Participants in Sunderland City Council’s active and sustainable travel initiative will be able to claim the Sunderland Gift Card as a reward, thanks to a new partnership.

The BetterPoints Sunderland Challenge has been funded by Sunderland City Council to encourage people to use their cars less and choose active or sustainable travel instead. Participants earn points which can be exchanged for rewards.

Residents and commuters to Sunderland can download the BetterPoints app, which allows users to track their travel movements using GPS. Active travel rewarded through the app includes walking, cycling, running and using an e-bike. Taking public transport such as the bus, metro or train are sustainable travel options rewarded through the app.

A new partnership between Sunderland City Council, BetterPoints and Sunderland BID, sees the Sunderland Gift Card becoming a main reward for the initiative. Gift cards can also be won as prizes, with a £20 Sunderland Gift Card to be won every week through to the end of August, drawn on a Friday.

Sunderland City Council’s Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for the Environment and Transport, Councillor Claire Rowntree, said: “Encouraging residents to walk, cycle and use public transport instead of relying on their cars for shorter journeys is one way we can cut Sunderland’s carbon emissions as we aim for a carbon neutral city by 2040.

“BetterPoints encourages residents to use their cars less and allows them to choose rewards for keeping fit and healthy. The partnership with Sunderland Gift Card lets users support Sunderland’s small and local businesses at the same time, boosting our local economy and keeping money in the city.”

The Sunderland Gift Card launched in November 2020- becoming the first city in the North East to have its own local gift card.

Sharon Appleby is the Chief Executive of Sunderland BID and said: “We introduced the Sunderland Gift Card alongside Sunderland City Council in November 2020 as a means to lock money into the city and boost our city centre businesses. Over £50,000 of Sunderland Gift Cards have been sold since then but when you consider that people spend 65% more when they redeem their gift card, the true value to our city is much higher.

“We’re pleased to see the Sunderland Gift Card being used to reward active and sustainable travel in Sunderland. Both the gift card and the BetterPoints Sunderland Challenge encourage people to make the most of local services and look after our community. There are more than 150 outlets now signed up to accept the card, covering both the city centre and the wider area,  meaning people are able to support local businesses and continue to travel sustainably at the same time.”

Richard Kirk is the CEO at BetterPoints, which operates multiple programmes around the UK, and said: “The Sunderland Gift Card is an ideal reward for us because we always want our programmes to encourage spending on local businesses. It will help bring new customers to local retailers, increase footfall, and grow margins – people that purchase with a gift card tend to spend more than its value – and it will encourage people to use more active and less polluting ways to access the high street. Miconex’s Town & City Gift Cards are really powerful for regenerating the local high street and are perfect rewards for active and sustainable travel. Everywhere should have one.”

Similar initiatives are underway in York and Falkirk, with BetterPoints participants receiving their local Town & City Gift Card as a reward for active or sustainable travel. Fintech Miconex is behind the award winning Town & City Gift Card initiative and managing director Colin Munro said the work being done in Sunderland and other cities around the UK is a model that other places can emulate:

“The Sunderland Gift Card is a local currency which lends itself to a variety of use cases, from gifting and corporate sales to disbursement and sector specific support. The idea of using local gift cards to drive behaviour change is an innovative one, allowing local authorities to adapt to the challenges in our communities post pandemic and reward customers in a positive way, whilst ensuring that benefit stays local for the greater good of the community.

“I hope to see many more local authorities taking the lead of Sunderland City Council, Sunderland BID and BetterPoints, using their local gift card to drive change and drive sales for their local businesses. There’s a natural alignment between active and sustainable travel, and creating vibrant, successful communities”