Recently, I published a couple of unsubstantiated, wishful thinking posts:
In those posts I talked about the possibility of big new signup bonuses, new manufactured spend opportunities, and more. I didn’t think we would see much of interest in online shopping portals, though, until the end of the year. I’ve already been proven wrong…
Amex gift cards
Buying Amex gift cards through portals has long been a good way to reduce the cost of manufactured spend and/or to increase your rebate for all 1X spend (in other words, use these cards anywhere your other credit cards do not get a category bonus). Recently, though, the portal payouts for Amex gift cards have gone to all time highs. Check out these recent Frequent Miler Quick Deals posts:
- Jan 29: BigCrumbs increases Amex gift card rebate to 2.1%
- Feb 3: TopCashBack increases Amex gift card rebate to 3%
- Feb 3: Up to 4 miles per dollar for Amex gift cards!
Four miles per dollar is an amazing rebate. That one requires the Arrival World MasterCard to access the portal. And, the “miles” earned are Arrival miles. These miles can be redeemed for travel at a rate of 1 cent each, but then you get a 10% rebate on your miles. So, your total portal rebate is worth 4.4% cash back towards travel. Plus, you’ll earn credit card rewards on the purchase of the Amex gift cards in the first place, so if you pay with your Arrival card (the one that earns 2X everywhere), you’ll get a total of 6 miles per dollar, which is equivalent to 6.6% cash back towards travel!
The news here is where I’m most excited. To understand why, it’s necessary to look back a couple of years. If my memory serves, In late 2011 and most of 2012, Chase ran monthly specials in the Ultimate Rewards Mall. On the first of every month I would excitedly log in to see which stores had the big payouts (Staples? Sears? Sony?). I would publish my findings, along with my thoughts on how best to maximize each promotion.
One interesting twist was that the portal payout rates often varied depending upon what type of account you logged in with. For example, they would run a big Sears promotion (10X!) for Freedom cardholders, and an office supply promotion (Office Depot 10X!) for Ink cardholders. It became important for point chasers to make sure that they had one of each type of card in the family: Freedom, Sapphire, and Ink.
I think it was late 2012 when the monthly promotions stopped appearing. Around the same time, the Ultimate Rewards Mall began to show (mostly) the same payout rates regardless of which card you logged in with. Since then, while the Ultimate Rewards Mall has continued to be a reliable source of points for many types of purchases, it has lost the excitement of the monthly big scores.
Now, however, there are signs that the monthly promotions may be returning! Mommy Points discovered that the portal is once again showing different rates depending upon how you log in! While none of the current specials are amazing, there are a few good ones. Here is the list of payouts, as reported by Mommy Points, that currently differ by card…
Sapphire Preferred specials:
- Anthropologie 6x
- Banana Republic 4x
- Drugstore.com 6x
- DSW 8x
- Lowe’s 5x
- Macy’s 5x
- Magazines.com 30x
- OfficeMax.com 5x
- Saks.com 8x
- Famous Footwear 10x
- Gap.com 5x
- Hotels.com 5x
- IHG Hotels 5x
- Marriot 5x
- Shoebuy.com 15x
(see the list under Sapphire Preferred, as they are the same)
Of the specials shown above, here are the ones I find interesting:
OfficeMax 5X: Log in with your Sapphire Preferred or Ink account, but make sure to pay with your Ink card in order to earn an additional 5X for a total of 10 points per dollar at OfficeMax. Note that if you log in with your Sapphire Preferred account, the bonus points earned from the portal will be part of your annual Sapphire Preferred 7% dividend. So, if you log in with the Sapphire Preferred account, but pay with an Ink card, your total earning will really be 5 x 1.07 + 5 = 10.35 points per dollar.
Hotels.com 5X: In my October post “Miles for non-chain stays” I showed how one could save money and earn lots of points by clicking through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to Travelocity (2X at the time) when booking non-chain hotel stays. Readers pointed out that it was often possible to do even better via Hotels.com, which was 5X in the Ultimate Rewards Mall at the time. Shortly afterwards, the payout dropped, so I lost interest in Hotels.com. Now, though, its great to see Hotels.com back to 5X even if its only for Freedom cardholders.
Marriott 5X: Marriott may not have the best rewards program of all the chains, but it consistently has the best triple and quadruple dip opportunities. There are often great ways to get points or discounts when buying Marriott gift cards. And, you can use the Ultimate Rewards Mall to earn extra points on your stay (beyond points automatically awarded for stays). And, Marriott often runs its “MegaBonus” promotion. Usually the MegaBonus means that two stays result in one free night. So, yes, 5X at Marriott is very welcome indeed.
Shoebuy 15X: Checkout Shoebuy in the Frequent Miler Laboratory to see why this is of interest. Please note, though, that discount coupons reportedly do not work when applying gift cards to orders.
Will we see new and exciting specials next month? I certainly hope so!