July 17, 2013
Plink is a rewards program in which you can automatically earn rewards for day to day purchases at a number of merchants. They advertise that you can “get rewards for dining and shopping offline.”
Plink is very similar to the Rewards Network where you earn miles automatically at various restaurants when you pay with a registered credit card. Just like Rewards Network, Plink requires that you register a credit card and then you’ll earn Plink points (rather than airline miles) when you make qualifying purchases. Unlike Rewards Network, Plink only allows one credit card to be registered at a time.
Plink rewards purchases at restaurants such as Red Robin, Quiznos, Outback, and Burger King; and retailers such as Sears, KMart, Gap, and Champs; and movie theaters including Regal Cinemas, Edwards Theatres, and United Artists Theatres. You can find a full list of supported merchants here.
Plink points are worth 1 cent each towards various rewards. The most valuable of the rewards are probably the Walmart and Amazon gift cards. You need to accumulate at least 500 Plink points to get an award (500 points = one $5 gift card).
Plink also offers airline miles in exchange for Plink points but at a poor (but unspecified) redemption level.
Buy gift cards, get points
There are two ways to earn Plink points when buying gift cards: buy from Plink or buy in-store. Plink offers a wide array of gift cards and offers points when you buy from them. Here are a few example offers:
With JCP and Sears you would get 15 points per $10 spent. With Plink points worth a penny each, this is like a 1.5% rebate. It’s hardly worth it. A few gift cards offer bigger rewards such as Red Robin which offers a 10% rebate (in points) and Callaway Gold with a 15% rebate.
Personally, I wouldn’t bother with these offers unless I really wanted one of these gift cards and they offered at least 100 points per $10.
Buy gift cards in-store, get points
A second way to earn Plink points when buying gift cards is to buy them in-store at a merchant that sells gift cards and offers Plink Rewards. Four merchants meet this criteria:
Let’s look at each, in turn…
Each Plink offer is based on exceeding a threshold. For example, to get 300 Plink Points, the offer says you must make a purchase “above $50.” So, the best deal then, is when you exceed the threshold by just a penny. To make the math easy, though, let’s assume that you’ll get awards when you spend exactly the target amount. Hopefully you can find a pack of gum or something similar to bump you over the threshold.
With that said, it’s possible to calculate the rebate % for gift cards purchased at Kmart:
- $5 gift card purchase results in: 5% Plink rebate
- $25 gift card purchase results in: 5% Plink rebate
- $50 gift card purchase results in: 6% Plink rebate
So, the sweet spot for buying gift cards at Kmart is to buy $50 worth of gift cards (and a pack of gum, or something) in order to get a 6% rebate (in the form of Plink points).
The math looks the same with Sears:
- $25 gift card purchase results in: 5% Plink rebate
- $50 gift card purchase results in: 6% Plink rebate
The trick at Sears is to find the secret gift card rack that holds gift cards other than Sears, Kmart, and Lands End (see “The mysterious case of the secret gift card rack“).
With 7-Eleven, the offers are more compelling:
- $10 gift card purchase results in: 10% Plink rebate
- $25 gift card purchase results in: 10% Plink rebate
A 10% rebate on gift cards is very good. Last week, I bought a gift card at 7-Eleven with a credit card registered to Plink. My goal was to test the theory that buying a gift card would result in Plink points. On Monday, the points were credited to my Plink account:
Meanwhile, on the same day, Deals we Like scooped the story here.
Dollar General has interesting numbers:
- $6 gift card purchase results in: 8.3% Plink rebate
- $12 gift card purchase results in: 10.4% Plink rebate
A 10.4% rebate sounds good, but you’d be hard pressed to find any $12 gift cards! On the other hand, Dollar General offers as many Plink points for an over $12 purchase as Sears and Kmart offer for purchases over $25. So, as long as you make small purchases, Dollar General can give you pretty good returns.
Plink rewards are not a straight percentage of your total purchase. If you want to buy gift cards worth more than $25 at 7-Eleven or more than $50 at Kmart or Sears, the only way to maximize your Plink rewards would be to ask the cashier to split the transaction so that you make multiple payments rather than just one. For example, if you want to buy a $50 gift card at 7-Eleven, you could add in a $1 pack of gum and ask to pay in two $25.50 transactions.
I haven’t tested this idea. I assume it would work if the cashier was willing, but to be honest this goes beyond what I’d be willing to do to collect points. Instead, I would be more likely to stick to $25 gift cards bought one at a time at 7-Eleven. Or, buy larger denomination gift cards that I would have bought anyway and be happy that I get any extra rewards at all from Plink.
