1994 Fly Buys program introduced

Fly Buys was originally a joint venture between Coles Myer, Shell and the National Australia Bank, offering flights in return for points earned at the companies’ retail outlets and by using the National’s Mastercard. A million Australian households joined within the first six weeks. Fly Buys remains Australia’s largest loyalty program, with more than 10 million cardholders in more than 5.5 million households.

Over the years, Fly Buys (or FlyBuys or flybuys) has changed more than the way the name is displayed. Various partners have come and gone, largely because of corporate changes in ownership. New partners have included Telstra, AGL, Webjet and Budget car rentals. The 2006 split between Coles and Myer meant Myer Stores no longer accepted the loyalty card. Others who have withdrawn include Red Rooster, Katies and Harris Technology.

A Fly Buys point today won’t get you as far as it used to either. In 1998, the points were devalued so you needed 20 times as many to purchase a flight or a reward. These days, you can earn one point for every dollar you spend at Coles, Kmart, Target or other Coles-owned businesses like First Choice Liquor, Liquorland or Coles Express petrol outlets. There are also various other organisations offering points and a range of linked credit cards that let you boost your point score further.

Although the initial incentive, as the name indicates, was to earn points for air travel, the loyalty program soon expanded to offer a range of shopping options including redeeming points against your grocery shop. But as Lifehacker pointed out, it’s not really worth changing your shopping behaviour just to earn points. To save $260 off your grocery bill by redeeming points, you’d have to spend $14,880. That’s a 1.7 per cent saving.

There are regular bonus offers that let shoppers gain extra points and Virgin regularly offers bonuses for people who convert their Fly Buy points to Velocity frequent flyer points.  There seems to be no available data about how many people keep accumulating points but never redeem them.

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