Million Mile Madness: Banking on Lowe’s

706,000 points earned. 294,000 left to go.

Background: Million Mile Madness is the fun and foolish quest to earn a million points in one month. Throughout March, I’m doing everything I can to earn as many points as I can while keeping within my ethical boundaries. I don’t expect that a million points will have been credited to my account by March 31st: points often take quite a while to get credited. Instead, I’ll track all of the points that I expect, and I’ll declare victory if the expected total is over a million. To keep things challenging, I will try to keep my net costs below $1,000.

All points earned and expenses incurred are tracked via this Google Docs spreadsheet.

See all Million Mile Madness posts (in reverse order), by clicking here.

Extreme Savings and Points from Lowe’s

In June, FlyerTalker Sam_Goh helped write up a series of techniques that can add up to huge savings at Lowe’s (see “Extreme savings at Lowes“).  More recently, I ran experiments to see if it was possible to double or triple dip at Lowe’s through point earning portals.  Fortunately, the experiments worked!  Sure, I’d love to save a lot of money, but this month my primary goal is to earn a lot of points.  Here is the triple dip that worked in my small scale experiments:

  1. Buy Home Improvement gift cards at Office Depot.  Pay with a Chase Ink card to earn 5 points per dollar.  See “The Home Improvement gift card” for more details.
  2. Go through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Mall to Lowe’s.  Use the Home Improvement card (as a Discover credit card) to buy Lowe’s gift cards.  Earn 5 points per dollar.
  3. Go through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Mall to Lowe’s again.  Buy merchandise and pay with the Lowe’s gift cards.  Earn 5 points per dollar.

The above “dips” have worked in individual experiments, but I have not yet proven that they work altogether on a big scale.  I’m about to find out.  I’ve been busily buying up thousands of dollars worth of gift cards in anticipation of using them to buy items which I will then resell (see “Million Mile Madness: Preparing to buy & sell“).  If all goes well, I’ll earn a total of 15 points per dollar with minimal cash losses.

10% off

When buying and selling things bought at retail, its not easy to avoid losing money due to shipping costs, seller fees, etc.  The key to minimizing losses at Lowe’s, I think, is to take full advantage of the Lowe’s moving coupon which gives you 10% off orders up to $5000.

In order to get the coupon, I stopped at my local post office and asked for moving coupons.  Along with a smile, I was given three packs of coupons.  When I got home I discovered that the Lowe’s coupons had expired in February.  Ugh.

Luckily I remembered that in the comments of my Extreme Savings at Lowe’s post, someone had given a link to a website for requesting the coupon.  I quickly found the comment (and link) contributed by Patrick.  He wrote:

Go here…
http://www.lowes.com/cd_Coupon+Registration_253641591_?UserSearch=moving+coupon&rpp=16

So, I clicked his link, filled out the online form, put in the future date in which my family may (or may not) move, and soon enough received the coupon via email.  Valid until April 18th.  Excellent.  Thanks Patrick!

The Plan

My plan is to buy about $5000 worth of merchandise from Lowe’s by applying the triple dip techniques described above, along with the 10% off coupon.  I’ll find merchandise that is lightweight, sells at a competitive price, and gets good reviews at Amazon.com.  Then, I’ll use Amazon’s “Fulfillment by Amazon” service to resell all of those items. 

Unless I stumble across a spectacular sale at Lowe’s, I will likely lose money through buying and selling.  Let’s assume that I’ll be out 10% ($500) of the $5000 spent.  That’s OK.  I’ll have earned 15 X 5000 = 75,000 points.  The cost per point would be $500 / 75,000 = .67 = 2/3 of a cent each.  Since the points earned would be valuable Ultimate Rewards points, that’s a good deal.  Of course, I hope to lose less than that, but I think 10% is a reasonable conservative estimate.

So far, I’ve ordered $3500 worth of Lowe’s gift cards and paid with Home Improvement cards.  Points for my first three orders of gift cards have already posted as pending in the Ultimate Rewards Mall, so I’m feeling pretty confident about the plan.  One big risk is that I will need to pay with a bunch of $500 Lowe’s gift cards and I don’t know how many gift cards Lowes will accept in one order.  Will they accept 10 or more?  Does anyone know?

Another difficulty is that my local Office Depot store is currently out of stock of Home Improvement cards, so it may be difficult to get the final $1500 worth.  It may be time for me to venture further out from home…

Learn about Million Mile Madness:

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.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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  1. […] Frequent Miler details a method he’s experimenting with to earn 15 points per dollar for home ….  While it might seem a bit crazy, if this works it illustrates how many different ways you can maximize the things you buy today to earn you awesome travel tomorrow.  While home improvement may not be as sexy as buying lingerie, it’s a popular category for most Americans.  Chase Ink Bold and your local Office Depot can be great friends to your mileage balance. […]

Comments

    • rob: The Home Improvement card is a Discover gift card that is limited to use at “home improvement” stores such as Lowes, Sears, Home Depot, etc. With the HI card, go the the UR mall, find Lowes and click through. Buy something and pay with the HI card and you should get points.

      apllezz13: That’s true, but the shipping costs I meant were the costs to ship to Amazon for selling the items I buy. It’s not much, but its something that has to be accounted for.

