Lately I’ve been receiving emails from Virgin America telling me that my 1,500 Elevate points are about to expire. First I had 90 days left, then 60. I’ve vaguely noted to myself that I should do something to keep the points alive. I don’t have (or want) a Virgin America credit card. I’ve never had the opportunity to Fly Virgin America (but I’d like to). I don’t see any simple and small redemption options that are available with many other programs (such as magazine subscriptions). And, until a few days ago, there was no online shopping portal for earning Elevate points (they’ve now introduced the Elevate Fly Store, but that’s a story for another day…). Losing 1,500 points wouldn’t be a big deal, but the problem nagged a bit in the back of my mind and it led to a cascade of events which turned into a bit of a points bonanza…
Last week, I was working at my computer and searching the web for something. I wasn’t Googling… I was Binging. That is, I was using Microsoft Bing to search the web. Why? In April, View from the Wing reported a post from MilePoint which said that you can get airline miles as a reward for using the Bing search engine. Cool. I signed up for Bing Rewards, changed my default search engine to Bing, and forgot about the whole thing.
To be clear, you can’t get a lot of miles from Bing, but even 100 miles is worth getting if you have points about to expire (since getting new miles usually resets the clock on all your miles). For 400 Bing points, you can get 100 points or miles in any of the following programs:
- American Airlines AAdvantage® program
- Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns®
- Hawaiian Airlines® HawaiianMiles®
- Icelandair Saga Club
- IHG® Rewards Club
- SVM FuelCircle
- United MileagePlus
- US Airways® Dividend Miles®
- Virgin America Elevate
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Notice that Virgin America is on the list? I had forgotten about this until I ran a web search and Bing popped up a sidebar telling me that I had earned enough points for Silver status. All I had to do was complete the Welcome to Rewards tour (which I completed in about 5 seconds) and pick an award goal. I looked through the reward options and was therefore reminded of the mile-option. I picked it as my goal (note: you don’t actually have to redeem points for your goal, so you can pick anything):
And, as promised, I was granted Silver status and a 50 point bonus:
Are you envious? Microsoft seems to think so. Anyway, those 50 bonus points helped me get within shooting distance of the 400 points I needed for the 100 mile award. So, I filled out a survey or two and performed a number of meaningless searches to bump up my total.
With 400 points now in-hand, I decided to browse the available rewards to see if there were better options than airline miles. I found a few good ones…
To me, Amazon credit is almost as good as cash. At 525 points per $5, we can see that Bing points are worth about a penny each:
Same with Gamestop. Gamestop gift cards can be used in-store to buy other gift cards such as gas station cards:
And then there’s Microsoft’s answer to DropBox and Google Drive. 100 GB of storage for a year, for the equivalent of $5 seems like a good deal to me. Normally they charge $1.99 per month for the same.
Finally, there’s an option to redeem Bing points for Swag Bucks. I found this very interesting because Swag Bucks has some better than face value redemption options (more on these later) in addition to the ability to redeem for cash (via PayPal).
Searching for Gold
As you can see in the above images, Bing offers a 10% rewards discount to Bing Rewards Gold members. Without Gold, points are worth slightly less than a penny each, but with Gold status they’re worth slightly more than a penny each. Alright… I’m already in this for Silver, I might as well go for Gold, right? I looked up the requirements:
For one, you have to redeem points for a reward. That’s easy. And, each month you have to do 150 rewardable searches (every two searches earns 1 point). I’m pretty sure I do that each month without thinking about it. The hard part is earning 750 lifetime credits. No doubt I would get there in a few more months, but when I stumbled upon an apparent perpetual point machine (PPM) that depended upon Gold status, I was anxious to get to there quickly. Let me explain…
Back to Swag Bucks…
For a brief time last spring, Swag Bucks was the go-to portal for Staples. At the time, Swag Bucks was offering 6 points per dollar for clicking through their portal to Staples. And, at the time, Staples was paying out through portals for gift card purchases (that stopped, sadly, around mid-May). And, Staples had begun selling $200 Visa gift cards online. It was a perfect storm of point earning which I took advantage of, just a bit. So it happened that I still had a stash of Swag Bucks in my account and a vague memory that Swag Bucks can often be redeemed for better than 1 cent per point value. So, I logged in to look. And, sure enough, I found a few good options…
Walmart and Best Buy gift cards were on sale:
And, $5 Amazon gift cards seemed to be on permanent sale:
The above seems pretty cool to me. With Bing Gold status, one can get 500 Swag Bucks for 475 Bing Rewards points. Then, one could use just 450 of those Swag Bucks for a $5 Amazon gift card. In all, you would end up with an Amazon gift card for the same price in Bing Rewards points as if you redeemed directly (475 points), but you would also get 50 extra Swag Bucks. Nice!
