How many times has this been true?
I seriously miss the days when travel hacking, credit card churning, manufactured spending was all underground. There were a few message board sites where people would talk about it using aliases and lots of code words. Not anymore! Now we scream it from the rooftops in Big Guy Blogs and Frequent Traveler University gatherings. We tell you how to game the system and rake in millions of miles by doing things the banks probably don’t like.
For years I never talked about it. I didn’t even tell my family and friends what I was doing. (mainly because I didn’t want to get lectured about ruining my credit score. Yeah whatever, Mom) I just always said “I never pay for travel”, with a smile. I still say that.
Well…I don’t do that. I won’t. Which is part of the reason I do not regularly write in this blog. I will still post about my trips (promise) and give you some tips on travel but I’m not going to be one of those blogs who posts about every Chase sign-up bonus and every airline mileage program devaluation. (though I reserve the right to complain about such devaluations)
So here is a little known money saving/mileage earning deal going on this month. Thornton’s gas stations (located only in the midwest with a few scattered in FL) are offering 20% off third party gift cards to places like amazon.com, iTunes, restaurants, stores etc. It is not well advertised, but I found out about it through a Big Guy Blog. I wasn’t even going to blog about it because I wanted to keep it a SECRET! Especially in my area – more for me!
There are 3 Thornton’s in my general area. The first one I went to was just about completely wiped out of gift cards and the guy behind the counter told me that he did have amazon gift cards, but someone bought 20 of them the day before and now they are gone. I bought one $25 Buffalo Wild Wings gift card for $20 and paid with a credit card.
I went to the 2nd Thornton’s and all they had was Bass Pro Shops and iTunes. I’m kicking myself now for not buying the iTunes.
I did not make it to the 3rd Thornton’s until yesterday. Still no amazon or store cards, but I did select a Darden restaurant card and an iTunes card. When I got to the register the girl said “I don’t think you can pay for those with a credit card”. I told her I bought some at the Erlanger location with a credit card just a couple days ago. She tried and the payment was not accepted. I gave her my bank debit card, but that did not work either. Another girl came up and said they had “problems” with accepting credit cards for gift card purchases and so it is now their policy not to.
Of course I never have cash, so I had to return the gift cards, put my tail between my legs and leave. Brought back memories of trying to buy Vanilla Reloads with a credit card at CVS. Thornton’s did have a big selection of Vanilla Reloads, by the way. They sat there – taunting me.
So. The Big Guys post about Thornton’s gift card discount. People run out in droves to buy them all up. There are none left and Thornton’s wised up to the credit card game. (or somebody was buying massive amounts of them with a stolen CC)
If you are interested in saving money, this could still be a good deal for you using cash. In fact, it IS a good deal for you. You are still saving $5. I would not go out of my way to do this, but if you have a Thornton’s in your area and they actually have some gift cards left – go for it!
It is still possible, in a roundabout way to pay for them with a credit card. You load your Bluebird or Serve with a credit card (or gift cards purchased with credit cards) and you can withdraw $100 cash from a Money Pass ATM with no fee and then buy $100 worth of gift cards for $80. Is it worth your time to run around all those places doing that? I doubt it, but if it’s convenient for you, it’s a good deal.
Bottom line, it’s still a money saver if you pay cash. Christmas is coming, ya know.
I have slowed down considerably on my Manufactured Spending. Right now I am only doing enough loads on Serve to cover my mortgage payment each month. I can load Serve with my credit card from the comfort and warmth of my office chair (shhhhh! don’t tell anybody!). I don’t mind that at all. It’s free and I don’t have to run to Walmart all the time.
In 2014 I spent $149.49 on gift card fees. I got into the cash back on American Express gift cards late, so I only earned back $90.50. That means I spent $58.99 to Manufacture enough Spend to get 795,000 miles and points in 2014. Was it worth it? Was it worth it to spend $59 to get 795,000 miles and points?? Yeah…I think so. Well…to be fair I should probably account for annual fees I had to pay that were not waived for the first year. And it gets a little ugly there. (damn you 3 Citi Executive cards! ) $975. But still. Just over $1,000 for 795,000 miles and points? Sure. But I am done for a while. I have decided it is just not worth the hassle.
Likely by the end of the year I will apply for a couple cards if they offer good “end of the year” sign up bonuses. Chase Southwest is a big contender. They are currently offering 50,000 points per card and they have 4. Even though I am a bit gun-shy with Business cards, I might give it a go. I’m also hoping British Airways offers a 100,000 mile sign up bonus at the end of the year as they have done for the past couple years. I am keen to use Avios for a trip to Ireland.
So that’s all for now.