How should this groom-to-be spend $10,000?

A few days ago, I received the following email from a reader:

I’m shopping for a wedding ring, plan to spend around $10,000, perhaps in Blue Nile.  After reading your blog, I can’t help to think how to get the most out of that purchase, perhaps by applying for a new credit card and getting signup bonus, using one of the online malls from various credit cards or airline companies, etc.
I have very good credit and can pay the full purchase price in cash.  Any recommendations?

Wow, $10,000.  That’s a nice problem to have!  Don’t tell Mrs. Miler that I spent quite a bit less than that on her ring…  Anyway, my first thought was that $10,000 happens to be the exact amount needed to get the sign-up bonus for the Ink Bold.  So, I asked the reader what cards he has so far.  Here was his answer:

I have Amex Blue and Capital One Venture. No Ink Bold yet.

Investigation

I’m not familiar with Blue Nile (the merchant he’s considering buying from), so my first step was to see what the reader could get from a shopping portal.  A while ago I reviewed various portal finders (e.g. ev’reward, NerdWallet Shopping, etc.) and I concluded that CashBack Holics was the best (see “The best portal finder”).  So, that was my first stop:

image

Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal is on the list, but currently it only gives 2 points per dollar for Blue Nile.  TopCashBack, on the other hand, gives 5.5% cash back.  That would be a nice rebate on a $10,000 purchase!

Next, I checked BlueNile.com to see if they sold gift cards, and found that they do: up to $1000 worth.  It’s not clear, though, whether you can use more than one for a purchase.  I then checked GiftCardGranny to see if the gift cards were available at a discount. Nothing came up.

Finally, I faked a purchase of an expensive bracelet to see if it was possible to pay with multiple credit cards.  The answer is, yes it’s possible, but to do so you have to complete the order over the phone.  It’s unclear whether the 5.5% cash back would still work in that scenario.

Recommendations

I think that the groom-to-be has several good options:

  1. Ink Bold, straight up: This is the easiest and most straightforward option.  Sign up for a new Ink Bold and use it to pay for the ring.  Going through TopCashBack to BlueNile.com should result in a $550 rebate; plus the $10K purchase would fulfill the Ink Bold’s minimum spend requirement and would result in 60K Ultimate Rewards points (50K from the sign-up bonus and 10K from the spend).
  2. Ink Bold + Amex Prepaid cards:  If you happen to live near an Office Depot that sells Vanilla Reload cards, then you can get Amex Prepaid cards as described in my post “One card to rule them all”.  American Express will allow each person to get 3 cards, so you can get 3 and load them to $2500 each (this will take several days as you can only load $1000 per day).  Then, use these cards to pay $7500 worth of the ring and use the Ink Bold directly for the final $2500.  It’s unclear whether you would get a TopCashBack rebate from this approach, but you would get the Ink Bold’s 50K bonus, plus 10K points from spend on the Ink Bold, plus 7500 * 4 = 30,000 extra points for spend within the Office Supply category.  This would lead to a grand total of 90,000 points!
  3. Multiple card sign-ups:  Another option is to look at the best current credit card offers and pick several cards with minimum spend requirements that add to $10K.  Ideally you would pick no more than one from each bank (or 2 if one is a personal card and another is a business card).  With this approach you would easily earn well over 100,000 points.  As with the second option above, you would need to call to split the purchase across multiple credit cards.

Reader Recommendations

I laid out some options above, but I’d really like to hear from readers.  What ideas do you have?  What is the best way for the groom-to-be to spend his money?  Comment below.

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About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. First, I would avoid a place like BlueNile. Not because the product is per say, but becaus it is an interne site that could vanish tomorrow.

    My recommendation: choose a jeweler with long standing roots who you are confident will be there for many many years to come. If you are in that pricing tier, I have a great guy in NYC I can recommend. @FrequentFlier, feel free to share my email with the reader or I can send you my contact to forward over to your reader.

    Point being, when your fiancé wants to get her ring checked, sized, repaired, or simply cleaned, BlueNile doesn’t have a store front with an associate to speak with in person! Not to mention, the better jewelry only work with the top 3% of diamonds.

    As far as a card goes, why not sign up for the SPG Amex ad SPG Business Amex? Thats a 50,000 Starpoint haul for 6k in spend which I value at well over $1,000 in room nights. Put them towards the honeymoon! They can also becomes air miles with the SPG rebate equalling 60k miles after the transfer! The remaining 4k could go on a normal points card for additional points earning!

  2. Blue Nile is fine. I used them 3 years ago and are still ticking. Question is, $10,000 is a lot to spend on a ring unless you are a baller (read: wealthy). I spent less than 1/2 that and my wife couldn’t pick out a flaw if she wanted to. Carats more than .9 start to get spendy.

