January Lab Update


In the world of points, miles, and deals, one of the best ways to find out what works and what doesn’t is to simply try things and keep track of what succeeds and what fails.  That’s the purpose of the Frequent Miler Laboratory.  On that page, I record experiments that have been proposed, experiments in-progress, and experiments completed.  Results include both my own results and those reported by readers.

Here are some lab results that have been compiled since my last post on the subject in October (see “Mid October Laboratory News“)

DrugStore.com success

Greg Z reported a successful double dip.  He went through TopCashBack and bought a Beauty.com gift card (which can be used at DrugStore.com).  He then went through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to DrugStore.com to buy merchandise. He paid partially with the gift card and partially with an American Express prepaid card.  In total, Greg earned 10% cash back from TopCashBack and full points from the Ultimate Rewards Mall.

This result is surprising to me because, in the past, I’ve tried many portals to try to find one that would give points when using gift cards at DrugStore.com, but all of my experiments failed.  The difference may have been that I always paid 100% with gift card credit.  I now need to repeat the experiment with partial credit card payment.

It’s worth noting that DrugStore.com gives 5% back in the form of DrugStore.com dollars (usable for future purchases) both when purchasing and using gift cards.  So, Greg Z’s double dip becomes more like a quadruple dip!  See “The surprising drugstore.com triple dip” for details.

In addition to their own gift cards (and beauty.com gift cards), DrugStore.com sells gift cards for other merchants.  I have initiated an experiment in which I went through the ShopDiscover portal to buy a merchant gift card from DrugStore.com to see if I would get cash back.  I don’t have final results yet, but it’s not looking good.  I never received an email from Discover saying that I received cash back.  And, no, DrugStore.com does not allow you to buy gift cards with gift cards.

Barnes & Noble fail

I tried loading my American Express Campus Edition card at a Barnes & Noble store that was not a campus bookstore.  The cashier was unable to load it.  Unfortunately I do not know whether it was because it really won’t work or if the cashier didn’t know how to do it.

Best Buy success

Colin successfully got extra miles by going through the United MileagePlus shopping portal to Best Buy and buying an iTunes gift card. 

eBags fail

Dina tried to double dip through Ultimate Rewards Mall. She found that buying an e-gift card did not result in points, but buying merchandise with the gift card was successful.

North Face success

Chris D succeeded in a double dip here.  Chris went through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to North Face and bought a North Face gift card.  Then, Chris went back through the mall to use the gift card when buying merchandise (part of the transaction was paid by credit card).  Both transactions resulted in full points.

Pottery Barn fail

Both Jessica and Mommy Points reported that going through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to Pottery Barn to buy e-gift cards did not result in points.  Mommy Points did receive points, though, when she went through the Ultimate Rewards Mall again to use the gift card.

Sears success

As I reported earlier (see “The Sears double dip is alive but hobbled“), Sears seems to no longer give points when buying e-gift cards, but may still give points when buying physical gift cards. In my experiments I went through the ShopDiscover portal (so I earned cash back instead of points), but I suspect that the same is true for point-earning portals.

Other experiments

Results from many other experiments are listed on the Frequent Miler Laboratory page.  If you have suggestions for new experiments or results of your own, please hop over there and leave a comment.  Thanks!

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