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- I have credit cards that give 5% cash back on rotating categories, but don’t always shop at those stores.
- To take advantage of the deal, I purchase a gift card using my credit card so that I can lock the savings for future purchases.
- I have a system to list which gift cards I have and how much is left on them.
as Inflation at 40-year high And with the cost of many goods and services rising steadily, I’m looking for ways to stay on budget. On top of my usual strategies for navigating lean times (like dialing up discretionary spending and negotiating the deal wherever possible), I’m increasingly using credit card bonus categories and cash back offers to save on non-essential purchases like gas and groceries, and even food and travel.
I don’t always prioritize Maximizing Credit Card Rewards In normal economic times, however, it becomes more attractive to deduct a few percentages from each transaction as prices rise. Here’s how I do it.
15.49% – 25.49% Variable
best of best
16.49% – 25.24% Variable
best of best
16.49% – 25.24% Variable
best of best
My first step is to have the right credit card
My strategy requires having credit cards earning more than the standard 1 or 2 points per dollar. among my portfolio of credit cards, I have several that offer bonus points on select transactions. For example, My Chase Freedom®
card earnings 5% cash back For the third quarter of 2022, those categories are gas stations, rental car agencies, movie theaters and select live entertainment — up to $1,500 spent in rotating quarterly bonus categories.
It’s easy to earn 5% back when my shopping needs align with the bonus categories available. If I want to earn 5% back on gas purchases this quarter, I simply use my Chase Freedom® card and I’m done. The real trick is getting returns similar to bonus categories Don’t Match what I want to buy. To do this, I have to be creative.
Buying Third-Party Gift Cards
Retailers usually sell gift cards for use in their own stores, but many also sell gift cards that you can use to shop elsewhere. Head to your local Home Depot, Kroger, Bed Bath & Beyond, or other major retail outlet, and you’re likely to find racks of gift cards for everything from pizza joints, coffee shops, and streaming services to pharmacies, wireless providers, and airlines. Chances are. , With attractive credit card bonus categories, these gift cards provide an opportunity to boost my returns (and thus cut costs) on a wide range of purchases.
Using gas again as an example, my wife and I mostly refuel at Shell station a few blocks from our house. I can buy Shell gift cards at a variety of stores, including Walgreen’s, Safeway, Best Buy, and specifically for my purposes, Staples and Office Depot.
Since I have a Chase Ink Business Cash® credit card For someone who earns 5% cash back at office supply stores, I can buy a Shell gift card at Staples or Office Depot and lock in that higher return for future gas purchases. This means I earn 5% back on gas all the time, not just when it is offered as a rotating bonus category.
This strategy extends to other purchases. The merchants we do business with have easy-to-find gift cards, including Amazon, Target, Safeway, Lowe’s, REI, eBay, Best Buy, Airbnb, Guitar Center, and more. Many of these merchant credit cards are not included in the bonus categories, even revolving ones. Buying a gift card from a store that Is Eligible allows me to bypass the limits of those bonus categories and expand my savings to a wider range of purchases.
Other Strategies I Use to Save on Gift Cards
Saving opportunities to go beyond credit card bonus categories. Most major credit card issuers have targeted offer program (such as Amex Offers** and Bank of America’s BankAmericaDeals) that offer a personal discount or bonus for qualifying purchases. Many of these are for items I’m not interested in and will never buy, but I regularly find useful offers that can defray the cost of a planned purchase.
For example, my Amex Platinum card currently has a $10 back offer on purchases of $100 or more in supermarkets; Offer can be used up to three times, total back up to $30.
I rarely spend $100 on a grocery trip, and I do my food shopping at my local cooperative, but Safeway sells a variety of third-party gift cards near my house. With this Amex offer, I can get 10% off future purchases at many of the merchants mentioned above.
