Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Oren's Money Saver Beginner's Guide Part 3 - Savings Without Credit Cards

Check out the other posts in the Beginner's Guide Series

Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - Maximize Savings Through Credit Cards
Part 4 - Manufactured Spend

In this part, I will discuss maximizing savings online without have to use specific credit cards, for the most part part.

Disclaimer: I receive a referral commission for the following link(s) and I greatly appreciate supporting the site: Top Cashback, Ebates, Big Crumbs, Be Frugal, Raise, 

The following ways to save will be discussed:

  1. Discounted Gift Cards
  2. Shopping Portals
  3. Promo Codes
  4. Credit Card Specific Offers

Discounted Gift Cards

Depending on the store, you can often do best through buying discounted gift cards online than by buying items with your credit card.  

Let's take Starbucks as an example because it is a consistently popular gift card to sell and buy online.

Here is how to do it:

  • Go to GiftCardGranny.com
    • There are lots of websites that sell discounted gift cards.  Gift Card Granny brings the results of the main sites together on one page.  You don't buy from them, but they will tell you which websites to check.

Today, Gift Card Granny tells me that I can buy a Starbucks eGift Card for 25% off from giftcards.com, a physical gift card for24% off from ABC Gift Cards.  You can also get 21% off from Raise.  We'll talk more about Raise later (Hint: Raise will end up with the largest savings for some).

Total Savings - 
You still use your credit card to buy the gift card so your total savings for an eGift Card is 27% (2% extra from Fidelity American Express), 26% for physical from ABC Gift Cards and 22.5% from Raise (don't accept American Express).

*Note*  Please keep in mind that the gift cards are being sold from other people who still retain the account number and pin of the gift card.  They can sell it and then use the card themselves.  I will only buy from websites that give a money back guarantee if that happens within 60 or 90 days.  Only buy when you are ready to use them.

Also, prices are constantly in flux, you may get different results when you check.

Shopping Portals

Some of the biggest and best Shopping Portals are Shop DiscoverTop CashbackEbates, Big Crumbs, Be FrugalChase Ultimate Rewards and many others.  Shop Discover requires a Discover card and Chase Ultimate Rewards portal requires a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards.   The others are open to anyone.

Shopping portals are websites that refer you to the actual website you want to shop at.  The Shopping Portal gets money for referring you and they give you most or all of that money for going to them first.  Let's use the same Starbucks gift card as an example.

Start at CashbackMonitor.com to see which shopping portal gives back the most money for shopping at Raise.


Cashback Monitor tells me that I can get another 2% cashback from Raise if I start my shopping at Top Cashback.

So, I go over to Top Cashback, type in Raise and click there to confirm that I will be getting 2% cashback and it is false.  Most gift cards at Raise get 2% cashback from Top Cashback, Starbucks is more popular so they only offer 1% cashback, but it is better than nothing.

However, when you check giftcards.com and ABC Gift Cards on Cashback Monitor, neither sites give any extra cashback through a shopping portal.

Total Savings - 
Your total savings for an eGift Card is still 27%26% for physical from ABC Gift Cards and 23.5% from Raise.

Promo Codes

Many stores allow you to type in promo codes to get extra savings.  Promo codes are basically coupons for online stores.

Currently, Raise is offering a coupon code RAISE75AF for new customers.  If you spend $75, you will get $5 off.  Now the math changes in favor of Raise if you are a new customer.

The Starbucks card from Raise is for $100 and selling for $79.  After the coupon code, it will cost $74.  Combined with 1% off from Top Cashback and your credit card cashback, you will now get 28.5% cashback, more than the 27% from giftcard.com

Don't have a Raise account?  Sign up here for free

Credit Card Specific Offers

Many credit cards have offers to specific stores.  For example, when you log in to your American Express account, there is an area called "offers for you" that has a list of extra cashback at specific merchants.

My Current offers:

  • $5 off a $25 purchase at Carter's
  • 30% off a hotel booking through American Express Travel

You have to add the offer to your card and spend the money on the card with the offer.  You can use any other method to get a discount and as long as you spend $25 at Carter's, you will get $5 off.  American Express also has offers that you can sign up for through Twitters, Facebook and FourSquare.

Here are some examples of useful ones from the past:

American Express has the most number of offers and the best, which is why I collect American Express cards without annual fees.  I can usually get these offers on multiple card.

Bank of America also has BankAmeriDeals.  Some have reported getting $10 or $20 off of $100 and $200 purchases at Staples which can be used to buy Visa or Amazon gift cards at good savings, but I have never seen that in my account :(

Discover also has Discover Deals, but for the most part they are the same deals that are available through the Shop Discover shopping portal.

The Double Dip

Sometimes, some shopping portals will give cashback even when you use gift cards to pay.  This allows you to perform a double dip.  You can buy a gift card directly from the store after using a shopping portal or after buying at a discount from a third party.  Then, you can go back to the shopping portal to buy the merchandise and pay with the gift card.  Many times you will get cashback on the entire purchase, even the part you paid for with a gift card.

Here is an example from Lowe's in the past.