Million Mile Headaches: Lowes, Round 2

Background: Million Mile Madness was the mad quest to earn a million points in one month. Throughout March, I did everything I could to earn as many points as possible while keeping within my ethical boundaries. During the month, I tracked all of the points that I expected, and I declared victory when the expected total topped one million.

Million Mile Headaches

Not everything went smoothly during my million mile quest.  Last week, for example, I wrote about problems I had with SunTrust (see “Million Mile Headaches: SunTrust“).  And, in March, I wrote about some issues I had with Sears (see “A setback from Sears“).  Also in March, I published “Bumps in the road” where I told the story of my botched attempt to get 15 points per dollar when buying items from Lowes.  This is a continuation of that story…

Recap of what went before

I started the month with a plan to earn 75,000 points from Lowes as follows: 1) Use credit cards that earn 5X at office supply stores to buy Home Improvement gift cards at Office Depot; 2) Go through an online portal that offers 5 points per dollar at Lowes and buy physical Lowes’ gift cards.  Pay with the Home Improvement gift cards; and 3) Go through the 5X portal again to buy $5,000 worth of merchandise and pay with Lowes’ gift cards.  If all had worked as planned, I would have earned 15 points per dollar and therefore 75,000 points from buying $5000 worth of merchandise (which I would then resell).

The first $3500 worth of gift card purchases seemed to go smoothly.  I bought out all of the Home Improvement cards available at my local Office Depot.  I registered each card and then went online through a portal to buy Lowes’ gift cards.  The gift cards arrived at my house and all portal points posted as expected.

So, with that success under my belt, I drove to a distant Office Depot to buy more Home Improvement cards and I used those cards to buy more Lowes’ gift cards.  To make a long story short, a computer glitch prevented the new orders from going through, and Lowes’ re-credited my Home Improvement gift cards which I had previously thrown away thinking that they had been used up.  I had to find the original purchase receipt from the Office Depot to get my money back.  And, in fact, I received a refund check from InComm (the company behind the Home Improvement cards) a few weeks later. 

You can read the full story here: Bumps in the road.

Preparing to buy

Once Lowes’ fixed their computer glitch, I was ready to try again.  I still needed $1500 more of Lowes’ gift cards.  This time, when ordering the gift cards, I paid $4.99 per card for overnight delivery.  It was March 26th, and time was running out for my challenge.  When the cards arrived the next day, I now had about $5000 worth of Lowes’ gift cards.  Or so, I thought…

My plan had been to buy $5000 worth of Nest Learning Thermostats 2nd Generation.  These were top sellers on Amazon.com so I knew they would sell quickly.  With my 10% off movers coupon, I still would lose money on the whole deal (due to sales taxes and seller fees), but I had calculated that the loss was worth it given all of the points earned.

One big (and one little) break

On March 27th, I found that someone had posted several Lowes’ 10% off coupons on SlickDeals.  This was great for me because I really was thinking of moving and would have liked to use my movers coupon for that move.  So, I was able to use the SlickDeals coupon and keep my own for later.  That was my little break for the day.

The bigger bonus came when I browsed to Lowes and discovered that the Nest Learning Thermostat 1st Generation was on sale!  The sale price was lower than Amazon’s usual price, and so I calculated that I would lose much less on this deal than I would have with the Nest II.

Uh oh

I clicked through to Lowes from an online portal, and added $5000 worth of thermostats to my cart.  When I went to pay, I discovered a problem.  Four of my $500 Lowes’ gift cards couldn’t be applied to the order.  Something was wrong.

I called Lowes and learned that those four gift cards had been affected by the same computer glitch that had caused me trouble before.  But, unlike those orders, Lowes had sent me these gift cards as if everything was fine.  Once again, my Home Improvement gift cards had been re-credited, but I had long since thrown them away (I’ll never do that again!).

I repeated the earlier process of requesting the old receipt from Office Depot and emailing it to InComm.  As with the previous time, I asked for my refund as a check rather than replacement gift cards.  This check also arrived in a few weeks.

Final order

I ended up buying just $3000 worth of thermostats.  When they arrived, I sent them to Amazon for their fulfillment program and they sold out quickly.  I probably could have broken even or even made a profit by selling these through other channels, but I was happy to have the Lowes chapter behind me.

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Comments

  1. It’s pretty easy to have a box to save ALL receipts related to mfg. spending, including all gift cards, reloads, money orders, etc.

  2. Yep, I’m learning to do the same thing after some issues with gift cards myself. Amazon are the only ones I throw away now, but even then I should probably save those just in case!

  3. I got one of this plastic file envelopes that close with string? All cards and receipts go in there once I’ve ‘dealt’ with the card. Sits in the back of the file case and just gets heavier. In December, I’ll start another “card collection” that will carry over through next year (figuring most problems will be settled within a month).

