3 lessons from my f-ed up extreme stack

Sure, here at Frequent Miler, we coined the term “Extreme Stacking,” but that doesn’t mean we always get it right.  Recently, I Extreme Stacked my way to a new grill and I f-ed up in 3 key ways.  The outcome wasn’t terrible.  I ended up with a $400 Weber grill for $400.  That’s hardly the end of the world.  The purpose of this post isn’t to whine about my woes, but rather to point out how to avoid each of my mistakes when you decide to extreme stack rewards and discounts.

3 ways I f-ed up

  1. I bought the grill with gift cards and therefore forfeited credit card extended warranty and price protection.  Potential loss: maybe $50?
  2. When checking the price, I didn’t go to the final check-out page.  Actual loss: $75.
  3. I used the Yazing portal.  The portal in itself isn’t bad, but the way I used it was.  Actual loss: $40.

Each of these errors are described in more detail below, but first here’s the story…

The story

Back in the day when Sears’ gift card double-dips worked, I had taken full advantage of a number of overlapping deals (16 United Miles per dollar X 2, 5X Freedom points, etc.) to buy a Kenmore grill.  That grill, along with a number of other purchases, practically paid for my family to fly Lufthansa first class the next summer (using United miles before their devaluation).

The Kenmore grill was a bit too big for our small patio, and it no longer heated evenly (if it ever did), and it was slowly falling apart.  I was ready to buy a new propane grill.

Between Consumer Reports and Amazon reviews, I decided to go with the Weber Spirit 210.  It listed for $399 on Amazon and everywhere else:

I was excited to see Sur La Table on the list.  From a recent cooking class, I had a 15% off coupon.  I doubted it would work for the grill, but it was definitely worth a try.  Also, cash back portals were offering up to 10% cash back at Sur La Table.  Even better, I knew that I had a Sur La Table Amex Offer on almost all of my Amex cards: Spend $50+, Get $10 Back.  If done right, this Amex Offer meant a nice 20% discount on top of coupon discounts and portal rewards.  Potential savings were huge.

Amazon would have happily sold the grill to me for $399 + $23.94 sales tax = $422.94.  Thanks to our Amazon Prime membership, shipping would be free.  So that was my price target to beat.  If I could buy the grill for significantly less through extreme stacking, I would do so.  Otherwise, I’d extreme stack the purchase through Amazon (see: Extreme Stacking Amazon.com: Points and Huge Discounts).  At a minimum, I could have clicked through the JetBlue site to Amazon for 3X JetBlue points and then paid with my Citi AT&T Access More card for 3X ThankYou points.  Or, I could have earned 5X Ultimate Rewards points by using my Ink Plus or Ink Cash card at Staples to buy Amazon gift cards, and I still could have earned 3X JetBlue points as well.

But, Sur La Table showed the same price as Amazon and they advertised that the code SHIPFREE would give me free shipping:

I put the grill in my cart at surlatable.com to see if shipping would really be removed and it appeared to do so.  I even entered my zip code to estimate shipping and tax.  The estimator said that the total price would be $422.94.  That was exactly the same as Amazon so I was ready to go forward with a Sur La Table extreme stack.

My 15% off coupon for Sur La Table didn’t work, but I figured that was OK.  I should still get up to 20% off through Amex Offers, plus 10% off (before taxes) via a portal (more on that later in this post).  Getting 30% off without a sale going on anywhere seemed like a great deal to me.

Now that I was committed to the Sur La Table Extreme Stack, I proceeded to buy Sur La Table gift cards $50 at a time.  Each time I paid with a different Amex card in order to get $10 back from the Amex Offer.  For expediency, I bought e-gift cards even though I knew from past experiments that I wouldn’t earn portal rewards when buying them.  I should have tried buying physical by-mail gift cards to see if that would have triggered portal rewards, but I was impatient.  While that was a potential loss of cash back or other rewards, I don’t really consider that a mistake.  It was just a judgment call I made in order to get the order processed more quickly.

It turned out that buying e-gift cards $50 at a time took quite a while.  I didn’t know how many gift cards Sur La Table would accept when purchasing the grill, so I bought one and then used that one along with a credit card to buy a $100 e-gift card, and then I used that one to buy a $150 gift card, and so on.  Each cycle sometimes took overnight to complete, so I started buying two at once to speed things up.  Eventually I had $400 in gift cards and I was ready to go.  Or, so I thought…

The first checkout screen showed the expected $422.94 price.  But, the final payment screen told a whole new story.  The $75 shipping fee was not waived after all.  The final price now was a whopping $497.94!

At this point, I was pissed at Sur La Table for not displaying the full price until the final payment screen.  But, even more, I was pissed at myself for not clicking all the way through to the final checkout screen when I first did my price comparisons.

Anyway, I was now stuck with $400 in Sur La Table gift cards that I had bought for 20% off thanks to Amex Offers.  I could have then sold those gift cards at a loss, but decided to just go forward with the purchase.  I bought two more $50 e-gift cards for $40 each thanks to Amex Offers, and then bought the grill after clicking through the best available online portal.

