For years I’ve mostly ignored the excitement about getting miles for flower purchases. FTD, 1800Flowers, ProFlowers and other companies often offer seemingly great rewards for flower purchases. You’ll see ads for 20 miles per dollar, 30 miles per dollar, and sometimes even more. The truth, though, is that flowers purchased through these companies are crazily expensive, they often arrive in shambles, and they tack on ridiculously high shipping and handling charges (it reminds me of British Airways’ award fuel surcharges). Since the shipping and handling charges do not earn miles, your actual miles per dollar earnings are usually far less than advertised.
Changing the equation
Thanks to advice from readers, other blogs, and through experimentation I’ve learned how to get good value from online flower purchases, specifically through 1800Flowers. The basic formula is:
- Buy 1800Flowers gift cards for half price (or less)
- Subscribe to their unlimited free shipping program called Passport
- Find items that are priced exactly the same as the gift card value
- Find desirable items that will be delivered in good condition
- Use the best available promo codes to maximize rewards
By following the above steps (more on each below), it’s possible to buy miles for as little as 1.4 cents each (or maybe less) which can be an attractive price even if you don’t care about the flowers. And, if you do care about the flowers more than the miles, you’ll still get rewarded with miles every time you send someone a gift.
How good is this?
I recently posted the following Quick Deal: “Possible 105 miles per dollar with 1800Flowers!” The jury is still out on whether the earnings will really be that high because I’m waiting for confirmation from a cash back portal. More likely, we’ll be looking at 71 Southwest Rapid Rewards points per dollar.
If it were possible to scale up this offer to many purchases (in reality it is limited to two per person, but this is just a thought experiment so bear with me), then one could buy 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points for $1,551. I recently showed that Southwest points are currently worth more than 1.5 cents per point towards Wanna Getaway fares (see “The new true value of Southwest points”). So, your $1,551 investment would be worth more than $1,661 in travel. In other words, you could have sent presents to 110 of your closest friends and still made a small profit in the form of future travel. Even better, 110,000 points would be enough to qualify you for the Southwest companion pass which is good for a free companion flight on an unlimited number of paid or reward flights for the rest of the year and all of the next year. So, by bringing a friend along on your trips, those 110,000 points could mean as much as $3,322 in travel (if you used all of the points for two person travel while you have the companion pass).
The above thought experiment isn’t realistic for a number of reasons, but it is intended to show that there really is value to be mined here.
Here, now, are the steps towards great flowery rewards:
1. Buy 1800Flowers gift cards for half price, or less
This part requires being on the lookout for special deals. In my recent Quick Deal, I reported on a current Amazon Local deal where you can get $30 gift cards for half price or less. In other posts, I’ve shown how it is possible to use the occasional American Express “Offers for You” deals combined with a cash back portal to buy $50 gift cards for half price or less (see, for example, “Preparing for Mother’s Day Miles”).
2. Subscribe to Passport for half price, or less
1800Flowers charges $29.99 per year for their Passport program which gives you unlimited free shipping. You can use a 1800Flowers gift card to pay for your membership. So, do the following:
- Start with the best cash back or point earning portal you can find (search here)
- Click through the portal to 1800Flowers and purchase the Passport subscription
- Pay with a $30 gift card bought at half price (in step 1)
Let’s say you went through a portal offering 20% cash back. In that case, you can expect to get $6 back. So, assuming you paid $15 for the $30 gift card to begin with, your total cost for the one year membership would be only $9. Actually, it may be even lower if you bought the gift card for less than half price by shopping for the gift card through a portal!
3. Find items that are priced exactly the same as the gift card value
1800Flowers allows only one gift card to be used per purchase. If you spend more than the gift card’s value, then your rewards per dollar spent will be lower. My approach is to sort by price, low to high, and look for items that are as close as possible to the gift card’s value. If I have a $30 gift card, I’ll look for items priced $29.99. With a $50 gift card, I’ll look for items priced $49.99.
4. Find items that will be delivered in good condition
A common complaint with services like 1800Flowers is that flowers arrive broken (often the included vase is broken) or looking nothing like the advertised photo. There are two easy solutions to this. First, when sending flowers, always look for the one’s offering “Same-Day Local Florist Delivery”. When flowers are delivered locally, they are far more likely to arrive in good condition, looking great. Another option, of course, is to send things other than flowers. You can send popcorn tins, cookies, baskets, and much more. Many such items are less likely to arrive in bad condition. Here are a few examples that I dug up at the $50 price point:
5. Use the best available promo codes to maximize rewards
Point earning promo codes for 1800Flowers tend to take two forms. They either offer X miles per dollar (e.g. 30 miles per dollar), or they offer a fixed number of miles for purchases of $29.99 or more. For example, here are a few offers that are available at the time of writing:
- American Airlines: 30 miles per dollar with code A54. Valid through May 12 2014. Details here.
- Alaska Airlines: 30 miles per dollar with code AKA3. Unknown expiration date.
- Southwest: 1000 points with code RR22 for purchases of $29.99 or more. Details here.
- Southwest: 30 points per dollar with code RR51 for purchases of $29.99 or more.
As you can see above, 1800Flowers often offers 30 miles per dollar in the weeks leading up to a holiday (in this case, Mother’s Day). The Southwest offer, meanwhile, seems to be always available. Which is better? If you value the miles equally, the Southwest offer is slightly better for $30 purchases (33.3 miles per dollar), but the 30 mile per dollar offers are better for larger purchases.
The steps, shown above, for maximizing value from flower purchases may seem overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of it, its not hard. For long distance deliveries, there’s no question in my mind that this process is a better value than any alternatives I’m aware of. For local gift giving, the value of this approach over cheaper or better alternatives depends upon how much you value the miles earned and the convenience of ordering online.