      Troy: Yes, that’s very true. I’ve said many times that what I’m doing here this month is crazy. It doesn’t make sense for the average person to do what I’m doing. It doesn’t even really make sense for me to do it! But it is a fun and hopefully entertaining challenge!

  1. Of course your going to get a million miles, look at how much dough your spending /tossing around to get them. This is not the best way for the normal card churner but you claim to always lose little or even make money on reselling items. It is a big risk and inconveient for most people who are working 40-50 hours per week at there job while doing this is your real job.

  2. Have you considered splitting Lowe’s order into several smaller ones? That would solve a problem of using X Lowe’s GC at a time. Also, it assures there is a better chance that UR points post correctly automatically.

    • BigRedBears: I may have to split up the order, but then I would have to get another 10% off coupon
      IAD-Addict: I don’t think it would work at Home Depot. At least one person has reported trying to buy HD gift cards through the UR Mall, but it didn’t result in points. A double dip would work, though.
      BigRedBears: Yes, you can triple dip at Sears too. The only problem there is that Sears puts a $1 hold on the HI card first. So, with a $500 HI card, the biggest Sears gift card you can get is $499. My strategy has been to buy $400 Sears gift cards and keep the remaining $100 to use at Lowes once the $1 hold drops off

  3. FM, freedom has 5% back at drug stores if you haven’t burned it through with VRCs. CVS has the HI cards. Used them for some actual spend at HD. Too lazy to go back and double dip online though.

    • Singapore flyer: Great idea! I have already used up my Freedom spend, but I could use my ThankYou Preferred instead for the same purpose.
      Larry & Piecerate: Thanks! Great to know!

  4. I bought a lawn tractor last year online using multiple $50 Lowe’s gift cards. I used roughly 50 cards in a single transaction.

  5. Did you have to register you HI GC with your name and zip before you used them online? I only registered with zip, and my order of sears gift card has pended for a day.

  6. Sounds good but are you really moving? If not then that would be an ethical breach for me with the Lowe’s 10% coupon for people that are, well moving.

    • DaninSTL: We are really considering the possibility of moving closer to downtown Ann Arbor so its not 100% untrue
      Bikeguy: ?
      Jamie: Thanks!
      Piecerate: Yes, in my spreadsheet I’ve multiplied all UR mall points by 1.1 to account for the Freedom bonus. I just didn’t want to complicate this post with that info.
      Nick: Thanks!

  7. I really like how people on this blog, starting with FM, actually think about the ethics of what they’re doing. For me, though, saying I was moving to get a 10% off would be fine. They are trying to entice the big spenders away from the other HI stores and FM is definitely a big spender in this instance. And 10% is not that much.
    Now I’m wondering if there is a 10% or better available in the entertainment book. No lying necessary. :-). I didn’t buy one this year yet, so I can’t check.

  8. Based on yesterday’s post, could you factor in a slightly higher multiple for using Freedom when accessing the UR mall?

  9. Does the triple dip actually work? I thought the the UR mall specifically does not give points for the purchase of gift cards. The UR Lowe’s Terms & Conditions says “Not eligible on gift cards, gift certificates or any other similar cash equivalents.”

    If you use the HI card to buy a Lowe’s gift card, how do you earn 5x points through the UR mall?

  10. OD in CA or at lease in my southern CA area are out of the H I card long time ago and they dont ever restock, some locations dont even bother selling GC of $200.

  11. I haven’t used the UR mall much, but after reading your posts I checked it out a little more. The terms and conditions state that you need to use a Chase card:
    “You earn bonus rewards for purchases made with your Chase Account (Chase credit card or debit card) through
    the Ultimate Rewards Mall located at http://www.chase.com
    I also looked at lowes and it said that its not eligible on GC. So, is this just an error on chase – both for not using chase card and for buying a GC?
    If so, can you buy lowes GC with another lowes GC? I doubt it, but seems like you could just keep churning the same money for free points.

  12. Hi FM,
    Wondering if the following would be possible:
    OD_HI GC (x2)-> Sears_Sears GC (x2; double dip)-> KMart_Visa/MC/Amex GCs?
    My local KMart sells $100 Visa GC @ $5.95 a pop, so the real question here is: will KMart let you buy a Visa/MC/Amex GC with a Sears GC?
    For 2 $500 HI GCs, this would come out too: ($5.95 x 10) $59.50 for 10,000 UR pts (5X for 2 HI @ OD + 5X for Sears GC double dip) making it 0.595 cpm.

