Last Monday, I published “American Express Gift Cards 2.5% cash back. Today only“. In that post I showed how it was possible (that day) to get 2.5% back when buying American Express gift cards with values of up to $3000 each. Since the gift cards have flat fees ($3.95 each, plus shipping), the highest value gift cards were the best deal. Then, about two days later American Express changed the maximum gift card amount to only $500 if you begin your shopping from a cash back portal (luckily there’s a simple workaround. See “Amex takes away $3K cash back gift cards“).
Because of the proximity in time between the two events, it appeared that the one day 2.5% cash back promotion had spurred on Amex to make the change. Then came GiftCardMall…
Yesterday I published “Visa Gift Cards 2% cash back. Today only.” By going through TopCashBack to GiftCardMall it was possible to earn 2% cash back when buying Visa gift cards. At the time that I wrote that post, it was possible to buy gift cards up to $1000 each. My post was published Monday morning at about 6 a.m. EDT. At around noon, the limit changed to only $500. What happened?
Many in the travel hacking community like to blame bloggers for killing deals. Undoubtedly the accusation is sometimes true and sometimes false. When a deal is too good, it is inevitable that it will end eventually. When it does end there is a tendency to blame the most recent or salient event on its demise. Sometimes that recent or salient event may indeed be the cause. Often, it is not. Either way, we rarely find out for sure.
Recently, Visa and MasterCard gift cards were changed to allow PINs. As a result, they could now be easily converted to cash (see “Gift card PINs“). Since there are many ways to buy gift cards to earn cash back or extra credit card rewards, buying gift cards suddenly became a very good deal. In my recent post “The Bluebird Metric,” I wrote:
I don’t know how long it will last, but as of the time of this writing it is possible to manufacture credit card spend for free […] Sometimes you can even make a profit while collecting points this way.
I suspected that things would soon change because buying gift cards had become too good of a deal.
Back to the question
Did I kill these deals? Did my publicity of the opportunities catch the eye of people who run Amex gift cards and/or GiftCardMall? Or, more likely, did the sudden traffic to their sites cause them to panic and make quick changes? Or, was it a coincidence? Were changes in the market already putting pressure on these companies to change, and so they did?
What do you think? Please comment below, but please keep your comments civil! For some reason debates like these tend to devolve into name calling. I’d rather not censor comments, but I will delete profanity and attacks on individuals.
Note that, regardless of the debate, I will continue to publish publicly available deals like these as they are discovered. I have always held some back, though, and I’ll continue to do so: Sometimes there is an opportunity that is too limited to make public. For example, if the deal requires buying something for which there is a very limited quantity, publishing it would only lead to frustration once people discover that they can’t get it. Another type of deal that I always hold back are the ones that cross my ethical line (see “Drawing the line“). I also try to avoid publishing deals that would be likely to put companies out of business (luckily these don’t come around very often).