Then, I found something really interesting…
The Perpetual Point Machine (PPM)
One of the available Swag Bucks rewards options is a Bing Rewards e-gift card. For 500 Swag Bucks you get 500 Bing Rewards credits:
Are you kidding me? With Bing Gold status, remember, you can get 500 Swag Bucks for 475 Bing points. Then, with 500 Swag Bucks, you can get 500 Bing Rewards. If you repeated this over and over, you would get an extra 25 points with each cycle! A true PPM was found!
After the initial delirious excitement of finding this PPM, reality hit in multiple ways:
1. I realized how far from perfect this PPM was. One would earn 25 points per cycle, so it would be necessary to cycle 20 times just to get $5 worth of credits. That’s a lot of work for very little payout.
2. Swag Bucks redemptions take forever. I redeemed 500 Swag Bucks for the Bing Rewards e-gift card and was told that the process would take 10 to 14 days to get this electronic code. Yeesh, seriously? In reality, it took 4 days to get the code. Better than advertised, but still a long time. Luckily, my experience with Bing Rewards has been much better. I received my first reward in a few minutes.
3. This PPM was pre-killed. Someone must have discovered this PPM long before I did. Swag Bucks allows each person only one Bing Rewards card. Specifically, the site states: “As of 06/06/2014, Bing Rewards Credits Are Limited To One(1) Redemption Per Swagbucks Account.” Boo.
The Point Cascade
So, my PPM idea was dead, but with 500 Bing Rewards credits in-hand, I could get enough points for Bing Rewards Gold status simply by applying the 500 credits to my account (remember that I had over 400 points by then and 750 points are required for Gold status).
I could have done that, but I had a better idea…
Besides the Swag Bucks route, another option for earning lots of Bing Rewards points quickly is to refer friends:
You’ll get 500 credits for each of your friends who join and reach Silver Status in their first 60 days, up to a maximum of 100 friends.*
*In the event this offer ends, your friends will have 30 days to join and reach Silver status in order for you to earn the credits offered.
Referring friends is easy. Ensuring that they get to Silver status within 60 days would be hard. Or, would it?
What if I referred my wife to Bing Rewards and then applied the 500 credits from Swag Bucks to her account instead of mine? It appeared to me that the 500 credits would be enough to instantly lift her to Silver status and would therefore add 500 referral credits into my account. If true, I could take the 500 point e-gift card and turn it into 1,000 total points (500 in my account and 500 in my wife’s).
I didn’t stop there. Instead of referring my wife, I referred my son. And, my son referred my niece. And my niece referred my wife. I applied the 500 credit e-gift card to my wife’s account and made sure that she had completed the two other requirements for silver status (complete the Welcome tour and pick a reward goal). Within seconds she had Silver status. I then looked at my niece’s account. It took only a minute or two for her 500 referral points to appear. I then made sure that she completed the Silver status requirements. Soon enough, she had status and 500 points were awarded to my son. Then, I repeated the procedure with my son and soon I received 500 points in my own account, and I earned Gold!
Through this cascade of referrals, I was able to turn 500 Swag Bucks into 2,000 Bing Rewards credits, earn Silver status for my relatives, and earn Gold status for myself. It didn’t make me rich, but it accomplished my goal of earning Gold status quickly, and its always fun to complete an experiment like this one successfully.
I still haven’t redeemed Bing Rewards for airline miles. Now that I think of the points as being worth about a penny each, its hard to spend almost 400 points for 100 miles. That’s like paying about 4 cents per mile. Instead, I’ll probably use the new Elevate shopping portal to keep my points alive. Maybe, just for fun, I’ll redeem Bing points or Swag Bucks for a gift card that can be used at a merchant that is on the portal…
Regarding Bing searches: I still prefer Google. I don’t know if Google is really that much better or just what I’m used to. The good news, though, is that for the vast majority of searches I do in Bing, I don’t even remember that I’m using an alternative search engine. Just like Google, most of the time the answer I’m looking for appears right on top.
To get 500 Swag Bucks quickly, I’d recommend using their shopping portal when shopping online. You could, alternatively, fill out surveys, play games, view ads, and even (and ironically) use their search engine, but those paths tend to be quite slow.