You don't need to fly to earn frequent flyer points – both supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths let you earn airline points at the checkout: choose between Virgin Australia Velocity points via Coles Flybuys, and Qantas points through Woolworths Rewards.
Let's be upfront about this: you won't be flying anywhere in a hurry on these 'shopping points' alone.
You typically earn one Coles Flybuy or Woolworths Rewards points for each dollar you spend, and once you have 2,000 of those points you can convert them into 870 Velocity or Qantas Points.
That meagre 'exchange rate' means you'd have to spend around $18,000 on grocery shopping to get enough points for a 'free' one-way flight between Sydney and Melbourne – the same flight that could be bought with cash for around $150 from the airline or a travel agent.
So why bother collecting them at all? Because they're a great way to keep topping up your frequent flyer account using money you'd already be spending, slowly and steadily building up that points balance.
1. Scan your card with every purchase, no matter how small
It should go without saying, but we're going to say it anyway because old habits die hard.
Once upon a time you had to spend $30 at Woolworths or $5 at Coles to earn loyalty points.
But those days are gone, and both chains now award points on every single dollar spent right from the get-go – so always carry your membership card and scan it before you pay.
What's more, Coles also awards Virgin Australia status credits based on your total combined monthly spend too, with one status credit appearing in your account for every $100 spent at Coles, up to a maximum of 10 status credits per calendar month.
So, whether it’s your weekly shop or just a small basket, remember that over a long period of time, even small amounts here and there really can add up.
2. Check your receipt, email inbox and letterbox for bonus offers
Another benefit of always scanning your card is that you’ll sometimes receive targeted offers or news about bonus points deals relevant to you, which can also help boost your balance.
For instance, Woolworths Rewards frequently offers double points on various types of purchases such as fresh fruit and vegetables, while Coles Flybuys often serves up triple points offers on an entire shop of your choice, or a fixed number of bonus points in return for spending a certain amount.
If these or other deals come your way, make sure you activate that offer (when received by email) or retain the coupon barcode (when found on a printed supermarket receipt) and scan its barcode at the register when making your qualifying shop.
Particularly with Coles Flybuys, you'll also want to make sure that you have an up-to-date postal address on file, as Coles periodically sends out coupons for bonus points via 'snail mail'.
3. Share your account with a partner or spouse to earn points faster
Another easy way to maximise your supermarket points is to share a Woolworths Rewards or Flybuys account with your partner or spouse – that way, all the points you earn appear together in the one account, rather than juggling two accounts, each with its own (lower) points balance.
Extra cards are free and can be requested online. With Woolworths Rewards, simply login, browse to ‘My Account’, then ‘Cards & Accounts’, then ‘Order a new card’ and finally, choose ‘Additional card’ and fill in the details.
Flybuys adopts a similar process: after logging in online, head to ‘My Account’, then ‘Members and Cards’, then ‘Add a new member’ and complete the details and choose your preferred card design.
Allow a couple of weeks for these cards to arrive at the address stored in your profile, and once they’re in your partner’s wallet, your points will be pooled together regardless of who does the shopping each week.
4. Keep your eyes peeled for special deals, both in-store and online
Now that you’re in the habit of scanning your card with every purchase, keep an eye out for special deals that can deliver even more points into your supermarket account, or which can boost the value of the points you’ve already earned.
For example, this writer recently spotted an offer of 70 bonus Flybuys points when buying Vegemite at Coles, and a higher offer of 2,000 Flybuys points when spending $50 or more on third-party gift cards, such as with Apple iTunes.
Offers aren’t confined to the shelves, either – from time to time, Flybuys also serves up a 15% bonus when converting your Flybuys points into Velocity points, making 2,000 Flybuys points equal to 1,000 Velocity points as opposed to 870 Velocity points on a 'normal' day.
5. Use the right credit card at the checkout
Along with scanning your Woolworths Rewards or Flybuys card to earn frequent flyer points directly from the supermarket itself, paying for your purchases using the right credit card can supercharge your frequent flyer points haul.
For instance, whip out an American Express Platinum Edge Card and you could also earn up to three Membership Rewards Ascent points per dollar spent: that's equal to three frequent flyer points with Virgin Australia, Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines and more.
Or, use either the David Jones American Express Card or the David Jones Platinum American Express Card to reel in three David Jones Membership Rewards points per dollar on your supermarket spend, equal to 1.5 frequent flyer points with Virgin Australia and others.
There's also the option of earning Qantas Frequent Flyer points via both DJs cards, sent directly to your Qantas account every month. Choosing this option boosts your bounty to 2.25 Qantas Points per dollar on your shopping trolley, atop any points earned via Woolworths Rewards or Flybuys.
Another solid option is the Diners Club personal charge card, serving up three Diners Club Rewards points per dollar spent, equal to two Velocity points. Coles and Woolworths accept both American Express and Diners Club without a surcharge or minimum transaction amount, so you won't be paying more to earn more points either!