How to buy Ultimate Reward points for 1.05 cents

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UPDATE: Once you factor in shipping charges, the real cost per point is 1.1 cents.  See comments section for details.

Barnes & Noble is currently running a promotion in The Ultimate Rewards Mall in which they’ll give 10 points per dollar for purchases (including gift cards).  At the same time, the American Express OPEN Savings program (which comes with American Express business cards) gives 5% back for Barnes & Noble purchases.  If you have an Amex OPEN card and a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you can combine these deals to get a fantastic rebate from shopping at Barnes & Noble.  If your goal, though, is not to buy books or Nooks, then consider the following approach to buy Ultimate Rewards points (and a few Amex points):

1. Buy a Barnes & Noble gift card:

  • Log into the Ultimate Rewards Mall and click through to Barnes & Noble
  • Add a 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).

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

  • Log into ShopAtHome and click through to Cardpool.com (ShopAtHome will give you 1.6% cash back)
  • Sell your Barnes & Noble gift card to Cardpool.com for 81% of its value

3. Add it up:

Here is how the math works out with the purchase and sale of a $100 gift card:

  • Total expenses: $100
  • Total rebates: $87.60
    • OPEN rebate: $5
    • ShopAtHome rebate: $1.60
    • CardPool payment: $81
  • Total cost: $100 – $87.60 = $12.40
  • Total points earned: 1170
    • Ultimate Rewards: $100 X 10 = 1000 + 7% annual dividend = 1070
    • American Express points = 100

Total cost per point = $12.40 / 1170 = 1.05 cents per point.

Notes

  • ShopAtHome will not send you a rebate check until you have earned $25.  If you calculate the costs without the ShopAtHome rebate, the cost rises to 1.2 cents per point (which still isn’t bad!)
  • 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.

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