Maximizing the Discover Double Cash promo: Huge rewards via online shopping!

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This is the third of a series of posts describing how to make the most of Discover’s Double Cash Back promotion.  Discover is offering to double all rewards earned for an entire year.  Both new and existing card members are eligible (existing members must call to sign up). Only new card members are now eligible. While it’s awesome that Discover will double all cash back earned for spend, especially within 5% cash back categories, the most exciting aspect of all this (to me) is that Discover will double rewards earned from their online shopping portal, Discover Deals, as well.  This presents the opportunity for huge earnings.

For review, please see the earlier posts in this series:

The Basics

Discover Deals is a website available to Discover cardholders that offers a combination of discounts and shopping portal cash back offers.  Those who have cards that earn so called “miles” instead of Cash Back will see only the discounts.  Those with cash back cards will see the good stuff.  This is one of the reasons I prefer the Discover It card over the Discover It Miles card for those who shop online.

Here’s how it works:

1. Go to the Discover Deals website

You can browse directly to www.discover.com/credit-cards/deals, or log into your Discover account and look for text that says “Looking for ShopDiscover? Check out Discover Deals” and click the link next to it that says “Shop Now”.

Discover Double Cash

2. Find the online store where you’d like to shop

Not all online stores are available, but most of the popular ones are here.  In my experience, Discover Deals tends to have equal or better cash back rates than most other cash back portals.  Let’s say, for example, that you want to buy stuff online from Home Depot.  Search within Discover Deals, and you should find something like this:

Discover Double Cash

Currently, Discover Deals is offering 5% cash back at HomeDepot.com.  You could then go to CashBackMonitor to compare this rate to other portals:

Discover Double Cash

Yep, Discover Deals currently has the best rate.  Even if it wasn’t the best rate, its worth considering Discover Deals if you’ve signed up for Discover’s Double Cash Back offer.  In this case, the long term earnings for Home Depot will be 10% cash back.

Note: Cash back earned through portals, including Discover Deals, is in addition to rewards earned from your credit card.  So, if you pay with your Discover card, you’ll earn cash back for the purchase directly, and you’ll earn additional cash back from the portal.

3. Click through to the store in question and shop

When you click through to a particular store, like Home Depot, the shopping experience should be exactly the same as if you had gone to HomeDepot.com directly.  If all goes well, HomeDepot.com will have tracked the fact that you came from the Discover Deals portal and will report the sale back to Discover Deals so that they can credit you with your expected cash back.

A few cautions:

  • Do not comparison shop within the same browser after clicking through from Discover Deals.  When you go to other websites, especially coupon sites, they can “steal” the click-through so that they’ll earn commission instead of you for the sale.  I recommend shopping in one browser (e.g. Chrome) and comparison shopping in another (e.g. Firefox).
  • Its rare, but a few stores are known to show higher prices when you click through a portal rather than browsing directly.  I highly recommend comparison shopping (but with a different browser) to make sure you’re getting the best price.
  • If you check out more than once, then make sure to click through from the portal again the second time.
  • When in doubt, click through from the portal again.  It can’t hurt to put things into your shopping cart and then click through from the portal before paying just to make sure that your click-through tracks appropriately.
  • Beware of browser plug-ins and toolbars.  Adblockers, deal-finder toolbars, etc. can potentially steal or mess up portal tracking.  Use a browser without any plug-ins for best results.

4. Wait for confirmation email

Days or even weeks after buying something you should get an email from Discover Card declaring that “You’ve Earned Extra Cashback Bonus!”  Within the email you’ll see how much cash back you earned, like this:

Discover Double Cash

5. Wait for actual cash back

If you look closely at the email example above, you’ll see that it says:

Cashback Bonus you’ve earned is currently pending.  You’ll see this reward reflected on your statement in 6-8 weeks.

This timeline is pretty typical of almost all rewards portals.  Usually (but not always) the portal operator waits until they earn their referral commission from the store in question before paying the end user.  This can take a while.  It also gives the merchant time to void the commission if you cancel your order or return items.

6. Wait a lot longer for Double Cash Back

The Discover Double Cash Back offer is designed to double all cash back earned after 12 months.  So, you won’t see the extra cash back for quite a while.

Caution: Cash back earned by shopping through the portal in the 11th or 12th month of the promotion might not get doubled.  It takes a while for the actual cash back to show up in your account. If the cash back shows up after the promotion 12 months, I doubt it will be doubled retroactively.

