Woolworths and Coles: who supplies their phones, credit cards and insurance?

Angus Kidman 24 November 2016

WoolworthsColes_Shutterstock

It might say Woolies on the label, but which big brand is actually providing the service?

The supermarket business is super-competitive in Australia, so every player is looking for extra opportunities to turn a dollar. For dominant brands Coles and Woolworths, that means trying to sell you additional services: credit cards, insurance, mobile plans. The logic goes like this: if you trust a supermarket to feed your family, why not trust them to insure your life as well?

But of course Woolworths doesn't actually want to run its own insurance business, and Coles isn't about to build its own mobile network. So the supermarkets cut deals with existing providers to offer branded versions of those products.

The table below shows who the actual providers are across those categories for Woolworths and Coles. While ALDI largely stays out of this space, it does offer a mobile service which runs on the Telstra network.

ColesWoolworths
Mobile plansOptusTelstra
Frequent flyerVirginQantas
Credit cardsCitiMacquarie
Car insuranceWFIHollard
Home insuranceWFIHollard
Life insuranceMetlifeSwiss Re
Landlord insuranceWFIHollard
Pet insurancen/aHollard
Travel insurancen/aHollard

The first thing you'll notice is that there's no overlap. Typically, a condition for Coles signing up a provider is that it won't work with Woolworths. Providers can flip over time: Woolworths used to work with Optus, and now works with Telstra, for instance. But supplying both sides appears to be a big no-no.

What's less obvious from this table alone is that despite that condition, the deals will often be very similar. Take earning frequent flyer points, for instance. Both Woolworths and Coles convert points at exactly the same rate, even though they are partnered with different airlines (Qantas and Virgin respectively). Price matching isn't solely the preserve of store-brand tinned tomatoes, it would seem, which makes sense since price is still the key factor in product choice at supermarkets.

So are those deals worthwhile? There's no single right answer there; a mobile plan that's great for a light user who wants a long recharge period would make no sense for a confirmed YouTube addict. Some of the supermarket offers are definitely competitive, but as always, your best way to score a good deal is to shop around and compare carefully.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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