As always, I used Cashback Monitor to identify the best available portal (note that Travel Miles/Points options were not as good at the time as shown here, or I might have considered the BA or Amtrak portal):

Yazing had the best price.  I don’t usually like to use Yazing because PayPal is their only payout option and I hate PayPal since they’ve repeatedly shut down my accounts and, worse, they shut down my innocent son’s accounts.  But, in this case I figured that the 3% payout differential between Yazing and the next best portal was worth holding my nose and using PayPal again.  That turned out to be a big mistake.  I never received any cash back from the purchase.  See the Yazing section, below, for the reason why, and how you can easily avoid my error.

So, the portal payout didn’t work, and I was charged far more for shipping than I had expected.  The Amex Offers, though, did work.  In the end, I spent $500 and got $100 back.  My final price for the grill, therefore, was $400 even.  Wow, I bought a $399 grill for $400!  As I said in the beginning of this post, that’s hardly a tragedy, but I could have and should have done much better.

Mistake 1: Paying with gift cards without researching options first

Before using gift cards for extreme stacking, you should make a judgment call first of whether or not you may need either an extended warranty or price protection, or both.

In this case, Weber grills have such a good reputation that I think I’m fine losing the extended warranty that many credit cards offer.  The bigger potential issue is the loss of price protection.

All Citibank cards, the Wells Fargo Visa Signature card, and most MasterCards offer 60 days of price protection.  Even better, Discover cards and several Chase cards offer 90 days of price protection.  Best of all, Chase includes up to $50 of coverage for situations not covered by most other cards: “advertisements of cash only, close-out, liquidation and going-out-of-business sales.

I could have bought the grill with my Freedom Unlimited card, for example and have had a reasonably good chance of recovering $50 or more if or when this grill goes on sale in the late summer.

CamelCamelCamel shows that this grill has never sold for less than $399 on Amazon.  So, in this case, I probably didn’t really lose anything at all.  My mistake was that I didn’t do the research up front.  I should have first checked whether price drops were likely before committing to gift cards.

Mistake 2: Failing to view the final check-out page.  Actual loss: $75.

As I described above, I jumped into buying gift cards with the assumption that the final cost after shipping would be $422.94.  It was only after buying $400 in gift cards and trying to actually purchase the grill that I realized my mistake.  The $75 Additional Shipping charge that admittedly was mentioned here and there along the way, finally made it into the bottom line price only on the very last check-out screen.

If I had known that there was no way to avoid this $75 fee I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to go with Sur La Table for this purchase.

Mistake 3: I used the Yazing portal recklessly.  Actual loss: $40.

Yazing had the best cash back rate of all portals at the time of this purchase.  They offered 10% back whereas most other portals offered 7% or less.

Unfortunately, Yazing works differently from any other portal that I know of.  If you click through to Yazing from a referrer before shopping, the referrer gets the cash back, not you!  I knew that.  That’s the reason I’ve never included a Yazing referral link on this site.  In fact, for a $75 deal that I wrote about last year, I warned readers about this.  I wrote:

Yazing suggests sharing your link with friends. If you do, you will earn $75 if they sign up.  They will not.  I’d suggest sharing it with your enemies, not your friends.

But, despite the fact that somewhere in the recesses of my mind I knew that Yazing had this weird quirk, I wasn’t thinking about it when it came time to buy the grill.  I clicked through from CashBack Monitor.  And they earned the $39.90 cash back, not me.  You’re welcome CBM.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. So the moral of the story is that we should take advice from a guy who f*cked up three ways when he did the thing he’s supposedly an expert at? LOL.

    • Moral of the story is that here is a guy who is prepared and willing to explain his f*ck up publicly so that ungrateful people like you do not make the same mistake again.

      Thanks Greg! Appreciate your post!

  2. When I see writers resort to foul language (even abbreviated) I’m disappointed. If we can’t express our thoughts without vulgarity in this society then we aren’t fully using the vocabulary available to us. If we think it’s more dramatic, as many actors unfortunately do, to use vulgarity we do our children an injustice. If people would actually think about what the true meaning of the words mean they’ll realize it doesn’t actually fit. Most vulgarity revolves around sexual acts or bodily functions, yet our society uses them for dramatic attention when they’re really just schoolboy language. I like this blog, so this is just a small criticism that I’m pointing out.

      • People who don’t rely on that website are smarter than those who don’t. Fake science simply based on “if you know more words in general you have more vocabulary.” That was not a true study, but I realize you were joking.

    • They’re just words. You’re the one who’s not “fully using the vocabulary available to us” by not including those words in your speech. Quit using “the children” as an excuse because *you* are uncomfortable, and frankly, grow the hell up.

      I’m more annoyed by the asterisk use and find it absurd. Everyone knows what the word is, so what does the **** accomplish? This comment proved that it fools no one, so it’s a silly fig leaf.