How good is this?

At the bottom of this post, I’ve included a screenshot of current “Dads & Grads” offers in the Discover Deals portal.  Discover has temporarily increased portal rates for these stores through June 21st (Sunday).  If history is any guide, we can expect most of these rates to drop 5% lower when the offer expires.  And, then, we can hope to see similar increased rates as we get closer to the end of year holidays.  For now, though, you can see that you can get 10% to 20% back at a number of popular stores:

10% Cash Back 15% Cash Back 20% Cash Back

Kmart

Sears

Sports Authority

Nordstrom

Macy’s

Jos. A. Bank

JCPenney

Lenovo

Dell

Lab Series

Panasonic

Ralph Lauren

CHEFS

Finish Line

Back Country

Under Armour

Brookstone

Rosetta Stone

Puma

AllPosters.com

Art.com

FTD

1-800-Baskets

The Popcorn Factory

Teleflora

Cheryl’s

Fannie May

Thanks to the Double Cashback offer, these rates will become 20% to 40% cash back for those who are registered with the promotion!  That’s pretty incredible all by itself.

One caution regarding flower and gift sites: Cash back is not awarded on sales tax and delivery charges.  With flower & gift sites, that can be a huge percentage of your total charge and can effectively make the portal cash back rate substantially lower.  There are a few strategies for combating this:

  1. Buy gift cards through the portal in order to earn full cash back, then use the gift cards to buy the flowers and gifts (this works for some, but not all merchants); or
  2. Sign up for a free shipping plan.  For example, 1-800-Flowers offers a Celebration Passport plan which gives you free shipping & handling for a year.  This works with their affiliated stores too: 1-800-Baskets, Fruit Bouquets, Cheryl’s, Fannie May, and The Popcorn Factory.

Increasing rewards through a category bonus double dip

A simple way to increase rewards is to shop through a portal and pay with a card that earns a category bonus for the store in question.  For example, you could go through a portal to Staples and pay with a card that offers an office supply category bonus, such as the Amex SimplyCash card.  If the portal offered 5% cash back then you would earn 5% from the portal and 5% points from your credit card.  With Discover Deals, thanks to the Double Cash Back offer, the total would become 10% cash back from the portal and 5% from your credit card for a total of 15% cash back.

Another example is to take advantage of the Discover It card’s rotating 5% categories:

Discover Double Cash

In the third quarter (July through September 2015), for example, the Discover It card is offering 5% cash back at Home Improvement Stores, Department Stores, and Amazon.com.  While Amazon.com isn’t available through the Discover Deals portal, many home improvement stores and department stores are.  Take Macy’s, for example.  Discover Deals is currently offering 10% cash back at Macy’s through the end of August.  By clicking through the portal to Macy’s and paying with your Discover It card, you can earn a total of 15% cash back, which would later be doubled to 30% cash back!

Increasing rewards through a gift card double dip

This trick works with some stores, but not all – not by a longshot.  With some stores, you can earn portal cash back when buying gift cards and then, again, when using those gift cards.  Here’s an example that has worked for me many times:

  • Go through portal to Sears.com to buy gift cards
  • Go through portal again to Sears to buy merchandise and pay with gift cards

Currently, with the Discover Deals portal offering 10% cash back at Sears through June 21, this double dip would result in the following earnings:

  • Go through Discover Deals to Sears.com: 10% cash back
  • Buy gift cards and pay with Discover card: 1% cash back
  • Go through Discover Deals to Sears.com: 10% cash back
  • Buy merchandise and pay with gift cards: No cash back (but if you’re a member of Sears’ Shop Your Way Rewards program you’ll earn at least 1% back in SYW points)

In total, you’ll earn 21% cash back.  And, thanks to the Double Cash Back promotion, that will be doubled to 42% cash back!

How to know which stores work with the gift card double-dip, and which do not

Most stores do not offer portal rewards when you purchase gift cards.  Some do not offer portal rewards when you use gift cards to pay (but most do).  The best way to find out if a double dip will work with a store you’re interested in is to check the Frequent Miler Laboratory.  Use the search box to find the store you’re interested in:

Discover Double Cash

The search results will show experiment results conducted by myself and others.  While its rare to find the exact combination you’re looking for, its often possible to get an idea of how likely it is that your desired double dip will work.  In the example shown above, we see that in 2014 two attempts to buy gift cards (one physical gift card purchase and one e-gift card purchase) failed to earn portal rewards through the AAdvantage portal.  Even though this is not the Discover portal, results are usually the same across portals.  If a double dip works in one portal it usually (but not always) works in others.  So, Sports Authority is not a good candidate for a double dip.