    I’d be more concerned about the diamond you are buying than the scheme to purchase it. That’s secondary…

  3. Step 1) buy from a wholesaler. Get a 10k ring for 6k. Save $4,000.
    Step 2) multiple credit card sign up offers. Buy gift cards to hit the spend (If
    Wholesaler has gift cards get their no fee merchant gift cards)
    Step 3) use gift cards.

    End result. Save $4,000 and get over 100,000 points from signup bonuses.

  4. Bluenile has been around for more than 10 years, I wouldn’t be too worried about them going away. Provided the business isn’t horribly mismanaged, I would expect them to be around for quite some time. And, if they go away. So what? Ongoing ring costs are minimal. If it falls out or is damaged, they’ll fix it.

    For most folks (especially one “only” spending $10k), that will be the most expensive jewelry purchase you’ll make. I’m not sure if an ongoing relationship matters much from a customer’s standpoint.

    I spent a little more on the engagement ring years back from bluenile. At the time, it was 4x points per dollar via United MP mall. With 5.5% cash back, I would probably go that route today over the 4x ppd.

    With bluenile, the sales process was great. Zero pressure, shop at your leisure, huge selection. The ring arrived quickly. It comes with all of the appropriate appraisal documentation, etc and you can even buy insurance immediately with the purchase if you don’t want the extra hassle.

    The only caveat is with resizing. You will need to send it back insured. At that price, USPS will indeed insure it, but will cost a bit to get it back to bluenile and you need to go to the post office.

    Don’t worry about cleaning costs. Just about any mall jeweler will clean the ring for free.

    I’m not trying to take business away from DeltaTraveler’s guy, just offer my experiences with bluenile and rewards. They were very good.

  5. First, find a partner who doesn’t need a $10K ring, and save money for important needs and investments. Grumble, grumble.
    Fialing that, I agree with splitting the payment up for multiple credit cards’ minimum spending limits. Any jeweler (in-person) looking to make a sale would gladly incur multiple credit card swipes.

  6. I like the idea of the Ink Bold + 3 prepaid AM Ex cards for the huge UR haul, but is there cause for concern if you purchase 15 $500 reloads in short order? When you broke the one card rules them all idea you advised caution? Is “perk abuse” not a concern here?

  7. Look, if you’re spending 10k on a ring, that probably means your spending like 70k on a wedding, so you will have no problem meeting all the minimum spends you want to meet. I do think, since i just went through this, that if you’re gonna spend 10k, spend it at van cleef or something…

  8. BlueNile is great, bought my wife’s (expensive) wedding ring there and saved about 30% vs the overpriced jewelers in town. The diamonds are beautiful and flawless. To imply they’re some fly by night website that might get shutdown tomorrow is absurd. That’s like saying Amazon might shutdown because they’re an internet company. I’d be 1000x more worried that a local jeweler would take my money and shutdown. Moreover, if you’re paying by credit card you have that protection.

    BTW, Blue NIle is a publicly traded company, ticker NILE.

  9. Another vote for Blue Nile–my ring is from Blue Nile (I suggested it to my husband) and we couldn’t be happier. The initial ring was too big, so we sent it back to get it resized and all went smoothly.

    Would probably go with 2. and get 90K or more pts for Ink Bold, plus apply for another Chase personal card–United MileagePlus Explorer or Hyatt card if nights will be used on honeymoon, since both give pts/benefits with first use of card so no additional minimum spend required.

  10. You could also go to a local jeweler and strike a good deal while paying with CASH. Often they don’t want to pay the credit card fees and pass the savings along to you. Sometimes merchants have a way of making the cash disappear and it benefits them. So you have to balance the cash savings to the points you can obtain putting it on the credit card.

  11. I disagree with DeltaPoints advice wholeheartedly. Oh and hey on here he can’t censor the comments either 😉 Purchasing diamonds online can actually be very sensible, and it is very easy to take the final ring to a local jeweler to resize if that is absolutely necessary and it will cost very little. BlueNile is reputable but I will say when I bought a $20k 2.5 carat ring for our tenth anniversary a couple of years back we found a great deal on Diamond.com. You can search their database of stones and then have it custom fitted onto your choice of ring. Worked out very well. Their customer service was excellent. Due to large purchase size they had to verify details using the usual questions from your credit report but I would not expect less given such a large CC transaction. I went through the AA mall at the time as it was offering 9x points with no cap. BlueNile clearly had already been bitten and had a cap on miles only on first $10k I think. I ended up getting 180,000 AA miles, as well as meeting the initial spend and annual bonus spend requirement on a BofA Virgin card, which generated 65k miles which have since been converted into 130,000 Hilton points. To put that in context, that paid for one of us to go first class to the Maldives on Etihad with AA and nearly four nights at the Conrad Maldives. Even if you went coach, paying for that in cash would be a good $5k rebate. I looked into the diamond pricing a lot and found that what we got was very good value, similar rings sell in places like Ross Simons for $30-40k. There is a decent flyertalk thread on it here http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/american-aadvantage/761761-maximizing-aa-miles-engagement-ring.html. Sadly Diamond.com is now down to 4x so not so lucrative

  12. Blue Nile is convenient and easy to order from. They are reputable, and I have no doubt that they sell quality jewelery. However, I found that a local jeweler was willing to beat Blue Nile’s pricing by a significant amount, and essentially match the price of some other lower priced, high quality online jewelers like goodoldgold.com. Further, the local jeweler I used was able to custom manufacture the engagement ring I bought based on photos from other high priced online jewelers. Bottom line is I received a high quality ring/diamond at a great price.

