A faster, better, easier way to buy miles and points
In a previous post, I showed how it is possible to buy airline miles and hotel points for less than a penny. The problem with this approach was that it was overly complicated, required very high spending, it led to the risk of nasty credit card account reviews, and it violated terms and agreements (see a quick note about square). Other than that, it was great.
Today I’ll describe a better approach. Sure, the miles may cost a little bit more, but this approach is easier, has no minimum spend requirements, and is completely above-board. In fact, toward the end of this post I’ll show a variation of this approach that will let you buy miles for less than a penny.
Here is the basic idea: go through a points-back online shopping mall to buy gift cards; then upgrade the gift cards to more valuable gift cards; and then sell the gift cards. In the process you will lose a bit of cash, but gain lots of miles. Below are step by step instructions.
Before you can follow the directions given below, you will need your own Chase SapphireSM Preferred Card. If you don’t already have one, you can sign up with this link. Even if you don’t want to buy miles, this is a great card. The signup bonus alone is worth $500 in cash back, or $625 in travel booked through Chase, or more than $1000 in travel if you convert the points to United Airlines miles and/or Hyatt points. That last point is really key to the value of this card: Ultimate Rewards points earned with this card are instantly transferable to a number of airline and hotel programs. So, you can shop around to find the best miles and points redemptions before transferring your points and in that way get some incredible values from these points! I will get a small commission if you use my link, but you’ll get the same best offer available anywhere. I promise I would recommend this card with or without the referral commission. In fact, I have recommended it many times prior to my signing up for a referral network. Another great benefit to this card is the 7% annual bonus for all points earned in the calendar year. This is a key part of the plan outlined below.
Step 1: Buy Sears or Kmart gift cards through the Ultimate Rewards Mall
The Chase Sapphire card gives you access to the very lucrative Ultimate Rewards Mall. By doing your online shopping through this mall, you can earn bonus points on top of the points regularly awarded for credit card spend. Also, unlike many other online malls, Ultimate Rewards is very good about crediting your purchases quickly. Most of my purchases have been credited within a week. The slowest took two weeks. The mall currently offers 6 extra points per dollar for purchases at Sears or Kmart. So, by going through the mall to buy Sears or Kmart gift cards, you will earn 7 points per dollar (1 base point from using the credit card and 6 extra points from the mall) plus another 7% for a total of 7.49 points per dollar spent. I recommend buying the physical gift cards instead of the e-gift cards. Both will work for this scheme, but the physical cards are a bit easier to use since the e-cards sometimes require manager overrides if spent in a physical store. The physical cards are also easier to sell if you need to get rid of them.
Step 2: Upgrade your gift cards
Go to your local Kmart and find a gift card rack. They often have multiple racks around the store. The trick is to find the one with the most cards from other retailers. The goal is to find the most valuable gift cards they sell and buy those cards using the Sears/Kmart gift cards you have in hand. To figure out which cards are most valuable, go to GiftCardGranny and search for cards that you can sell for at least 90% of their listed value. The best tend to be gas station cards (BP, etc.). Write down the list and bring it with you to Kmart (or look it up on your smart phone). I recently bought some BP cards from Kmart that are currently listed at 91% value.
Step 3: Sell your gift cards
The easiest way to sell your gift cards is through online gift card exchanges like PlasticJungle. GiftCardGranny is a great starting point because it lists the exchanges that are available and shows how much each will pay. I only have experience with PlasticJungle so I’ll describe how that works: You go to PlasticJungle and select “Sell us your gift card”. From there you can enter the type of card and the amount on the card. PlasticJungle will email to you a free mailing label so that mailing the card will cost you nothing. PlasticJungle will then pay you either through your PayPal account or by sending a check.
Another way to sell gift cards is through EBay. The problem is that EBay charges 9% in seller fees and another 2.7% in PayPal fees. So if you sell a card at face value, the most you will get is 88.3 cents per dollar. Strangely, though, gas station gift cards on EBay often sell for more than their face value. So, you actually do have a chance to profit more by selling through EBay than by selling to an online gift card exchange.
Step 4: Tally it up
Let’s say you follow the advice above by buying $1000 in gift cards. And, let’s say you sell those gift cards at 91% value. This means that you will receive $910 back for a net expense of $90. Now tally up the miles earned. Remember that you get 1 point from your credit card, 6 points from the Ultimate Rewards mall, and an extra .49 points from the annual bonus. Therefore you can multiple your $1000 by 7.49 to see that you have earned 7,490 miles! Since you spent $90, you can now see that you just bought your miles for 1.2 cents each ($90 / 7,490).
It gets even better (or worse)
The points awarded for Sears and Kmart through the Ultimate Rewards mall seems to change regularly. At the time of this writing, they are offering 6 points per dollar, but that amount might go up or down at any time. If you’re interested in this scheme, though, get ready for December 9th: the Ultimate Rewards mall has a number of holiday promotions and one of them is Sears for 10 points per dollar on December 9th! Thanks goes to ThePointsGuy for pointing out the December specials! If you follow this scheme and buy your gift cards on December 9th, you will get 11.77 points per dollar (1 credit card point, 10 extra points, .77 end of year bonus). Your total cost per mile will be .76 cents! If you convert Ultimate Rewards points to cash for a penny per point (I don’t recommend it, but you could), you could actually pay yourself back completely, and still get 2.77 miles per dollar spent!
Thank you Gabe!
A reader named Gabe recently commented in one of my posts about how he is profiting from his Sears gift cards. He has an ingenious scheme (which I’ll write about in a later post) that actually grows the value of his gift cards indefinitely, over time. The key to his scheme starts with the fact that you can buy non Kmart gift cards at Kmart — using your Sears or Kmart gift cards! Ever since I read Gabe’s scheme, my head has been swimming with possibilities! Frequent readers will probably see the possibilities for perpetual point machines (yep!), new ways to meet minimum credit card spend (yep!), and much more. So, over the last several days I made a few trips to Kmart to make sure this stuff works and it does! Stay tuned for more… much more.
Last updated on November 30th, 2011