As flybuys allows points to be transferred to Etihad Guest (as well as Velocity), I set myself a challenge of earning enough points to get from Perth to Melbourne and back in Business Class within one year.
To understand why I chose Etihad Guest over Velocity for this trip, read our Etihad Guest-Velocity comparison guide.
Since redeeming domestic Business Class flights on Virgin Australia is one of the best uses of Etihad Guest miles and the Perth-Melbourne route is in one of the sweet spots in Etihad’s Virgin Australia award chart, I would require 43,200 Etihad Guest miles for a return trip, transferred over from 110,000 flybuys (1 flybuys point = 0.4 Etihad Guest miles).
It’s worth noting here that this flight isn’t free per se. If you instead used these points for money off your grocery shopping at Coles, they would be worth $550. This is the economic concept of ‘opportunity cost’ (Mrs Kelly, my Year 11 Economics teacher, would be proud that I remembered this!), so effectively the ‘cost’ of this return flight is $550.
However, as this is in the same ballpark the cost of the cheapest Economy Class fares when they’re not on sale – which they rarely are during school holidays when we’re travelling – this effectively means that I get to travel Business Class for the cost of an Economy flight.
Earning the points
Starting off: 21,000 points
Up until the announcement with Etihad, I had pretty much ignored flybuys as a program. The ability to make a 0.5% return on my supermarket shopping simply wasn’t worth devoting my time to. I would scan the card if I happened to have it with me, but that was about the limit of my interest. I once participated in an offer that fitted in with our shopping but didn’t really chase them.
At the point of starting to focus on flybuys, my wife and I had about 21,000 points:
- 10,000 from Kleenheat Gas signup – these days they offer $50 shopping vouchers instead of flybuys points
- 10,000 from a targeted offer, e.g. ‘spend $x in four weeks’
- 1,000 from regular shopping trips
Since then, we made up the points over the past year in the following ways:
Shopping: 8,000 points
Grocery spend is the obvious way to earn points and what Coles are trying to encourage with the program.
Coincidentally, around the time the Etihad partnership was announced, we moved house and the local Coles became much more convenient, so most of our supermarket shopping moved to Coles.
There is also a convenient Coles Express petrol station near our house and we found ourselves filling up regularly here too.
None of this, however, will ever add up to the points actually needed for a redemption. Our ‘base points’ from all our shopping was still only four digits.
Bonus points offers: 50,000 points
This is where the real gold is.
As we wrote about in our introduction to earning flybuys guide, flybuys regularly send out offers by email, print vouchers on your Coles receipts, and every few months we seem to get a sheet full of weekly vouchers in the post.
If you’ve set your flybuys preferences to not receive anything by post, I suggest you change this. The vouchers make a big difference if you use them!
During this time we participated successfully in three ‘spend $x for four weeks and get 10,000 points’ promotions. After this, the target amounts started becoming unrealistic.
We also got another 20,000 points from other offers, like ‘triple points on a shop of your choice’.
Conveniently, flybuys lets you stack offers so you can earn multiple sets of bonus points on a single transaction, like this one:
Insurance: 25,000 points
Fortuitously, one month before my annual car insurance renewal was due, I received a targeted offer in the flybuys statement and voucher booklet of 20,000 points if I switched to Coles Car Insurance.
After comparing the PDS, I found that it was comparable to my current policy.
When I requested a quote, the Coles quote came out significantly more expensive than my previous insurance, but Coles have a price beat guarantee, which I took advantage of and they were happy to beat my previous insurer by $50. So I claimed 20,000 points by switching my insurance.
This policy may not work for you so do your own research and seek professional advice if necessary.
Also, there’s a nice feature that if you hold a Coles insurance policy, you can collect bonus points on your general spending at Coles every month – up to 1,000 points per policy.
So if you hold one policy you get, effectively, double points on your Coles spend; two policies, triple points, etc.
Across the year I collected about 5,000 points on grocery spend with the insurance bonus.
flybuys-earning credit cards: 40,000 points
I signed up for a Coles Rewards MasterCard for my spending where Amex cards aren’t accepted.
When I signed up I was given 20,000 points as a signup bonus, then earning 2 flybuys per $ spent earned me another 20,000 points.
Using the points
The next step was to convert my flybuys points to Etihad Guest.
Unfortunately, flybuys doesn’t let you convert an amount of your choice – only preset amounts of 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 or 100,000 flybuys, which translate to 4,000, 8,000, 20,000 and 40,000 Etihad Guest miles respectively). So to transfer the amount that I needed, I ended up having to do multiple transfers.
While probably unnecessary, I waited until each transfer had landed in my Etihad account before sending the next transfer. Each transfer took 4-5 days on average.
Once I had the miles in my Etihad account, I topped up my balance from my Membership Rewards account so that I had enough for two return flights, since I was travelling with my wife.
Once everything settled, I had 88,000 Etihad Guest miles, enough for a return trip to Melbourne for two people in the new year!
Compare this to the over $3,000 it costs if paying in cash.
Looking on the Virgin Australia website, I was able to check for availability of rewards seats (plenty) and the aircraft type. The latter is important to me as I wanted to be on Virgin Australia’s The Business service they run on the A330 coast-to-coast flights, rather than a slightly nicer-than-Economy seat on a narrow body aircraft, like the ones that fly on most domestic Australian flights.
Virgin Australia’s The Business features a lie-flat seat and direct aisle access for all passengers
Unfortunately, you can’t book partner airline flights online with Etihad, so having found the flights I wanted, it was time to call them.
I told the agent exactly what flights I wanted on which dates, gave her my Etihad number, and done. No problems at all booking on a partner airline. The call took less than ten minutes and two of that was waiting for the booking confirmation email to come through.
Taxes and charges worked out to about $80 AUD total for both of us – not bad!
All up, I found the process of using flybuys plus Membership Rewards points through Etihad Guest for these Virgin Australia flights to be relatively painless – but I knew where to start when it came to looking for availability and felt confident making the booking over the phone. The main takeaway – don’t let the process of transferring points from one program to another and having to make the booking on the phone put you off – there’s some great value to be had.