    The key is to avoid large name brand jewelry stores like JB Robinson, and go to a local, family-owned jeweler that has good connections with your local diamond wholesalers. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a reputable local jeweler to work with, and you will be surprised at the competitive pricing they will be willing to offer to compete with the online jewelry businesses.

    Good luck!

  13. I don’t have a problem with Blue Nile, although I chose to go to a physical store. I split the ring on my new AmEx SPG and Chase Sapphire. Gift cards weren’t an option (maybe I could have used pre-paid cards or even more CCs to split it further, but I try to avoid hassle).

    Regarding the cost, just because someone is spending a lot doesn’t always mean the person is wealthy or will have a huge wedding. I was saving even before I met Megan, so the amount was unconnected to how much I earn. Hopefully it’s one ring that will be on her finger for 50+ years. Megan made it clear she might change the setting, but never the gem. In contrast, the wedding is only a few hours, and half the guests will be drunk.

  14. Funny, I got (and answered) the same email. I advised getting Ink Bold (vs splitting the spend onto multiple cards) and putting the spend on that card, since it’ll meet the minimum spend for that card’s bonus. Which shopping portal works best depends on what points are needed at the margin for a specific reward.

  15. Blue Nile is awesome – I used them a few years ago and they had a wider selection of diamonds at a significant discount from retailers. I used the wire transfer option because there was a 3/3.5 percent discount. I wonder if this is stackable with topcashback? 8.5-9 percent would be significant savings.

  16. First off, research the heck out of what you want. Learn about the C’s (cut, color, clarity) and how the diamonds are graded (what is certified, and what is marketed hype). It’s worth the time as you are only planning on doing this once! For the price you are looking at, you should be able to get an EX/EX/EX rated diamond of at least 1 ct. In a platinum (unfortunately, it doesn’t get her into any lounges!) setting.

    After you have that knowledge and your mind set, find it and see what’s out there. Price sometimes trumps extra points. Another different idea (and surprised it hasn’t been mentioned since it was also quite the points/cash back scam a few years ago) is to look in the jewelry cases (and online) at Costco. They take any/all sorts of AMEX there and you know they are going to be there. Use them as another data point outside the jewelry game to know if you are getting the nicest ring you can for your budget. Then you can worry about maximizing the points.

    Just a couple of other ideas to think about….

  17. I went through this last year. And boy do I wish I knew what I now know, at least in terms of getting points for spend. But as Steve and a few others pointed out here, what matters the most is not which cards you use (Ink, SPG, etc… you’re going to score a bunch of points) BUT where you buy the stone. If you plan on buying the rock online (like I did) utilize the forums on pricescope.com. There are a ton of knowledgeable folks that will happily look at your options and give you unbiased opinions. Oh, and don’t forget that the hardest part isn’t buying it, but figuring out how to propose! Good luck!!

  18. First, Congratulations!

    I agree with Lawrence from personal experience. I too wanted to put the big expense of a ring on a card, but when I used cash as a negotiation tool I received a discount which far exceeded the potential points gained. For example even with the multiple card sign ups you stand to gain 100,000 points reasonably valued at $0.02 then you need to only save 20% by using cash (which I did). Plus my local jeweler inspects and guarantees the ring for free. I suggest at least trying to negotiate a cash deal to see what kind of deal you can get.

    You could even take the cash discount savings, and use it for wedding expenses which will meet (or nearly meet) the spending requirements for the new card bonuses.

  19. I would push the envelope and go for multiple sign ups. Having a diversify portfolio of points would be good.

    Start a apply orama. Hit all the minimum spend. Even get some for only status. Since I can foresee a wedding or honeymoon in the near future, those can be on Ink Bold via Amex Prepaid.

    He can really get a huge pot for the honeymoon.

  20. I second Steelsnow’s advice on checking Costco. Their prices can be quite a bit better than Blue Nile. The savings would trump any extra miles earned thru a shopping portal.

  21. And Costco has 2% cashcack for executive members. Wondering if that applies to Jewlwery.
    This is seriously a good problem to have.