    • Ben L: Yes, if you get a nice cashier at Kmart it would work with the Visa/MC cards. The register doesn’t allow buying Amex gcs with gift cards. Note that Sears has dropped to 3X for now 🙁
      Ben L: No, you can’t use Lowes gcs to buy other gcs
      Josh: Well, I don’t think this will cause deals to die, but if so I apologize
      Tracy T: Yes, that’s a good point. You won’t get an extended warranty or any purchase protections if you pay with gift cards so that is a big negative when buying things for yourself.

  13. One more question, can you use Lowe’s GCs to buy other GCs (i.e. Amazon)? I’m pretty sure the answer is no, but just wanted to be sure.

  14. Please do not abuse this like you have planned above. This is a great way for people to save on products that they are actually going to purchase and use from Lowe’s, but if people like you abuse it, then it won’t last for long! SMH…

  15. Is there any concern about buying a major item (ie. refrigerator)using gift cards at Lowe’s rather than a credit card? I’m wondering about missing out on any credit card protections if there is a problem with the item. I just got my Ink Bold and my mom is shopping for a new fridge, so I’d like to follow your methods, but don’t want to put her in a bad spot should the item be defective or something.

  16. It is fun to track all of your machinations, but I wonder what would happen if you applied all of you saavy tricks and techniques to, say, foreign exchange arbitrage. You might walk away with a more valuable currency than points.

    • Tech Trainer: Interesting idea!
      econjon: That’s strange. I wonder why others were able to do it?
      Wayne: That’s a great idea for a backup plan!
      bf: Yes, good idea. Luckily I found HI cards today at a second Office Depot store!

  17. FYI- I bought a bunch of Lowes GC’s during the Micahel’s promo. I was unable to use a bunch of them online for $3k order. Everything acted as though it went through, but in the end the order was held up and CS could not resolve.

  18. FM if you are looking for home improvement GCs, consider buying them at CVS using AX Hilton (6x) HH points) or TY Preferred (5x TY points). I prefer the latter, though not as good as Ink 5x UR.

  19. For those following but more interested in the best deal (sorry FM, it’s in-store only) you could do the double dip for the Lowe’s GCs, and then try using this Lowe’s $10 off $50 coupon for another 20% savings… http://slickdeals.net/f/5878526-Lowe-s-10-Off-50-00-Project-Starter-Coupon-Printable-expires-5-18-2013

    Or if you have an OSH nearby, you could see if your local Lowe’s will match this $10 off $30 coupon (33% off)… http://slickdeals.net/f/5896648-OSH-10-of-30-Survey-is-back

    Happy hunting!

  20. BTW @FM, one thing I forgot to ask, was which PO you picked that up at? I’ve found that the main “hub” in the area tends to have the freshest, in terms of expiration, of 10% coupons. In unfamiliar areas, I just look for the POs that have the latest closing times, assuming they’re the biggest/busiest. The downside is that, unlike the smaller POs, they won’t cheerfully hand over multiple packets. YMMV of course.

    • Sam_Goh: It wasn’t a “hub” PO, but it is a very busy one.
      AB: I count the sales tax (6% for me) as part of my costs.
      Corridor! Yep, thanks for the extra data point. That’s consistent with what people have reported before.
      Seth: Thanks! I did see that. I’m glad to see it!
      Chimmy: That’s interesting, thanks.

  21. @FM – What about the sales tax that you paid in the first place when buying merchandise at Lowe’s. Don’t you loose that amount.(Its 8.25% in CA). Is there a way to get that back ?

  22. Thought the POs did away with the Lowes coupon months ago. Last time I went, they provided a card in which you had to go to Lowe’s site and enter your information. You would then be e-mailed a coupon within a couple days. My local POs haven’t had direct 10% off coupons in months.

  23. The Lowes 10% moving coupon works for more than $5000 orders. Just applied the coupon code online to my $7000 appliances trial order and got $700 off.
    Hope this help. Good Luck!

  24. This doesn’t seem that attractive. You’re going through crazy amount of work and paying 0.0067/pt. Just buy the $200 cards at OD for $7 fee and pay 0.007/pt.

  25. Really interested to see what you end up selling for only a 10% projected loss, even with the 10% off coupon. I thought most Amazon fees are 15% for anything other than computers/tablets. Add in 6% sales tax, and shipping fees, and I think 10% loss is hard to do. You would almost have to sell it on Amazon for more than the Lowes retail price to make that work.

    I’m sure you know all this, so really want to see the full details after the month is over.

