Both Woolworths and Coles allow shoppers to earn airline frequent flyer points at the checkout.
Woolies offers Qantas Frequent Flyer points via its Woolworths Rewards loyalty program, while Coles is allied to Virgin Australia partner Etihad for earning Etihad Guest reward miles through its Flybuys scheme.
So which is the better option for shoppers seeking to earn points towards a free flight?
We've crunched the numbers on Woolworths Rewards and Coles Flybuys with regards to where you can earn points, how many you’ll collect per dollar spent, and how far those points can get you flying.
Woolworths Rewards vs Coles Flybuys: earning points
From August 31 2016, Woolworths Rewards members can earn one Woolworths Point per dollar spent at Woolworths supermarkets, BWS liquor stores and Woolworths-Caltex service stations (excluding Star Mart and Star Shop), with no minimum spend required.
However, points aren’t earned at Woolworths’ other brands such as Big W, Cellarmasters or Dan Murphy’s.
Coles’ Flybuys scheme offers one Flybuys point per dollar spent at Coles, First Choice Liquor and Liquorland, but only 0.5 Flybuys points per dollar (one point per $2) at Coles Express petrol stations.
That's half as many points earned on fuel purchases compared to Woolworths.
However, Flybuys offsets that by also encompassing Kmart and Target – each at one point per dollar – and external partners including AGL Energy (1 point/$1), Goodlife gyms (2 points/$1) and Telstra (3 points/$1).
The winner: Coles Flybuys
Woolworths vs Flybuys: converting points to airlines
Once shoppers have amassed 2,000 Woolworths Points, those points can be converted into 870 Qantas Frequent Flyer points or exchanged for a $10 shopping discount.
A minimum of 10,000 Flybuys points can be sent across to the Etihad Guest frequent flyer program, for which you’ll pocket 4,000 Etihad Guest miles instead...
...with further transfers allowed in 10,000-point increments.
Given that 10,000 Woolworths points amount to a total of 4,350 Qantas Points, Woolworths boasts a more generous conversion rate and a lower minimum transfer threshold for getting frequent flyer points into your account.
The winner: Woolworths Rewards
Woolworths vs Flybuys: earning a free flight
With a return journey between Sydney and Melbourne pegged at 16,000 Qantas Points in economy class, you’d need to earn a total of 38,000 Woolworths points (from $38,000 in spending, not allowing for any special 'double points' promotions) and convert those into 16,530 Qantas Points to book your ticket.
Securing a similar flight with Coles Flybuys relies on the partnership between Etihad and Virgin Australia: first convert your Flybuys points into Etihad Guest miles, then use those miles to book flights with Virgin Australia.
(You can’t convert Flybuys points directly to Virgin Australia’s own Velocity Frequent Flyer program, nor can you convert them between Etihad Guest and Velocity Frequent Flyer – you have to use your Etihad Guest miles to book a Virgin Australia flight.)
For that Sydney-Melbourne return trip in Virgin Australia economy, Etihad requires 13,800 miles.
That means having 40,000 Flybuys points converted into 16,000 Etihad Guest miles, as you can only convert Flybuys points in increments of 10,000.
Of course, airlines also charge a small amount in actual money when booking points-based reward flights to cover taxes, fees and airline surcharges, which varies from route to route but typically falls in the $20-40 range.
Woolworths Rewards vs Coles Flybuys: the verdict
Etihad’s advantage is that it requires around 14% fewer frequent flyer points than Qantas to book short Australian domestic flights, although Woolworths somewhat offsets that by giving you approximately 8% more frequent flyer points in number than Flybuys.
By the same token, Qantas Frequent Flyer points are much easier to earn in Australia than Etihad Guest miles – and with Woolworths’ lower transfer threshold of just 2,000 points you could easily use Woolworths to top up your existing QFF balance to fly faster.
However, serious shoppers who frequently take advantage of Flybuys’ many bonus points deals and also convert their credit card points across to Etihad from American Express, Citibank or Diners Club will make the most of Coles’ tie-up with Etihad.
It’s for these reasons that we’d peg Coles Flybuys and Etihad as the better overall option for seriously tuned-in frequent flyers, while Woolworths Rewards and Qantas fit the more typical ‘everyday’ shopper who might not travel as much but is still keen to earn frequent flyer points on a weekly shop.
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