    I’m a bit obsessive so, before chucking it in the plastic envelope, I actually write on the card (with indelible ink) what I did: TRF Costco, TRF Bluebird, got VR at CVS… (I no longer tape the receipt to the cards… that’s TOO obsessive! {wink})

  4. Ok, the Nest makes sense but I’m still trying to figure out what you could have sold at Kohl’s for MMM without losing your shirt on the resale- mixers?

  5. I have a plastic drawer…. with a ton of VRs in it too… I suppose I’ll eventually have to do something with them…

  6. What was the total out the door cost per unit, after all coupons and points were factored in? They sell well under 200 shipped on ebay.

  7. For the home improvement /lowes issues, since they sent you a check, so you get to keep the first 5x from ink for free? That ‘s not pretty cool.

  8. Did Amazon treat this as a “Consumer Electronics” item which only incurrs a 8% selling fee, or was it a “Home” item which carries a 15% fee? Seems like when you add on sales tax, the Amazon fee, Amazon Fulfillment costs, you probably took a descent hit on the $3k spent. Maybe around $300 in total loss? Still worth the 45k of UR points you earned ($3k x 15 pts).

  9. Chris: I’ll report some of the Kohls details soon. I made a profit with most Kohls items and that helped to offset this loss

    Adam: I don’t remember. I’ll look it up later

    Pan: yes, I got those points for free (unless you factor in my time and stress)

  10. Drü & Adam: My after tax cost for each Nest was $170.76. I recouped an average of $154.49 from FBA (after all fees were accounted for). So, I lost $16.27 on each (9.5% loss). At 15X, that’s a good price to pay for Ultimate Rewards points, but not a path I would recommend to others.

  11. You might try going paperless w/receipts and using a smartphone to photo/scan (try Camscanner) all your receipts and upload to Evernote as JPG. The JPGs are text searchable! And best of all this is all free. A virtual shoebox.

  12. I went into Lowes for the first time in years a few weeks ago. Had the brilliant idea to pick up a few Macy’s cards. The whole transaction went bad, register froze, manager override involved. Showed the pending transaction in my card for days before it finally dropped off. #totalfail
    You won’t see me in a Lowe’s again. And no Kroger’s either, you all can have the fuel points:-)

  13. Another ridiculous story about sales that go nowhere and imaginary profits. But thanks for the tip: never throw away gift cards that you have used to buy ….more gift cards LOL !!!

  14. FM, thanks for all the help in these last few posts. I have a couple of questions that I haven’t seen definitively answered and was hoping you could help:

    1) If I buy a Lowe’s GC going thru UR Mall with the Chase Freedom card will I definitely get 10x points back, or is this still a risky move?

    2) If I take a less risky move and go through TCB to Cardpool and get Lowe’s cards for essentially 9% off, will there be a problem using them back thru UR mall, even if some of them end up being Merchandise Credits?

    3) Finally, should I have any problem using the 10% off online codes in combination with the UR Mall and GCs, or has anyone encountered a serious problem with getting the points?

    If I can use this strategy, I am hoping to get 10x for Lowes GC, 10% off a $3000+ purchase, and 5x for going back thru UR mall. Total savings will be in the 25% ballpark.

    Does this seem like a fairly safe strategy?

  15. DroidD:
    1) Whenever you use a shopping portal, nothing is “definite”, but I can say that it has worked successfully for me many times so I think its pretty safe.
    2) That should work fine. Keep in mind, though, that when you pay with a gift card, you don’t get any extended protections that credit cards offer.
    3) Again, you shouldn’t have any trouble, but you never know for sure with portals.

  16. Thanks, I will employ each with caution. I have some time to experiment with each strategy before making the larger purchase, so I am going to test it out first. Again, thanks for the response.

  17. FM,
    I tried to use the home improv gift card to purchase lowes gc from UR mall but it says “Gift cards cannot be applied to the purchase of gift cards.”. How can I get around it or which other online mall cal allow that?
    Thanks in advance.

    • FM,

      Thanks. But going through UR->Lowes website says the below regarding earning the bonus pts:

      “Not eligible on gift cards, gift certificates or any other similar cash equivalents.”

      How do I enable the extra bonus pts to purchase the Lowes GC using the HI GC?

  18. ff_lover: you can’t believe everything you read. In practice, points are awarded despite that statement. Remember, though, that things could change at any time or your click through might not capture correctly, so there’s always some risk.

  19. Hello!

    I tried this same idea, using my Ink to buy 2.5K of HI cards. Then buy Lowes cards with my HI cards – but clicking through UR. UR says they will not give me points unless I use one of their cards :-( Which portal did you use to get points on buying lowes product?

    Thanks!
    David

    • Well – I received nothing so far – you said it took 1 week – mine has been longer and I have seen nothing :-( How long was the worse wait for the points? If they do not show – what do you recommend doing about it, I cannot find a number for UR anywhere?

  20. DavidR: In my experience it can take up to 3 weeks for points to show up in the UR mall as pending. They don’t show up in your account until after your next statement closes.

  21. FM does UR Mall have a comprehensive break down of the points your earn? how can i distinguish the points for each transaction?

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