bar (and not many of us hang on to bar receipts!)

Unique code required

Certain on-pack promotions use unique codes printed onto the packaging, sticker or neck collar. In most cases, winners will not need to provide a receipt if they win a unique code competition – but they may have to provide a photo of the code to prove that they bought the product (and didn’t just cheat by using the code from a product on a supermarket shelf!). If the code is in a removable format on an expensive qualifier – eg. a neck collar on whisky – the promoter may ask to see the receipt too. Nescafé asked for photos of labels AND receipts for their recent on pack promotion.

Batch code or barcode required

So far it’s been quite easy to decide if a single purchase will suffice! But here’s where it gets a bit less clear. With a purchase-necessary competition where you enter a non-unique barcode or batch code, is it OK to buy a single product, keep hold of the packaging and receipt, then enter multiple times? I would argue it’s acceptable, unless it’s specifically stated in the T&Cs that winners will need to provide proof of purchase of EVERY entry they made. This part of the T&Cs might be something like: ‘Winners will need to provide a valid proof of purchase for EVERY entry they made, in addition to the winning entry, before the prize is awarded’. 

Despite several sets of T&Cs now including a similar clause, I can only think of a handful of occasions where a promoter did actually ask winners to provide photos of all receipts and codes before validating a win (these were batch code entry promotions from Soreen, Onken Yogurt and Maryland Cookies). However, Nestlé promotions have started to use more specific phrases in their T&Cs, such as “Each entry to the promotion must have a new pack and unique receipt” and “Please retain …all associated receipt(s)/online order(s) as proof of purchase” – so it will be interesting to see if Nestlé do demand to see all receipts from the winners rather than just a single receipt.

Realistically, most promoters will not want to ask entrants to send photos of all their receipts and packaging – it’s inconvenient for consumer and adds administrative costs to the budget. However, simply including the clause in T&Cs can be a useful deterrent to cheats. For example, if there were multiple wins from multiple identities at a single IP address using the same batch code, the promoter can ask to see all those receipts – and this is a good way to stop people collecting multiple prizes with third party entries. 

My personal opinion? I think if there’s no detailed clause in the T&Cs stating winners will be asked to provide a proof of purchase for EVERY entry, then it’s acceptable to just buy one product and enter multiple times. But having said that, I would be cautious about risking this on promotions with a big top prize!

Note that most non-unique code promotions are on HFSS products (food or drink that is high in fat, salt or sugar) – and of course, these brands shouldn’t be encouraging over consumption. So asking for winners to supply multiple receipts to prove they’ve eaten two KitKats or two Wispas a day wouldn’t exactly encourage sensible eating habits!

Why I don’t share barcodes, batch codes and QR codes

On SuperLucky (and in Lucky Learners) I never share batch codes, barcodes, QR codes or anything that allows someone to easily enter a purchase-necessary promotion without actually buying the product or visiting the relevant store. A lot of compers go out of their way to follow T&Cs, visit a specific store, buy the product and keep the receipt safely. It doesn’t seem fair to me that a chancer who didn’t even make a purchase enters with a batch code shared on a Freebies group and wins a prize, rather than someone who actually spent money on the product! 

For the same reason, if someone tells me that they’ve won a prize and they weren’t asked to provide their receipt as proof of purchase, I don’t make that information public. I would usually contact the promoter to query why a receipt wasn’t requested when T&Cs stated it would be!

Don’t give your receipt away

Occasionally people might ask if anyone has a receipt they can use to claim a prize. These entrants have usually risked an entry without purchase, although they may claim they’ve lost their receipt. But don’t give up your receipt to a winner who doesn’t have one – in many cases, there are lots of winners who can’t provide receipts, so these prizes will be given away in a second draw. This draw might be more than a month later, so be patient and don’t throw out your receipts if you hear of a winner, because your name might come up second time round!

Find out more in my post What are mop-up draws, late entry draws and re-draws?

I don’t allow members of my Lucky Learners group to ask for a spare receipt after the closing date in order for them to claim a prize. If a receipt has been lost, I’m afraid you have nobody to blame but yourself! I recommend you take a photo of the product packaging/code next to the receipt as soon as you get home from the shops – then you have a photo on your phone ready to go if required. And keep the receipts and packaging safely too, just in case you need to post them off – some promoters still ask winners to do this (see my post on organising quallies, receipts and POPs). 

