Coles Vs. Woolworths: Which Loyalty Card Offers The Best Value?

The vast majority of us shop at Coles and Woolies fairly frequently. Sometimes the choice is made by whatever supermarket is closest, but the two are often located together. Saving a little money is always a good thing, so which rewards program gives the best return?

Calculating the exact rewards is trickier than first imagined, with both schemes have quite a few different options. It’s also worth noting that different personal circumstances and shopping patterns could change the end value to consumers. A recent Choice survey suggests that Coles and Woolworths prices are about the same (though Aldi is cheaper, with less variety).

And for full disclosure, I shop at Coles and use the Flybuys rewards system. I did my comparisons and signed up before the current Woolworths program, so my decision then does not reflect on the comparison now.


Woolworths Dollars

At the end of 2015, Woolies phased out their Everyday rewards with Qantas frequent flyer points program, and instead only offer the Everyday rewards program. The system is free to join, and involves scanning a card at checkout.

Woolworths Dollars are earned by buying certain products, which give a variable reward rate. When your Woolworths Dollars reach $10, scanning your card takes $10 off your bill.

The card can be used to earn Dollars at Woolworths, Woolworths online and BWS stores (though not in Tasmania, which uses The Frequent Shoppers Club).

Woolworths Dollars can also be won when you scan your card, with 10,000 chances a week to win $10. There are also other unspecified offers on products not labelled in store.

Woolworths also still offer a 4c per liter discount at Caltex Woolworths branded petrol stations, when spending $30 or more at the supermarket. Handily, the discounts can be recorded on the card and be shared with family or friends.

The problem with the Woolworths Dollars system is that different products offer different rewards, and it’s only available in a limited selection. The items can be viewed online.

The nice thing about the Woolworths system is that it’s very easy to see exactly how much you will earn, as Woolworths Dollars are equivalent to actual dollars.

In essence, the system can be seen as a range of items on special, where the saving is only for members. The savings are decent too - many are effectively 20% or more off.

Woolworths also says that later in 2016 it will be possible to transfer Woolworths Dollars in Qantas points, but doesn’t give any conversion rate at this time.

dinosaurhorse pointed out in the comments that $10 Woolworths Dollars can be exchanged for 870 Qantas point, which is also reported elsewhere. The Woolworths Dollars FAQ still says that this is not yet available, so if you do sign up, it's worth clarifying.

Qualifying the exact savings of the Woolworths system is quite tricky, and it can vary a lot for different buying habits. A review done by Monash University's Australian Consumer, Retail and Services Research Unit (and paid for by Woolworths) suggest that typical shoppers will save about $1.25 per $100 spent - a 1.25% return. This is better than the previous system, which returned between 0.1% and 0.4%.

Return: 1.25%


Coles Flybuys

Rather than a variable system, Coles rewards Flybuys points with every single item purchased. 2000 points can be redeemed for $10 off.

Flybuys can be earned at a large range of stores, including Kmart, Target, Liquorland and more. You can even earn points by paying bills, such as with AGL.

1 Flybuy is earned for every $1 spent, which works out at at a 0.5% return rate, when redeeming for $10 off.

Flybuys can also be redeemed for actual products (and frequent flyer points), which can provide a better return, but only if you were going to buy those products anyway.

Return: 0.5%


Coles vs Woolies

At face value, the 1.25% return for Woolworths trumps the 0.5% return for Coles. But there are a quite a few catches and qualifiers to that.

Not all customers will buy the same products from Woolworths, so the returns could be better or worse than for a typical user.

It’s important to note that the Flybuys system is available across quite a large number of shops, so depending on individual shopping habits, the lesser Coles rewards could be on much more of your overall expenditure, giving better total rewards.

Coles also have a range of different ways users can earn extra points per dollar spent. Coles Flybuys General Manager, Adam Story, suggest that the average Flybuys member earns 2 points per dollar spent, a 1% return rate.


