Buy Ultimate Rewards Points for less than a penny

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Now that Barnes & Noble is back to 10X in the Ultimate Rewards Mall (see “Ultimate Rewards Mall June Edition”), this trick is once again viable.  I first wrote about this on March 23rd in the post “How to buy Ultimate Rewards Points for less than a penny each.”  Today I’ll rehash the same stuff with minor updates.

Prerequisites

To get in on this deal, you need a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card and the intention of keeping it at least until annual dividends are paid in early 2013. You also need an American Express business credit card with OPEN Savings.

Benefits

  • Earn Ultimate Rewards points at a very low cost!
  • Increase spend on your American Express business card.  This can be a great boon if you are working off a minimum spend requirement for a sign-up bonus, or if you’re working towards a big-spend bonus.

Risks

  • The trick here involves going through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to Barnes & Noble for 10 points per dollar, but paying with your Amex business card. Does this work? Usually, yes. See my post “Ultimate Question” for more. However, there is a real risk of not getting points so do this only if you accept that risk. The reason you need to pay with your Amex business card is that this trick relies on the 5% cash back you’ll get from the Amex OPEN Savings program that is available only to Amex business cards.
  • Another risk is the possibility of PlasticJungle lowering the rates that they give for Barnes & Noble gift cards. The current rate of 81 cents to the dollar has held steady now for many months, though, so I believe this risk to be low. However, if many readers start doing this, they may indeed lower the offer.  The easiest way to view current rates is to view this spreadsheet from PlasticJungle.  Technically, this is PlasticJungle’s volume seller price list, but they usually offer the same prices to individuals.
  • Finally, TopCashBack may, at any time, lower the cash back given for PlasticJungle sales.

If you’d like to proceed despite the risks, here’s what to do:

1. Buy a Barnes & Noble gift card:

  • Log into the Ultimate Rewards Mall with your Sapphire Preferred account and click through to Barnes & Noble
  • Add a single $200 physical gift card (not an e-card) to your shopping cart.
  • Check out and pay with your American Express business card (make sure it has OPEN Savings). The total should come to $200.95

2. Once you get the gift card, sell it:

  • Log into TopCashBack and click through to PlasticJungle (TopCashBack will give you 4% cash back for selling gift cards to PlasticJungle)
  • Sell your Barnes & Noble gift card to PlasticJungle for 81% of its value.

3. Add it up:

Here is how the math works out with the purchase and sale of a $200 gift card:

  • Total expenses: $200.95
  • Total rebates: $178.53
    • OPEN rebate: 5% of $200.95 = $10.05
    • PlasticJungle Payment: $162
    • TopCashBack rebate: $6.48
  • Total cost: $200.95 – $178.53 = $22.42
  • Total points earned: 2352
    • Ultimate Rewards: $200.95 X 10 = 2010 + 7% annual dividend = 2151
    • American Express points = 201
  • Total cost per point = $22.42 / 2352 = .95 cents per point.

Notes

  • The type of points earned from American Express depends on which card is used for purchasing the gift card. For example, you might earn SPG points, Membership Rewards points, Delta Skymiles, etc. If you use a card that gives more than 1 point per dollar (such as the Hilton Surpass), then you will obviously earn more points with this approach.
  • Theoretically you could make many individual purchases in this way. Don’t be surprised, though, if you get a call from Barnes & Noble investigating this “suspicious” activity.
  • Barnes & Noble terms in the Ultimate Rewards Mall say “Special increased earnings now through 6/30/2012” so the deal may expire at the end of this month.

Disclaimer

There are several risks as shown above. As always, proceed at your own risk.

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