How useful are Flybuys?
If you've ever shopped at a store owned by Wesfarmers (operators of Coles) or Shell petrol stations, you'll no doubt have been exposed to Flybuys. Add in Flybuys credit cards and you are probably left wondering if Flybuys are worth it? The answer is not straight-forward and not only does it come down to your own personal circumstances and preferred outlets, but the myriad offers themselves can sometimes seem compelling, while at other times close to useless.

There are two easy tips to get you started. Firstly use your phone to take a picture of the back of your Flybuys card. This way you can ditch it from your purse or wallet. Use the photo at scanners and check it works for you. Secondly, join rival program Woolworths Rewards, even if you don't shop at Woolies. This way you can forget about being loyal and just shop wherever you want and earn points. Provided you shop a least once per year using either card, your points will keep accumulating.

Using points
Before delving into earning Flybuys points, an important factor is how you intend to use them. The three options are: shopping vouchers, frequent flyer points or buying goods through the Flybuys store. Your choice will depend on whether you want to top up Virgin or Etihad frequent flyer points, or get a discount on your next shop. Converting Flybuys at 2,000 points to 870 Virgin points values them at 0.435cents per dollar spent. While Etihad converts 10,000 Flybuys to 4,000 points, or 0.4cents per dollar. However, Etihad's 10,000 point blocks for Flybuys transfers can be a hurdle. Generally the most flexible option is Virgin points as these can be used to earn both Etihad and other Virgin partner reward flights. On top of that, Virgin often have bonus deals where you get 15% bonus points for transferring over to them. If your existing Virgin points are at risk of expiring, topping up via Flybuys can give you another 12 months validity. As we noted in Which frequent flyer program should you join?, Virgin has the rare feature where you can transfer points to Singapore Airlines and therefore gain access to reward flights on the 27 members of the Star Alliance.

If vouchers are your desired outcome, each $10 shopping voucher values Flybuys points at 0.5cents per dollar spent, as do most purchases on the Flybuys site. At 0.5cents per dollar spent for the voucher and 0.435 for Virgin points, Flybuys earn rates are identical to Woolworths Rewards (where Qantas points are earned instead of Virgin points).

Generally the best strategy is to let the Flybuys points accumulate in your account, so when an offer appears you can grab it at a discount. Points will only expire if you have no activity in a 12 month period and all you need is one point of activity per year to keep Flybuys points active.

Some people are supermarket loyalists, others are indifferent. Whatever your preference, don't get suckered in to the whole buy more to get more points promotions. At 0.5cents value per dollar, it is simply not worth the temptation to spend more on something you wouldn't normally buy just to get some more points. Even just spending 50cents extra on a $100 shop will negate the Flybuys benefit of what you'd earn on the $100. However, there is a notable exception to this idea. If you spend more than $30, sometimes you will get a bonus voucher on the receipt for a set number of points or 3x-5x points on your next spend. In these cases it can be worth it. If the amount you have to spend is higher than what you usually buy, just top up on items that you know you'll use but can keep for a while. Examples include shampoo, laundry detergent, dishwashing tablets and the like. In some promotions Coles have be known to offer 750 or 1,500 bonus points for spending $120-$150 (the numbers will be tailored to your account). This is on top of the normal one point per dollar. For the $120/1500 bonus points offer, this would yield at least 1620 points. On a $120 spend, that equates to a whopping 13.5 Flybuys points per dollar, or 5.9-6.8 cents benefit per dollar spent. So a quick glance at the bottom may be worth your while.

As discussed here, Flybuys at Shell are not worth your time. By all means, hit the FuelCheck site and see if it's worth visiting Shell for the 4cents off if you have a voucher. Without the discount coupon, based on the Australian average petrol spend of $1,800, Flybuys at Shell will earn a paltry 900 points per year, or $4.50/392 Virgin points in value. In weekly terms, that's about 9cents of benefit.

At one Flybuys point per dollar spent at Liquorland, there is not much incentive to shop there solely for Flybuys points. But there is no harm collecting them if you're going to shop at Liquorland anyway: just don't expect much in terms of points. Checking online sites for a cheaper price would be more beneficial. On a spend of $100, you receive a maximum of 50cents of benefits at Liquorland, so paying $99.50 or less for the same purchases elsewhere will put you ahead.

Assuming prices are the same and you have a convenient outlet nearby, a better alternative would be to use Cashrewards and BWS and take advantage of the click and collect. That process is covered in Liquorland versus BWS, and can mean a saving of 5%, plus Woolworths Reward points if you want them (it is one reason we advise to have both Flybuys and Woolworths rewards cards).

Flybuys Travel
Like Liquorland, you earn one Flybuys point per dollar spent on the Flybuys Travel portal, which is not much in terms of earning potential. In the article, Five ways to earn benefits on Virgin flights, you can see different ways to maximise your return for buying flights and some pitfalls of using Flybuys. That being said, sometimes Flybuys do have sporadic offers that can multiply your earn rate by 3-10 times. For hotels however, there is a far more lucrative way to gain more benefits.

Other partners
Flybuys has other partners, but it is only worth using them if they have the best deals, or you intend to buy something from them anyway: the Flybuys points in these other partners should be a secondary consideration.

In Summary
As loyalty programs, both Flybuys and Woolworths Rewards are not giving much back as an incentive. They don't sufficiently reward your loyalty, so don't be loyal. The best overall strategy is to shop normally at the store that gives the cheapest prices and convenience, and use either loyalty card as a way of increasing your points haul in combination with a rewards credit card. If your credit card earns one frequent flyer point per dollar, adding in Flybuys can increase this to 1.435. By pooling frequent flyer points from different sources (credit cards, flying, Flybuys) this can make it easier to gain meaningful flight rewards, but supermarket loyalty won't give you much on its own.