December 19, 2013
While researching a post from a couple of days ago (“Sears 25X via an interesting confluence of events“) I realized something that probably should have been obvious to me all along. When double dipping through a portal (e.g. buying gift cards to get points and then using the gift cards to buy merchandise and get more points) you can not only double the portal’s bonus for that merchant, but you can also effectively double points offered from portal promotions that are independent of specific merchants. Here’s an example…
Through December 22, the AAdvantage eShopping portal is offering bonus miles for $75, $150, or $250 of spend through their portal. If you spend exactly $75, or exactly $150, the bonus points amount to an extra 13.33 miles per dollar (strangely, it amounts to only 12 miles per dollar if you spend $250).
Through a double-dip, it should be possible to double the effective portal bonus from 13.33 miles per dollar to 26.66 miles per dollar! And, that’s in addition to the points earned from the merchant!
Neiman Marcus example
Not all merchants give portal points when you buy or use gift cards, so this won’t work with all merchants. Recently, though, a number of people have reported success with earning portal points when buying Neiman Marcus gift cards (both e-gift cards and physical gift cards seem to work). And, with most merchants, buying merchandise with a gift card results in the same portal points as if you paid with a credit card. If you’re in doubt about a particular merchant, see the Frequent Miler Laboratory to find out if people have reported success with that merchant. In general (but not always) if something works at one portal it will work at all portals.
As of the time of this writing, the AAdvantage eShopping portal is offering 6 miles per dollar for shopping at Neiman Marcus.
While its true that the terms & conditions say “Not eligible on gift cards, gift certificates or any other similar cash equivalents,” those terms are in place for most merchants but are not always enforced (it is up to the merchant to enforce those terms, not the portal).
It’s also true that the AAdvantage eShopping promotion says that gift card purchases are not eligible, but in my experience, as long as the merchant awards points for a transaction, the portal will recognize that transaction as a qualifying purchase. Of course, your mileage may vary.
So, assuming that both buying and using gift cards will result in miles earned, we can double both the merchant 6X offer and the portal 13.33X offer as follows:
- Go through portal to Neiman Marcus. Buy a $75 e-gift card. Earn 6 miles per dollar = 450 miles.
- Go through portal to Neiman Marcus again. Buy $75 worth of merchandise with your e-gift card. Earn 6 miles per dollar = 450 miles.
- Qualify for $150 worth of spend through the AAdvantage eShopping portal (keep in mind that this offer ends very soon: 12/22/2013). Earn 2000 bonus miles.
Total spend: $75. Total miles earned: 2900. Miles per dollar: 2900 / $75 = 38.66.
You can increase your rewards or savings even more by using the best credit card to pay for the gift cards. For example, the Chase Freedom card is currently offering 5X this quarter for select department stores. Even better, American Express has a Sync Offer for Neiman Marcus: Spend $200, get $50. If you have two AAdvantage accounts you can use (maybe a significant other account? Parent? Child?), you could do the following:
- Go through the portal (logged in as yourself) to Neiman Marcus and buy a $200 gift card with your Synced Amex card. Total spend: $150 (after Amex gives you $50 back). Earn 6 miles per dollar = 1200.
- Earn 150 points from your Amex card (assuming you are using a card that earns 1 point per dollar).
- Go through portal again to Neiman Marcus and buy $50 worth of merchandise with your gift card. Earn 6 miles per dollar = 300.
- With the above two purchases, qualify for the $250 spend bonus through the portal. Earn 3000 mile bonus.
- Go through the portal yet again to Neiman Marcus, but this time log in with someone else’s account. Buy $150 worth of merchandise with your gift card. Earn 6 miles per dollar = 900.
- With the above purchase, qualify for the $150 spend bonus through the portal. Earn 2000 mile bonus.
Total spend: $150. Total miles earned: 7550. Miles per dollar: 7550 / $150 = 50.33.
I realize that the examples presented above are ending too soon for many readers to take advantage of them. So, instead, think of this as a thought experiment showing what may be possible during future portal promotions.
Notes and cautions
- Portals are never perfect. There is always a risk that expected miles won’t materialize. And, if miles aren’t awarded automatically, you won’t have much chance of getting help from customer service since the terms & conditions of the promos claim that they are “not eligible on gift cards”.
- The numbers calculated above assume that purchases total exactly the amount needed to maximize the promotions with no tax or shipping charges. In reality, you’ll probably spend more than that, and there will be sales tax that won’t earn miles through the portal. So expect your miles per dollar results to be something less than the amounts shown above.
- Merchandise purchased with gift cards do not get the purchase protections automatically given by many credit cards.