Which credit card to use?
I’m not aware of any general use credit cards that offer extra points at Sears or Kmart, but there are plenty of good options at 7-Eleven. Many 7-Eleven stores are coded as gas stations (see “How to find bonus merchants“) so any credit card that offers bonus points in-store at gas stations would be a good option. You can find a full list here: Best Category Bonuses. Of those that offer points transferable to airline miles, the best bets are the Chase Ink cards and the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card, all of which earn 2X at gas stations. The Premier Rewards Gold card is especially interesting for big spenders since the card offers 15K bonus points after $30K spend within a calendar year.
One card limit
It’s too bad that Plink only allows one card to be registered at a time. If you plan to change which card is registered, make sure to wait for any expected Plink points to arrive in your account first or else you won’t get the points.
In this post, Deals we Like found that it’s possible to register multiple credit cards across family members in the same household by creating separate accounts with separate email addresses. The one caveat she found was that she could only register one card from each bank. She wrote:
I was able to create another using a different email address (for a family member) and link it up to one of my credit cards even though it has the same billing address. The only thing is that you cannot use two of the same banks – for example, you cannot use two Chase cards. I also had problems registering with my American Express credit card, but that could have been an issue with my personal account.
Just for the record, I had no trouble registering an American Express card.
Fudging the math. 10% discount = 9.1%
In the above post, to make the math easy, I treated Plink points as if they were worth a penny each. That’s a bit misleading. Since you can’t redeem Plink points for cash, and since gift cards can often be bought at a discount, the value of each Plink point is really slightly less than a penny. Let’s look at an example…
Suppose you buy $50 worth of Amazon gift cards at 7-Eleven (in two separate transactions) and you get $5 worth of Plink points. That sounds like a 10% rebate. However, let’s say you redeem the Plink points for a $5 Amazon gift card. Now you’ve spent $50, and you received a total of $55 in Amazon gift cards. That’s a 9.1% discount. And, that is a more accurate number. It’s still an excellent discount though!
Other options for buying gift cards
There are many ways to save money or earn extra points when buying gift cards. Here are a few of my favorite options:
- Go through an online shopping portal to Staples.com and buy an e-gift card. Pay with a credit card that offers 5X at office supply stores (e.g. Chase Ink cards, or Amex SimplyCash).
- Buy over $250 worth of gift cards at OfficeMax.com and pay with an American Express small business card. Amex business cards come with OPEN Savings which currently offer 10% cash back for OfficeMax.com purchases over $250.
- Go to any office supply store in-person to buy gift cards and pay with a credit card that offers 5X at office supply stores.
- Go to GiftCardGranny.com to find the best deal for discounted gift cards.
Signing up for Plink
I’ve added a signup link for Plink on my Sign-Up Links page (found under the Resources tab on my site). You’ll find details of the latest signup offer there.
One thing to note: when registering a credit card, Plink requires your bank ID and password. So, it’s understandable if you’re not willing to go that far! Here is what Plink says about the issue:
We use your login credentials to establish a secure connection with your financial institution in order to automatically download your transaction information and match your purchases with offers you activated with Plink. Once a match is found, Plink automatically awards you.
Your account is safe with Plink. We use bank-level encryption to secure your login credentials. Our system only scans your transactional data to track your purchases so that we can award you with Plink Points or other incentives. Your personal information is never sold or shared in any way.
We don’t store your bank login information on our servers. We partner with a third party financial services organization who stores your bank login information in a secure, encrypted, and highly monitored environment. Your data is kept safe through the use of industry leading best practices and technology such as firewalls, intrusion detection, SSL, password protection, data security, data integrity, physical security, and third party audits and inspections.
Personally, I’ve heard good things about Plink, so I’m willing to take the chance.
What about online purchases?
Both the Sears and Kmart offers say this in the details: “You can shop in-store, online and via your mobile device.” This is great. This means that you could go through an online portal (for example, right now both EBates and uPromise offer 6% cash back at Sears) and pay with a linked credit card to double dip! In fact, the following triple dip should be possible at Sears:
- Go through portal to Sears and buy a Sears physical gift card (not e-card) [Frequent Miler Laboratory tests have shown that points & cash back are usually awarded when buying physical gift cards, but not e-gift cards at Sears.com. Not all portals have been tested though]
- Pay with Plink linked credit card.
- Go through portal a second time to use the Sears gift card.
I’ll test the above scenario, of course, and I’ll report the results in the Frequent Miler Laboratory. Last night I ordered a $25.01 Sears gift card after clicking through from uPromise. And, soon, I’ll try a few other portals as well.