Credit Cards

Both Coles and Woolworths offer credit cards, which can give extra rewards. The Coles card ties into the Flybuys system, whilst the Woolworths card is a separate rewards system to Woolworth Dollars.

We assume that all balances will be paid off before any interest is payable, so don’t include the actual rates in any numbers. Of course other credit cards offer competing rewards, which we don’t cover here.

The Woolworths card cost $49 a year and can earn up to 3 points per $1 spent, depending on product and location. The card works at other retailers, such as BigW and Dan Murphy's.

Woolworths says that the average saving is $171 a year, which is 34,000 points. Assuming an average of 2 points per $ spent, that’s $326 a year spent at participating stores. The rewards are paid out every 4 months as shopping cards.

The Coles Credit card system is a little simpler, and just increases the amount of Flybuys points earnt. You earn Flybuys points on every purchase made, not just at stores that participate in Flybuys.

Coles has a no annual fee credit card, which earns 1 point per $2 spent. For the average of around $1500 a month spent on credit cards, this is an extra $45 of rewards a year.

For $89 a year on the Platinum card, you can earn 2 points for every dollar spent. That’s $180 a year (based on $1500 a month on a credit card), or $91 a year after the fee.

The card has a Flybuys barcode on the back, so can be scanned to earn the extra Flybuys points at participating shops as well.


Which is best?

The problem is, it’s actually very hard to qualify the exact savings of the rewards system without tracking individual shopping patterns.

Either system gives enough rewards to make signing up and scanning the card worth the effort. No actual understanding of the rewards system is really needed to get savings, and there are not too many ‘tricks’ that would really improve the return.

Overall, the Coles system seems a little simpler and more flexible. For those who buy from Flybuys participating stores and services, the overall rewards can be similar to Woolworths, despite being less per dollar spent.

For those who just want to get groceries a bit cheaper, the Woolworths system gives better stand alone returns. It also makes petrol discounts easier. In theory keeping a close eye on the changing rewards could help earn more (like looking out for specials) but it still works well if you just ignore all that and scan the card.

Once you factor in Credit Card rewards, the Coles wins on the simplicity of an all in one system. Depending on usage patterns, it can give excellent overall rewards, for little effort.

For a real world example, my partner and I use the Coles Platinum Credit Card, and scan for Flybuys. After the credit card fee, the savings work out at around $400 a year. Based on my own spending patterns, Woolworth Dollars would give me less rewards. Plus Coles is closer, so I won't be changing over.


Comments

    Woolworths in Tasmania (we've had a rewards system for years).
    1 point per dollar. When you get enough you get mailed a voucher. 1 point gets you 1 c. So basically 1% off across everything.
    Staff member or family gets 5 points or 5% off everything. (for some reason it's 10% recently but I'm not complaining). Add that to Woolies vouchers at 5% off face value from my insurance company, I'm getting nearly 15% off everything at Woolies, BWS and BigW. No way I'd shop at Coles.

    PS - Buy your milk at the Woolies petrol station. It costs the same as the store but you'll get the extra 4c off so you can get 8c off per liter.

    Woolworths also says that later in 2016 it will be possible to transfer Woolworths Dollars in Qantas points, but doesn’t give any conversion rate at this time.

    $10 Woolworths Dollars can be exchanged for 870 Qantas points.

      Thanks! I updated the story to reflect that. The exchange was widely reported, but as none of terms and conditions seem to reflect that (yet), and the Woolworths Dollar site says it's coming soon with no specific numbers given, I had left it out.

        Also, that's 0.011 cents per point. Less than what they were before the change. There has been discussions over on http://www.australianfrequentflyer.com.au/community/qantas-frequent-flyer-program/woolworths-backflips-qf-points-coming-72719.html

    I think the only people in Australia who think these are "loyalty" cards are those working for Coles and Woolworths...
    If you live near a Woolworths, that where you'll go. If you live near both (and perhaps an Aldi), you'll go to where the cheapest products are... IMHO

      Someone needs to write a program that trawls all your accounts, compiles the information on spending habits, then plots that against all the rewards options available. Then, based on your location, computes the best return, including factoring in travel time, fuel costs etc.

