Going the Extra (Rewards) Mile

Ya gotta be hustlin’, all the time.

In a previous post, I had talked about my Capital One rewards miles and buying gift cards vs. statement credit.  It was a couple years ago and in that round, I bought up some gift cards because they were a better value than statement credit.  This recent rewards shopping session has given me an interesting opportunity to take advantage of.

Normally, a $100 gift card is 15,500 points (miles, whatever).  However, they offer some $200 cards for 20,000 points, which is clearly a better deal, but sadly, they never have any cards I want, like restaurants.  In my regular browsing visit to see if they have added any $200 dining cards (nope), I saw a Neiman Marcus gift card for 16,000 points – a $200 card.  Wow, for 500 more points than a $100 card, you get a $200 card.  Too bad I don’t have an ounce of care for Neiman Marcus.  $200 might buy me a pack of handkerchiefs.

But, that is still an awesome value and I can’t get it out of my head.  I have enough points to get $600 in cards.  That same number of points equates to only $240 in statement credit.  Maybe I can sell the cards for cash.  After some quick research, I found a website (cardpool.com) that buys gift cards (at a discount, of course).  Their simple online calculator says I can get $510 in cash for those cards.  That’s over twice as much as I could get from statement credit.

Quick math time: Statement credit is about .5 cent per mile, gift cards at normal rate are about .65 cent a mile, these NM cards are 1.25 cents a mile.  Even with the premium for selling the cards, it’s still 1 cent a mile.

Now, to be clear, I am grateful for finding and being able to take advantage of this opportunity.  Part of my gratitude is that I just happened across it and part is that I don’t have to do this.  There’s a lot of people who have to do similar things like this just to get by.  Buy low/sell high/make it through tomorrow.

After signing up for an account on Cardpool, I got looking at the cards they sell.  They’re sold at varying discounts.  It got me thinking some more.  if I know i ‘m going to be spending the money somewhere, why not buy a gift card at a discount first?  Really, 10% off at Outback or Chilis is still 10% off.  And since gift cards are just like cash, you’re not restricted to coupon use.  I think I have a new source of savings.

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