Why your supermarket choice shouldn’t be influenced by how many points or discounts you can earn

A comparison guide of earning points at Countdown and New World

GUIDE: Earning Points
DIFFICULTY: Easy
TIME TO READ: 4 minutes
POSTED: March 10, 2017
UPDATED: November 24, 2017
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: Relevant to Multiple Programs, Air New Zealand Airpoints

We’re not a privileged lot here in New Zealand when it comes to reward programmes – particularly when doing your grocery shopping.

New World allows you to choose whether to earn Air New Zealand Airpoints directly, or earn Fly Buys points (which can then coincidentally also be redeemed on flights with Air New Zealand!)

Countdown offer the Onecard programme, where you can choose to either earn points that can be redeemed for Countdown discount vouchers, or AA Smartfuel discounts to reduce the price of fuel at BP or Caltex.

This article explains why I don’t think that these programmes should be a consideration as to where you do your grocery shopping.

Earning points from day-to-day spend at supermarkets is not overly rewarding

Let’s look at the points earned from a family shop over the course of year. Assume that a weekly $250 shop at the same supermarket each week equates to $13,000 on groceries over the year.

Excluding any promotional offers, this means you’ll earn the following when shopping exclusively at either one of these supermarkets:

New World

  • 520 Fly Buys points if you have chosen a Fly Buys Clubcard; or
  • 96.2 Airpoints Dollars if you have chosen an Air New Zealand Airpoints Clubcard.

Countdown

  • 1300 Onecard points if you have chosen to earn points that can be redeemed for Countdown vouchers. This equals 6x $15 Onecard vouchers, mailed every 3 months, for a total value of $90; or
  • A weekly 0.06 cent per litre discount at either Caltex or BP if you have chosen to earn AA Smartfuel vouchers. If you then use your Onecard at one of these petrol stations and fill up with a minimum of $40 of fuel, you’ll get an extra 0.06 cents off per litre, for a cumulative discount of 0.12 cents. Assuming you’re filling up weekly with normal unleaded at an average cost of $1.80 per litre, and the bare minimum of $40, you’ll save $2.64 on each fill – for a total value of $137.28 per year.

If you shop exclusively at New World, and you decide to earn Fly Buys points, you’ll be lucky enough to have enough for a one-way Air New Zealand grabaseat Economy flight between two New Zealand cities.

If you picked Airpoints, you’ll thankfully have enough Airpoints Dollars to fly home!

With Countdown, you’ll either be heading back to the supermarket to redeem your $90, or saving the equivalent of 3.5 weeks of fuel if you’ve chosen to earn AA Smartfuel vouchers.

OK – so we know that playing the points game comes from compounding efforts to build your balances over time, from a range of points sources.

But still, that’s a paltry number of points/vouchers for a lot of effort to shop just at one retailer, regardless of which programme you prefer – and you’re compromised even further if you choose to split your shop between the two big retailers.

And no matter what – you’re earning back about the same amount!

In New Zealand, it’s a clear-cut decision on how you should use your points

The value of the points/vouchers returned to you is not high –with Countdown, for example, if you’re earning points that can be redeemed on vouchers to spend in-store, you’ll get a ridiculously low 0.0069% rebate on your grocery expenses.

I can guarantee that the retailers are making a lot more out of all those card swipes, including learning about your shopping habits, and how many times per year you buy milk.

So, if I am shopping at one supermarket, how should I use my points (based on average $250 weekly spend)?

This is an easy choice for Countdown. If you have a car, and you’re frequently filling up at least $40 of fuel per week at either BP or Caltex, you should opt-in to earn AA Smartfuel vouchers. You’ll get marginally better value compared to earning points to redeem on vouchers to spend at Countdown, and at least you won’t have to wait 3 months for the voucher to arrive.

If you’re shopping at New World, pick their Air New Zealand Airpoints Clubcard so that you earn Airpoints Dollars – while you’ll only pick up a meagre 96 Airpoints Dollars per year, at least you know that you can spend them on exactly $96 worth of flights.

However…

At the end of the day, you will get better value overall by just shopping where your groceries are cheaper.

I think most people would easily be able to save more than $130 per year just by basing their purchase decisions based on which store has the lowest price.

And if you have a high-end Airpoints earning credit card, like the Air New Zealand American Express Platinum, you’ll earn 220 Airpoints Dollars on that same $13,000 annual grocery spend – regardless of where you shop.

Summing up – it’s important to remember what you are trading for your ‘loyalty’

Countdown Onecard
The Countdown Onecard lets you earn points towards vouchers at Countdown, or fuel discounts at BP and Caltex – but not both!

You have to be a sensible consumer when it comes to supermarket points/voucher programmes. By remaining loyal, you are choosing to prioritise points over convenience, price, or product choice.

Given this, I see there are a couple of different ‘right ways’ to work with the supermarket programmes as they currently stand:

  1. Gamify the hell out of them – don’t be loyal; switch supermarkets frequently based on the promotions that they offer; and use multiple accounts if you do shop at the same supermarket brand.

  2. Be uninfluenced: treat any points earned from supermarkets as a top up, being super-strong about not letting any promotions sway your purchase decisions.

The alternative is that you remain totally loyal and committed to a supermarket thinking that the points you are earning from your shopping each week are going to add up to something significant in the not too distant future.

Doing so, you’d trade off the option to shop at small independent stores or markets, because you wouldn’t be earning points. And that would be foolish, as I don’t see the rewards from supermarket programmes being strong enough to warrant loyalty.

What about me?

I’m in the second camp – I try as hard as possible to be uninfluenced by points from supermarket programmes. I don’t shop at New World, even though I’d prefer Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars over Countdown Onecard points or fuel vouchers. Why? Because visiting Countdown is more convenient in our daily life.

I have a growing Fly Buys balance, but not through supermarket shopping. When it comes time to book a flight, it might make sense to use that Fly Buys balance on a quick domestic New Zealand flight – but I will only do so if it makes sense to not redeem for a voucher elsewhere (e.g. Noel Leeming, Paper Plus, or helloworld).

It’ll all depend on what my priorities are at the time.

Do you agree? What’s your strategy for earning and using supermarket points/vouchers?

Why your supermarket choice shouldn’t be influenced by how many points or discounts you can earn was last modified: November 24th, 2017 by Daniel Kinnoch