        Not really worth the effort. Trawling all your acoounts is tricky if not impossible to begin with. Knowing what items where at sale, or giving more points 11 month 3 days and 2 hour ago in a shop is an other tricky thing. Travel time and fuel costs are the simple part of it. But let me put it this way: how much would you pay for said information? Would you really let me really go throught all your spendings (per item)? Give me your address to go with that information? For a monthly twenty-odd bucks? Really?

      If you live near both (and perhaps an Aldi), you'll go to where the cheapest products are... IMHO

      You have to factor in quality too. My local Woolworths has shit fruit and veg. I go to a Coles that is further away.

      Also, my local Woolworths doesn't offer a click and collect service. The Coles does.

        Well then your loyalty isn't based on loyalty cards...

    So the Woolworths' points collection has changed from only a select few items earning points to all items in the store like FlyBuys??

    so if you don't actually buy these products you do not earn any points, right?

    I fail to see how this is better or a better ROI...you need to buy their selected items.

      The return per item is much better, so a smaller number give a good overall return. But yes, it requires buying the items.

      An easier way to think of it is that Woolworths have good specials that are only accessible to members.

      Shopping based on the specials will save more, but require more thought and effort.

    Coles offers numerous email promotions with bonus points offers and they send out discount catalogues with massive point bonuses every quarter in addition to the set bonus. In addition, they ofter offer bonus point options with their regular reciepts - all of this would naturally add to the return rate and the article should be updated to reflect this.

      I do mention that there are other ways to earn points, and that Coles Flybuys General Manager, Adam Story, suggests that the average Flybuys member earns 2 points per dollar spent - a 1% return rate.

    Apologies maybe I missed something but doesn't the study say "this calculation is based on the 1.25% return rate guarantee publicised by Woolworths." My understanding is that the study obtained that data from Woolworths? It was not figured out through the study itself?

    If I'm reading it right I'm not sure how much I would trust a value obtained by Woolworths. Purely because in my own experience and a few others I find that almost no one buys the orange tag products. Unless things are changed recently the 1.25 percent seem more likely to be a high guesstimate of a moderately well off family then compared to a cheap or maybe even typical shopper.

    Just my thoughts maybe I'm just a poor uni student whose never bought an orange tagged item before so I'm just too out of this loyalty program Lol.

      Yeah, their 'study' was commissioned by Woolworths. Basically they did a little maths. I included the link to show where the figures came from. But I worded it poorly, so have updated it.

      Unfortunately, the system means that there is no easy way to get a average figure based on available information.

        Yes, there is. Using the exact same grocery list, have someone shop using every available deal and bonus offer possible. Flybuys can calculate this easy via their website, as does Woolworths. Make sure they shop at stores in the same region or suburb. You can easily calculate what they are spending each week, and can easily calculate the discounts and the loyalty rewards being offered.

        I remember a time when someone like Angus would be able to make google docs with a meal plan based on a very limited budget. The same principle applies here.

          That was my first thought too, and I trawled through the online list to see how it stacks up.

          The first problem was how to create the grocery list. I used my own, and got zero rewards from Woolworths. Some variations in the list got return rates from 0 to over 20% per shop.

          RateCity tried it too, and got better returns from Woolworths from a single shop, but that was due to rewards on a single item.

          So my grocery list is not the same as anyone else - so how do I create the average grocery list?

          While hard, that is not an impossible task. But Woolworths vary the reward products. So even with the average grocery list, the comparison would need to be run over a long time period - say a year - to give reasonably accurate results.

          Even then, the average rewards (from either system) doesn't help unless you know how close or far your own grocery list is from the average.