Its also a good idea to subscribe to the Frequent Miler Laboratory comments section.  That way, you’ll receive email alerts whenever people report new experiment results.  And, as you uncover results of your own, please report them in the comments of that page.

Warnings:

  1. When you buy items and pay with gift cards, you do not get the automatic purchase protections commonly offered by credit cards.
  2. When you use a form of payment other than a Discover card through Discover Deals, you probably won’t get any help from Discover if your purchase does not track appropriately.

Increasing rewards through a triple dip

Things get more interesting when you can combine a gift card double dip with a category bonus.  For example, while we don’t yet have full details of the Discover card’s fourth quarter category bonus (Holiday Shopping & More), I think its likely that Sears.com will qualify.  Also, from past experience, I expect that Discover Deals will again offer 10% cash back at Sears sometime in the fourth quarter.  Assuming those things line up, then:

  • Go through Discover Deals to Sears.com: 10% cash back
  • Buy gift cards and pay with your Discover card: 5% cash back (thanks to the 4th quarter bonus)
  • Go through Discover Deals to Sears.com: 10% cash back
  • Buy merchandise and pay with gift cards: If you’re a member of Sears’ Shop Your Way Rewards program you’ll earn at least 1% back in SYW points

In total, you’ll earn 25% cash back and at least 1% in SYW points.  And, thanks to the Double Cash Back promotion, that will be doubled to 50% cash back!

How about a quadruple dip?

If we get really lucky, we’ll not only see the conditions above that will allow 50% cash back for buying things from Sears, but we’ll also see a return of many Sears promotions for “100% back in points” that were common during the holidays in 2014.  If so, things get really crazy…

  • Go through Discover Deals to Sears.com: 10% cash back
  • Buy gift cards and pay with your Discover card: 5% cash back (thanks to the 4th quarter bonus)
  • Go through Discover Deals to Sears.com: 10% cash back
  • Buy items offering 100% back in points and pay with gift cards: 100% back in SYW points
  • Go through Discover Deals to Sears.com: 10% cash back
  • Buy items you actually want and pay with points: No SYW points earned when using points to pay.

In total, you’ll earn 35% cash back which will be doubled to 70% cash back!  Plus, you’ll get a bunch of junk great stuff from Sears (the 100% back in points items) that might be useful for yourself, or as presents, or to resell. 70%! That’s ridiculous!

Reality: In real life, the 100% back in points items tend to be limited in how many you can purchase (and if you try to go around those limits, your account could get shut down) and are often fairly low priced to begin with.  And, they tend to sell out quickly.  So, your ability to scale this up will be very limited.  Consider yourself lucky if you can buy a few hundred dollars worth of items with this approach.

Learn more about this approach here: Discover extreme savings.

Questions and Answers

Q: How do I know if my Discover card is eligible for the Double Cash Back promotion?

Call the number on the back of your Discover card and ask.  If you have a Discover card, but not the Discover It card, they may offer to make a product change for you. For most people, I’d recommend doing so.

Q: Don’t I have to pay with my Discover card to get cash back from Discover Deals?

While phone reps may tell you that you have to use your Discover card, in practice I’ve earned cash back from the portal for years and have hardly ever used my Discover card to pay (except when the card offers 5% cash back for that merchant).  If things go wrong with portal tracking, though, customer support probably won’t help you since they won’t see the purchase on your credit card statement.

Q: What if I don’t want to buy anything at Sears?

Sears was just one example here. During the Double Cash Back promotion, I’d recommend using Discover Deals for all of your online shopping.

As to Sears, some people have had luck using Sears gift cards in-store to buy other gift cards (including $200 Visa cards).  Be very careful, though. Many people have been turned away when trying to do this so its risky to sink more money into Sears gift cards than you’ll know what to do with.

Q: How best to buy/use Sears’ gift cards?

Please see: The complete guide to Sears gift cards

Current Discover Deals Dads & Grads deals:

Discover Double Cash

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