    • Igetp2s: yes, the trick with Amazon is to sell electronics to keep costs down
      FliesALot: That’s a great question. It didn’t feel wrong to me, especially since we really are looking at houses, so I went ahead and got the coupon. To others it will seem wrong. Everyone draws the line in different places. As to whether it will hurt people because Lowes will stop providing the coupons: I think its incredibly unlikely that they’ll stop because of me (what I’ve done or what I’ve written). If I thought it was likely I wouldn’t have written about it.

  26. So is lying about moving in keeping with your ethical standards? I am not being critical here I am trying to determine the standards is all. For me, I couldn’t lie about a future move in order to get the deal.

    For me it is more than just ethics (though that is 95.64% of it.) It is also that if everyone lies about moving than Lowe’s will quit the promotion and therefore hurt people who are ACTUALLY moving.

    Again, no criticism, we all have our own ethical standards.

  27. @FliesALot – I agree with you, I just purchased a new home and want to take advantage of this when I am ready to but, I am worried because of the abuse like this, I will not be able to. There is no doubt this will be gone sooner than later.

  28. FM: yes but it ends w te $200 cards. You can recycle them rigjt away. It’s cash. Point is its one step instead of the 3-4 steps you take for a similar end cost per point.

  29. Yo: $200 Visa cards are not cash. They’re difficult to use and to cash out. I would need to buy 100 of them to get 100,000 points. That would be more than half my budget and an endless nightmare. Plus, its important that I spread around where the points come from. I can’t/won’t run up endless 5X spend on my Ink cards. Its good to spread to other cards and to shopping portals.

  30. The 10% mover’s coupon was around the last time I moved 2 years ago.

    I like the ethical arguments. Credit Card issuers and stores are trying to profit from you as much as they possibly can. If you want to be a victim all your life, then by all means do what they want. Pay full price and don’t pay your cc balance off in full each month.

    Here’s the ethical rule: don’t break the law.

  31. I love the ethics trolls. The trolling doesn’t pass the BS test though, because why would Lowe’s create the coupon if it didn’t want people using it? Do you think they are really only trying to help people who are moving out of the good of their little businessey hearts? Of course not, the purpose of the coupon is to drive extra business to them, and if FM is spending $5000 there he wouldn’t otherwise spend, I guarantee you they are welcoming him with open arms.

  32. I bought a $500 HI card at office depot 10 days ago. I then used the HI card on the UR site and clicked thru to Lowes where I bought a $500 Lowes card.

    How long does it take for UR points to post?

    You mentioned points “posting as pending”, where do you see this pending information?

  33. FM-

    Have you had any experience (and success) with buying Lowes GC’s through the AA or USAirways portal and getting the miles? AA is currently 3mi/$ and US is 4mi/$. I don’t have any Ultimate Rewards earning cards (planned for the next churn though) and need to buy a fridge, so I’d like to double dip if possible. Also, are you buying electronic GC’s or physical cards and waiting for them in the mail?

    Thanks!

    • Zac: I haven’t tried, but I expect it would work just as well as with the UR Mall. You have to buy physical gift cards to earn points. Note that as of this morning the Lowes system for buying gift cards was broken. Hopefully it will be fixed soon! I receive an error when I try to pay.

  34. I haven’t been able to purchase anything on the lowes site in a couple of days. No gift cards, no merchandise, nothing. I’ve tried Chase and Discover cards, nothing goes through.

  35. I tried a regular order with a regular credit card for payment and got the same error. Called and was later told that there was a system bug that is now fixed. I haven’t had a chance to test it yet.

  36. I ordered a small GC and it appears it went through, so I guess it’s working. I ordered some Gift Cards about 15 days back and they never showed up as pending, so I am curious to see if I get any points for them. On some I paid with a Home Improvement card and on some I paid with my chase visa.

  37. Yep, it now seems to be working for me. I successfully put in an order this morning. Now, however, the HI computers are down so nothing it being approved anywhere. Hopefully that will be fixed in a few hours.

  38. Hello,

    Sorry to be a newbie. I just activated my bold card and then I bought 3K of HI cards. I then activated them, and then I bought 3K of lowes cards through UR portal.

    My questions:

    1) I was not sure how to actually buy the 6 lowes cards. So first I bought 1 500, then went back to UR Portal, and clicked again to go to lowes, bought a 500 card, and then I got sick of that and clicked once more from UM portal and then bought the remaining 2K of lowes 500 dollar cards one by one using your trick. Did it make a difference or did I mess up?

    2) When will my 5x points show up in the UM portal?

    Thanks for this approach!

  39. DavidR:
    1) I don’t know. You might have lost out on the last few orders. You won’t know until the points post (or not). I always went back through the UR portal each time. Yes it was a pain.
    2) I assume you mean “UR” portal. Usually the points show up under “Rewards Activity… Ultimate Rewards Mall & Travel Earnings” in about a week or less. Sometimes it does take as long as three weeks. You won’t have access to those points until after your statement closes

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