          I didn't have that kind of time, so the Woolworths figure was used as a starting point. I tried to balance it with the figures from Coles as well. And give my overall impressions of the systems, but leave it up to readers to decide what would work for them.

            I think it's telling that you did your own shop and got 0 points! That is my experience with the scheme too - the items I usually buy never have the discount, it is always the more expensive items, so although the rate of return might be 1.25%, you have to spend 10% more money to get that!

            This is why I primarily shop at coles. You get a guaranteed 0.5% return without changing any habits, and they send me weekly vouchers for triple points or 500 bonus points, meaning my regular weekly shop of around $120 gets me 360-620 points or 3-5%.

      This is a key point. The 1.25% is not a finding from Monash - it was supplied to them by Woolworths. As a member of their program there is NO formal or actionable guarantee of this return, and a quick look at customer comments on Woolworths Rewards Facebook page suggests the reality is something quite different, hence casting doubt on the "analysis" in this article.

    So with the Coles credit card you earn points wherever you shop. Seems to make the choice easy - shop at Woolworths and pay with your Coles credit card and thus get points from both for the one simple shop. lol

      Interesting point!

      You earn 2 points per dollar with the Platinum Credit Card on anything. But only an extra 1 point per dollar for items in Coles.

      Combing the two is extra effort, but could give a 2.25% return rate....

    Also the Coles credit card gives free delivery on all online orders. If you do a lot of online/delivery orders, that could add up to a fairly big saving.

    In the entire time this Woolworth scheme has been out, I've yet to purchase a single item that has a credit attached to it. Whilst Coles system might not work so well on paper, at least it works

    The value in both programs lies in their targeted offers system, not in the base system.

    To save the most amount of money via the loyalty programs you need to be a member of both and split your shopping between the two with the most going towards the one that has the best offer of the week.

    Coles probably has the best base program with a guaranteed 0.5% return. The Woolworths return depends on your choice of products and can frequently result in less than 0.5% return. I've spent over $500 at Woolworths since the introduction of the new program and only have about $4 in Woolworths dollars earned specifically from the orange ticket products. I've made much more from the targeted program in Woolworths dollars.

    When using the targeted offer system, the returns can average out to 20% when used carefully. This is based on getting the highest percentage offer for the lowest possible spend.

    On average, Flybuys throw more offers out to the members than Woolworths. The Woolworths targeted offers late last year were very useful but it will be a couple of months before we know whether the pattern will continue with their new rewards program.

    Last edited 17/01/16 1:47 pm

    The Woolworths program feels like they are taking specials away from ordinary purchases and giving them to you when you accrue enough $ e.g. there is some bread that is nearly always on sale (from $5/loaf to $3.50 per loaf) but now regularly has a $1.50 Woolworths dollar credit on it. So instead of making a saving straight away they keep your money for a bit and give you the savings at some stage later...

    What I really like about what Woolworths has done with the new scheme is made supermarket shopping that little bit more annoying. Because for every thing I put in my trolley, I want to think "So this product is $X now but then I'll get $Y back at some stage in the future, whereas this other product is $A now - which is cheaper than $X but not cheaper than $X-Y". I think Woolworths thinks loyalty is about annoying their customers into coming back.

    BTW I used to shop at Woolworths - which is 1km away - but now do most of my shopping at Coles, which is 3km away - because I don't want to have to use that many brain cells to do a supermarket shop. If, as your analysis says, the answer to which program is better for you is "it depends" then I believe many people will go for the easier option - which is Fly Buys. Loyalty, IMHO, is about how you treat the customer and how you make them feel - not about how many points you may or may not get.

    The Woolworths credit card offers 1 point per $1 on everything you buy and 2 points per $1 in Woollies, Big W and Woolies petrol stations so it works out really well for us. 3 points for buying the Woollies brand stuff which is a good incentive too. Better than my Coles credit card that offers only 1 point for every $2 spent.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now