  22. Ditto on Costco. Actually Sam’s in my case. Costco is a bit more high end, but either would do given the cost of the membership being relatively trivial. The only downside is lack of selection, but after hitting 6 ‘real’ jewelery stores (plus a few in Mexico) I found the perfect ring at Sam’s.

    In our case, we also had to get a custom made wedding band because Sam’s didn’t sell a matching piece, and it required a notch due to the size of the mount. The local jeweler was happy to make it and for $400 we got a beautiful and perfect match to the already-sized engagement ring.

  23. purchased mine from a long-standing local retailer. put it on my Amex Plat in several installments. I figured they would have the best customer service and support if there ended up being an issue with any part of the purchase or ring. $7.2k for a 0.99 tiffany. ignore the idiot that said you must be spending $70k on the wedding if spending $10k on ring.

    having looked at a good few dozen diamonds before finding the one i gave my fiance, i’m glad i was able to see what i bought before i made the purchase.

  24. Ring up another person voting for Costco. Their markup on everything they sell is 14-15%, including high-end jewelry, which is a level of value few places can, or will, match.

  25. It’s great to get points for your money whenever possible, but this might be a situation where you need to go through a merchant that does not show up on a shopping portal. A wedding ring is something that could very well be passed down to your children and grandchildren. With that in mind I highly recommend going with a custom ring designer. For my wife’s ring I used Green Lake Jewelry Works in Seattle. (www.greenlakejewelry.com) They have a staff of artists and metal smiths that do amazing work. It is an online process of collaboration where you get drawings and proofs and can make changes until you are satisfied. I was able to get an amazing custom ring made for much less than the reader’s $10k budget. If you tell them your budget up front they will work with you to meet it, and you will end up with something heirloom quality and unique. So I say knock out the 10k spend requirement on an Ink Bold and walk away with a piece of jewelry that will make you very proud.

  26. We got my ring from an online site for a fraction of what it would have cost locally… in fact, we couldn’t even have bought what we wanted locally without doing some kind of special order. We were looking for as close to flawless as possible and ended up with a D VVS1, whereas all the local places mostly had SIs with some VSs. That being said, if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t care nearly as much about the near-flawless aspect. I’d recommend more like a F-G color and VS2 would suit me just fine!

    I’ve never had a problem getting my ring serviced or cleaned by local jewelers, who are happy to help regardless of whether they sold me the ring or not.

    Blue Nile is certainly reputable and you should ignore any flack you’re getting for buying such an expensive ring. We spent about that much on mine, and we had a tiny, cheap wedding. But it’s something I’ll have forever… I have no inclination to ever “upgrade” because we did it right the first time.

    That said, here’s another vote for Costco. I’ve spent a LOT of time studying jewelry/stones and I am consistently impressed with what they have to offer. Plus you can preview a ring you order online and just take it back in-store if it doesn’t make the cut. I much prefer GIA and AGS certs to IGIs, which are often inflated. I’ve actually read that the markup at Costco generally can’t exceed 10%. I don’t know if that applies to everything though.

    Also another vote for using Pricescope.com forums to educated yourself about diamonds, esp cut which is the most underrated and most important, really, of the 4Cs.

  27. Absolutely have to say without hesitation, skip the miles from Blue Nile, and buy from Costco.

    I bought my fiancee’s ring there [surprisingly online] and don’t regret it at all. The ring was certified by both GIA and IGI and looks absolutely amazing.

    I first tried a local jeweler that was well respected, and even with an employee discount for that jeweler since my future sister-in-law worked there, I was able to get a much larger diamond with better cut, and clarity at Costco then the deal I would have gotten with the local jeweler— even with a genuine employee discount.

    There are droves of people that shop at this well respected local jeweler, and I shake my head at how much other people pay for jewelry from the local jeweler above and beyond what I would have paid there without an employee discount.

    Then again, the nearest Costco is a 5 hour drive from the metro area where this jeweler is located…

    @Mark– Yes, I was told that the Executive Level 2% bonus applies for jewelry purchases, I’ll find out for sure in September or October.

  28. I would echo the comments about BlueNile being a reputable dealer. One piece of advise I would give is to buy the rock from BlueNile and then go to a local jeweler for the setting and the rest of the ring. The price for the stone is 80-90% of the ring, so you can save online, but still get the service of a local jeweler for cleaning and all that.

    That’s the route I went 3 years ago and I couldn’t be happier.

  29. Thanks for all the comments above. I am about to buy an engagement ring. The only concern that I have with Costco is the sole ring size, which is way much larger than my girlfriend’s. It may take extra time and money for the resizing. I hope there’s some cheap and easy way to work around it.

  30. Hi, I stumbled across this post through a Google search, and really appreciate your feedback. I am also in the process of shopping for a $10-12K engagement ring from Blue Nile, and was wondering if you’re able to provide an updated analysis of how I can get the best cash back/rewards for my large purchase?

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