Another way I look for discounts or bonuses on gift card purchases. For example, Best Buy may offer a 10% discount on Netflix gift cards, or Lowe’s may offer a bonus $15 Lowe’s gift card to customers who purchase a $100 third-party gift card. As long as I have eligible gift cards to use, the discount or bonus is as good as cash to me.
Lastly, I keep an eye out for deals Prepaid Visa, MasterCard and Amex Gift Cards, which I can then use almost anywhere that accepts credit cards. These prepaid cards typically operate at a purchase fee, but Staples and Office Depot (among others) often offer promotions that waive those charges, which means I can’t charge my Chase Ink card. Buy them at no extra cost while earning 5% cash back. Then I use the prepaid card on purchases where I would otherwise have earned fewer rewards, such as at my gym or auto mechanic.
I pile on the savings for an even bigger net discount
A great aspect of these strategies is that they can be combined not only with each other, but also with other savings and rewards such as online shopping portal and member discounts. A recent example is a sale that Staples had in early July on gift cards from several brands, including $100 Airbnb gift cards for $100. By paying with my Chase Ink Business Cash® credit card, I earned an additional 5% ($4.50) back, giving me an overall discount of 14.5%.
Another common example is using my Shell Fuel Rewards membership to save 5 cents per gallon on top of whatever discount I found on my Shell gift card. There are so many creative ways to stack, depending on how much effort I put into it.
downside of gift cards
Speaking of effort, when I consider ways to save money, I try to look at the bigger picture. Saving money is great, but at what cost?
First and foremost, I am protect my time, Saving a few bucks isn’t personally worthwhile if I have to waste a significant amount of time in the process, so I care about how much time I spend taking advantage of deals. If I can save by buying a gift card online or throwing it in my cart when I’m already at the store, that’s an easy win. If I have to go out of my way, the savings have to be commensurate with the extra time spent.
Part of that calculation is the time I put into keeping my gift cards organized. I used to just throw them in a box, and I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a loaded card away, I can’t say for sure. Now I have a system for listing gift cards when I receive them and disposing of them when they run out. It doesn’t take much time, but ignoring the time I spent on that extra step would result in a dishonest accounting of my process.
The system I use to keep my gift cards organized
There are two parts to my system. One is keeping them physically organized; To do this, I use a cardboard box that I believe is meant for storing baseball cards. I organize them alphabetically by brand so that they are easy to find and all cards from the same brand stay together. I used to keep them open in a box and I forgot about some of them or didn’t know I had multiples for the same trader, so I don’t use them together when the opportunity arises.
The other component of my organization is keeping track of their value, which I do on an Excel spreadsheet. When I purchase a gift card, I note the brand, dollar amount, date of purchase, and the gift card number/PIN where applicable. It helps me track partial balances, and it’s useful if I ever lose a gift card or have to return an item I used the gift card to buy. Once the gift card expires and I’m confident I won’t need it again, I move it to a separate tab on the spreadsheet.
In addition to the effort put into buying gift cards, I try to note some potential pitfalls. First, shopping with a gift card means I can’t count on benefits like purchase protection either return protection Which I get when I use credit card. This isn’t a problem for purchases I consume quickly, like gas or groceries, but it’s a concern for electronics or household items, or anything I want to return, because money. Usually goes back to the original method of payment. The less sure I am about a purchase, the less inclined I am to use a gift card.
Next, gift card purchases are generally reliable, but not infallible. Sometimes cards are not activated properly, or they have been tampered with and the balance runs out as soon as they are loaded. Both situations have happened to me only once, but getting my money back was a hassle in every case.
Gift cards may also have unexpected rules or limits on redemption, such as Shell Station I frequently only accepts gift card payments, not at the pump. This adds time to the refueling process, which I have discussed above.
Finally, like the gift cards themselves, the rewards or discounts I’d expect to earn don’t always work out as planned. For example, the terms of the Amex supermarket offer described above specify that gift card purchases are not eligible. I know that third-party gift cards in practice Doing Trigger offers like these, but there’s always a chance I won’t get that extra cash back.