      Stephen Fry on the Joys of Swearing:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_osQvkeNRM

      • My wife and I recently went out to eat and listened as the father at the next table used the same word over and over speaking to his very young children out loud in public. Of course, he was in his wife beater shirt and a ball cap turned backwards. My wife just laughed at the stereotypical scene. But, we felt bad for those kids in how they were being raised. Sad.

        • I’m sorry, but you’re criticizing the use of swearing while simultaneously using the term “wife beater” to describe a tank top shirt? Woof

    • Every merchant is different. Some will accept only one, and some will accept many. Some display the limit on their site and some don’t. I didn’t try very hard to figure out Sur La Table’s limit. When I was buying gift cards with gift cards I noticed that they would have accepted at least two, so I went with that. I expect that they would accept many more.

  3. I thought boardingarea.com is about trip reviews and tips. Where’s the transportation? Where’s the accomodation? Are you sure you are up to writing in boardingarea.com? Or are you just selling links of advertising here instead of real experience trip reviews and advice?

    • I’ve been burned too many times when trying to sell gift cards. Too much hassle. After Raise’s cut and the discount I would have to provide to sell them I’d be very lucky to break even which is essentially what I did by going ahead with the purchase.

  4. Recently went grill shopping myself. Didn’t like the Webers that I saw, but could have gotten one at Lowes. Got 10% off any grill by signing up for their credit card. Might not have been worth the inquiry, but 5% ongoing is a nice perk for my R/A business! Already hit Discover max and used my discount G/C.
    Went out on a whim and felt guilty not price shopping first, guess it could have been worse, huh?
    Thanks for laying it all out, all data points matter.

  5. Wow re Yazing giving the referral to CBM, that’s pretty shady for CBM to do that. Any other portals that I need to be aware of doing this shady trick? Never used Yazing but now know to avoid them.

    • I wouldn’t necessarily avoid Yazing — I think they’re pretty good. I just hate the way they work with click-throughs from other sites. Just make sure to start a new browser session with Yazing instead of clicking through from CBM

      • Actually, the issue is that you are not logged into your Yazing account. So even if you started on Yazing and were not logged in, you would not have earned the rewards. The moral as far as Yazing goes is to login to your account and look at the upper right on the deal page to make sure you see your profile pic before clicking through. Don’t knock Yazing for giving members the ability to earn rewards for recommending deals, it’s a great feature that other sites don’t offer.

    • Yazing is different than most cashback only portals. Nobody thinks retailmenot is shady because they take the commission on each transaction, it’s great that Yazing gives us the ability to earn cash back and money recommending deals to others.

  6. Amazon GCs are available on PPDG now, although given your disdain for Paypal, you may want to stick with Staples.

    I like Yazing, and Adam (who appears to be the owner and only employee) has helped twice when things haven’t tracked right.

  7. Hi Greg,

    I’d like to possibly buy a few gift cards from Sur La Table to take advantage of the Amex Offer. Did all gift cards take overnight in order to be delivered? I’m worried that they may not ship in time to trigger the offer.

  8. Sorry Greg. We did not know Yazing’s referral program works that way. We just started to use their referral link this January or February, even we had Yazing on our site for a year and half. Now, we have replaced their referral link with regular link at Cashback Monitor. So, it should be safe to use Yazing’s links at our site now. We will contact Yazing, and ask them to come up a new referral program which will not hurt people who click on their referral links. By the way, we will be happy to compensate your loss caused by using the referral link on CBM. Or, let me treat you a very nice meal when we meet next time 🙂

    • Hi Greg,

      Did you log in at Yazing after clicking the referral link? Yazing told us if you logged in, the cashback would go to you, not us. Anyway, it seems Yazing’s referral link can not benefit its provider and user at the same time.

      • When you click through from a referral link on Yazing, the option to log-in (which is normally in the top-right corner) goes away. If I had seen the option to log in, I’m sure I would have done so. But, most portals just remember me (I use one consistent browser for all portal shopping), so I assumed I was logged in.

        • You are right. Yazing just told us that if you have not logged in for the past 30 days, there will be no login option after clicking their referral link. This behavior is so different from most other portals, and makes their referral links inappropriate to us. We wish we knew it earlier.

  9. the real crime is not going with a charcoal grill 😉

    weber does have a charcoal grill with gas assist for the same price. it cuts the prep time down to a reasonable 15 minutes

    • The problem with charcoal grills is not just the start-up time, but rather the imagined waste. Once I get the coals perfect for grilling, I always feel like I need to keep grilling more and more meat until the hot coals are used up. I like the ability to simply turn off the propane 🙂

      I get the “charcoal is best” side of the debate… I really do. But, to me, ease of use and quick one/off are more important.

  10. Kid R Us tried the same $75 on a baby dresser. They showed no shipping, but added the $75 at the end. I ended up getting it through the Walmart site with truly no shipping charge.

    I guess some sites pull it on larger items, but hope you won’t catch it by them still claiming free shipping.

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