The Etihad and flybuys partnership: earning and using flybuys for cheap Virgin Australia travel

GUIDE: Program Guide
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
TIME TO READ: 5 minutes
POSTED: February 8, 2017
UPDATED: June 2, 2017
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: Etihad Guest, flybuys

This unique partnership between Coles and Etihad has entered its second year, and with some good value redemptions to be had using Etihad Guest miles for Virgin Australia flights, here are the nuts and bolts of how flybuys and Etihad Guest work together.

In this guide, we explain how to earn both Etihad Guest miles and Silver status through flybuys, when it makes sense to convert your flybuys to Etihad Guest, and step-by-step instructions on how to complete a transfer.

You can maximise your flybuys bonus by getting the Coles Rewards MasterCard, which earns 2 flybuys for every $ spent, plus no overseas transaction fees and free Coles Online delivery.

In addition, for new customers signing up by the end of June, you’ll get 20,000 flybuys points, more than offsetting the $89 annual fee.

Earning Etihad Guest miles through flybuys

Given Etihad is a flybuys redemption partner, anywhere you can earn flybuys points is an Etihad Guest earn partner as well, including Coles, Coles Online, Coles Express, Liquorland and First Choice Liquor.

The transfer rate is an effective 1 flybuys point = 0.4 Etihad Guest miles, which is actually fairly respectable given the usual value of 0.5c per flybuys point for other redemption options.

The partnership also offers 1 flybuys point per $ spent on Etihad Flights (or an additional 0.4 Etihad Guest miles per $), on top of the Etihad Guest miles earned on your flight.

Earning Etihad Guest status through flybuys

You can also earn Etihad Guest tier miles, which count toward Etihad Guest elite status, from your spend at Coles and its partners.

You’ll earn tier points at a rate of 1 point per $ spent, with a cap of 2,500 points per month.

You’d need 25,000 tier points to get Silver Etihad Guest status, so this isn’t a shortcut to Etihad lounge access, but could be useful to top up your account as an Etihad frequent flyer.

When should I convert my flybuys points to Etihad miles?

Whether or not you should convert your points all depends on what kind of redemption you are looking at.

While long-haul flights with Etihad can be quite expensive in terms of points, there are some good value redemptions to be had by redeeming Etihad points for Virgin Australia domestic and short-haul flights. While probably not by design, this fact means the Coles tie-up with Etihad makes more sense for the Australian market.

In many cases, the lower points cost means that redemptions would be achievable through flybuys alone, especially if you participate in some of their regular bonus point promotions when they suit your shopping style.

If, however, you aren’t going to get the points you need through shopping at Coles and related retailers alone, you can also boost your Etihad Guest miles to reach your target through paying with the right card.

Etihad is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, and the fact that you can earn 3 points per dollar spent at supermarkets and convert these directly to Etihad on request, means that you could ramp up your Etihad points earn when doing your shopping at Coles by combining both and paying with this card while also scanning your flybuys card.

It’s worth remembering that Etihad Guest miles expire two years after being earned (or in this case, converted), whereas flybuys points don’t expire as long as there is regular activity on the account, so you should probably keep your points in your flybuys account and only convert them when you’re ready to use them.

In this manner, flybuys has become a valuable flexible points program with its partnerships with Etihad Guest and Velocity.

You can keep your points in flybuys until you want to make a redemption, and then at that point determine whether you will be better off converting the points to Etihad Guest to use; or instead taking the money as a shopping discount ($50 per 10000 points), and using that money you’d have otherwise spent on your groceries on your travel budget.

Read more in our Etihad Guest-Velocity comparison guide.

How to convert your flybuys points to Etihad miles

Once you’ve decided to move your flybuys points across, how do you actually complete the conversion?

1. Sign up for flybuys and Etihad Guest

If you haven’t already, you will need to sign up for an account with both flybuys and Etihad Guest. Once you have some points in your account, come back!

2. Link your accounts

You will need to add your Etihad Guest membership number to your flybuys membership. It’s not the easiest thing to find, so here’s a guide:

  • Log in to the flybuys website
  • In the menu at the top, click on My Account and then Linked Accounts:

  • Find the Etihad Airways box and click the Link Now button:

  • Enter your Etihad number and click Submit:

  • You should receive a confirmation screen showing that your account has been linked

It’s worth linking your account as soon as possible so that you start accruing tier miles (see later in this guide). There’s no obligation to convert your flybuys points because you have linked your account, so you can still make your decision at the point you want to redeem your points.

3. Convert your points

If you have made the decision to transfer your flybuys points to Etihad Guest, converting them is quite easy:

  • Log in to the flybuys website
  • In the menu at the top, click on Rewards and then Travel & Fun:

  • Scroll down to Flights & Hotels, then click on the box for Etihad Guest miles:

  • In the page that comes up, choose how many flybuys points you want to convert (minimum 10,000) and click the Get it now button:

You’ll need to transfer a minimum of 10,000 flybuys points for a minimum of 4,000 Etihad Guest miles.

Points take up to two business days to convert.

Remember that Etihad miles expire after two years whereas flybuys points do not (as long as there is continued activity on the account such as shopping), so it’s worth converting just a few days before you plan to make a booking and holding your points in flybuys until then.

4. Turn off automatic redemptions

If you have any products from Coles Financial Services e.g. credit or prepaid cards or insurance, you may have the option to automatically be prompted when you shop to redeem 2000 points for $10 off your shop.

If it exists, this setting can be found in your My Account page once you have logged into the flybuys website. I would recommend turning this off so that you (or a family member) don’t accidentally spend your points you are saving up for flights!

What else do you get out of the Etihad and Coles partnership?

The tie-up also gives you tier miles (status credits) towards Etihad Guest elite status based on your shopping, however unless you’re also doing a reasonable amount of paid flying with Etihad (or partner airlines and crediting towards them) you would have to be spending near to the maximum of $2500 per month on groceries to obtain Silver status by the end of the year.

For most people, this won’t be a consideration, but if you have tier miles from flying it could be enough to tick you over the line to a new status level.

Summing up

There’s good value to be had for the right redemptions if you convert your flybuys points to Etihad Guest at the right time.

Combining the points from your shopping with points from credit card spending in a flexible rewards program, could quickly see you flying in style in domestic Business Class from Virgin Australia – not bad from your weekly grocery shop.

The alternative, is of course to transfer them to Velocity, which is a much more widely understood program. Either way, if you know how to get the most out of your flybuys points for flights by transferring them to one of these programs, you should hopefully get more value from them than using them at the checkout.