Support brands that run on-pack promotions

I don’t think there’s any excuse for not buying a product when the advertising, packaging or in store displays clearly states a purchase is necessary in order to enter a prize promotion. We should be supporting brands that run on-pack and purchase-necessary promotions as much as we can, so they continue to give away great prizes!

However, I do think brands and promoters should be doing a better job of running their promotions to ensure people can’t win a prize without making a purchase. I would like to see more unique codes rather than batch codes, and more receipt uploads combined with an entry form. With entrants having to make more purchases for more entries, hopefully the increase in sales might offset the increase in administrative and production costs!

I’d also like to see more text entry promotions that require entrants to add a full name and postcode to their competition keyword – there are a few compers out there using 100s of SIM cards to enter keyword text comps and claiming multiple prizes for themselves and their family members!

Ask promoters to follow their own T&Cs

Frustratingly, many T&Cs state that proof of purchase will be required to validate a win – but when the winner is notified, the promoter doesn’t ask to see it. Unfortunately, some promoters don’t care whether the entrant followed the rules or not. Their priority is getting their products noticed in the supermarket, and dealing with prize-winners is just an afterthought! But it’s certainly not fair if someone wins a prize without having bought the product, when other losing entrants have the receipt and packaging at home. 

If you’re lucky enough to win a purchase-necessary promotion, and you’re not asked to show a proof of purchase, try politely asking the promoter why they haven’t asked to see it. And if you do see a batch code or barcode shared on a freebie forum, forward a link through to the promoter to make them aware. Hopefully they might rethink their promotion format next time round when they realise sales figures could be higher!

What are your thoughts on the receipt dilemma – do you buy once, or buy multiple times? Have you ever had to send off a proof of purchase for every losing entry you made, as well as the winning entry? Let me know in the comments!

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8 Responses

  1. Jeremy Stern says:

    Thanks DI, for a really good article, you have successfully captured all the various options for Purchase Necessary prize promotions. As someone who has operated on the inside of the promotions industry for over 20 years, my preference is always to go for Unique Codes. They are simple for the consumer to understand and eliminate all the risks and costs of receipts. The problem is that typically, printing a unique code inside a pack will cost 0.5p-1p. Does not not sound a lot, but if you are a cereal printing 10 million packs, that is £100,000 and could be more than the prize fund ! And if it is a neck collar or twin ply label, then the cost rises to about 5p, so that is half a million£. And as for checking receipts – it is only cost effective for bigger prizes, over £100 or so.

    • Di says:

      Thanks for your feedback Jeremy. We’re seeing a lot less unique code promotions these days and it’s understandable given the cost implications you mention!

  2. Ange says:

    It’s the wee things, I was taking pictures of my receipt and then pics of the product but never together!! no idea why that never crossed my mind lol, so now when I put shopping away I always take pic of both together so it’s easier to find on camera roll!

  3. Jill says:

    So insightful as it’s all mind boggling and technical. Your advice breaks it down to easy terms. Thank you xxxx

  4. Heather Cain says:

    This is a really good article. I hadn’t realised that some have 100’s of sim cards to enter comps. Goodness me, thats not fair on genuine compers. I am currently doing the Captain Cadburys twice daily comp and just have the original receipt and pack for the codes.
    I have never been asked for a receipt for a purchase necessary competition win.
    I hardly do any comps now, just the odd local one, and anything that I normally buy thats got a comp on the pack.

  5. kazzy minton says:

    This is really helpful indeed – it all had been really confusing to me so THANK YOU x

  6. KelleyP says:

    Hi Di, this is a brilliant article, thank you. It is so easy to be a bit bewildered with all the purchase necessary competitions around at the moment. I’ve made myself a list of the ones I’m entering, frequency, codes, competition end dates etc. I’m still going with maybe some of the “older” ones too, i.e. the Budweiser Premier League comp for shirts and Philips PerfectDraft Beer Dispensers with Budweiser Kegs, which my Husband has won one of, which was brilliant. I’m also still doing the Cadburys match and win for the £500 draw. People who don’t understand comping say I’m “obsessed” but I try to explain you have to be persistent and enter competitions regularly to stand a chance of winning. I am, however, shocked to hear that “there are a few compers out there using 100s of SIM cards to enter keyword text comps and claiming multiple prizes for themselves and their family members!” Something like that would never occur to me, nor would I want to do that either.

    • Di says:

      It can be well worth persevering with the long running purchase comps, particularly if you hold onto your codes for winning moments, when the flashed packs might be long gone from the shelves! I’ve heard of lots of winners in ‘wrap up’ late entry draws too. Good luck Kelley!

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