The days of free manufactured spending are indeed over and the cost of accruing points and miles can be substantial. At the moment, some of the credit cards I’m using to earn miles don’t earn category bonuses, which can really add up if you’re not doing things to off-set the fees. In my case, I largely depend on cash back portals and cash back credit cards to off-set fees and generate a profit. There are, of course, more options for off-setting gift card fees:
1. Cash Back Portals. One way to reduce or eliminate manufactured spending costs is to use a cash back portal when ordering gift cards online. A quick search on Cash Back Monitor or CashbackHolic for gift cards should turn up the highest cash back offer currently available. Buying gift cards through a portal at a rate of 1% cash back or higher usually off-sets the cost of card fees, shipping, and money orders. At the moment, I’m pretty much using Yazing exclusively for Giftcards.com and Gift Card Mall purchases. A lot of readers complain about Yazing’s lack of a tracking dashboard, but I’ll continue using them because they offer a much faster payout than iConsumer – which can take upwards of four months!
2. In-Store Promotions. Sometimes stores that sell gift cards offer discounts that off-set the card fees and may even leave you with a bit of extra cash. Drug stores do this frequently as do office supply stores. I remember a year ago when some malls eliminated card fees altogether for a day. When these promotions come around, you can easily off-set most manufactured spending expenses and come away with a stash of miles that were truly earned “free.” Don’t get me started on time spent doing this – I consider this a hobby, so any time I do spend driving some place to buy or liquidate gift cards is categorized in much the same way sports fans spend their time following their favorite teams or how people who like arts and crafts spend their time knitting sweater of painting moonscapes. It doesn’t take away “billable hours” – we all need time off to relax and have fun. My time spent doing this is no different.
3. Points for Cash. Some bank rewards programs allow cardholders to redeem points for statement credits (i.e. cash). This isn’t always a good use of points, but I do know people who do this periodically to off-set some of their card fees, especially when the points were earned free of charge thanks to a generous in-store promotion or cash back portal. I sometimes use my Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard to purchase travel for family members, who pay me back in cash. This allows me to then to redeem my Arrival miles towards these travel expenses, which ends up being as good as cash back (at a favorable ratio).
4. Cash Back Credit Cards. Cash back credit cards can be pretty lucrative on their own and incorporating them into your gift card churning routine can help cover liquidation costs. For example, the Discover It Miles card earns the equivalent of 3% cash back the first year. By putting a bit of extra spend on a cash back card, you could off-set the fees incurred from purchasing gift cards with a standard mile or point-earning credit card. It’s a bit of extra work and not an ideal solution for some folks, but if you’re reducing out-of-pocket costs through other means, then working in a cash back card can leave you with a little extra travel cash. In my case, the amount I’m putting on the Discover card produces way more than what I spend in fees – in fact, by the time my card anniversary rolls around, it will double to a very substantial amount of cash.
What are some of the methods you’re employing to off-set gift card fees?
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