Ok, for the real geeks, here are the ways to make online shopping pay and pay again. Here is the math if you have the time to do it.
- First figure out what points are actually worth. These vary quite a lot. For instance on our best card with the best redemption, you get 8.5% back. That's pretty incredible.
- For most airline cards, it depends on what the underlying redemptions are worth. For instance, United is typically about 2.5-3 cents per point (that is if you are getting 1 mile per point which is the normal credit card deal), then it is worth 2.5%
- Figure out the points multiplier. For many cards, they have different points values for different purchases. So for instance, we have an old airline card (no longer issued) which is worth 3x that is if you buy a ticket you are getting 3 miles/$ x 3 cents or 9 cents per dollar.
- Some cards give you straight rebates, so we have one card which gives us 3% direct rebate if you buy from a particular store. 1% otherwise.
- Finally there are store cards. These are a little hard to value, but typically, you get a 1% gift certificate just for that store.
Given this, if you know the underlying card and what you are buying, then you can stack rank your cards according to value. In our case, it is to look for additional deals based on the value of the card
- 9% card
- 8.5% card
Now here is where you can make some dollars. If you know this, then there are also "click through" mall sites that tell you how you can increase your dollars as you get a multiplier. The trick is that you don't have to use that card for the purchase, so you can mix-and-match. Figure out how to get the max rewards points and then use the credit card that gives you the most
As an example, right now at the Bank of America rewards shopping, Magazines.com is giving an incredible 15 point per dollar. That means if the points are worth say 8.5% then you are actually getting more dollars back than you are spending! And you don't even have to use the BoA card to do it.
- Go through the portal of the credit cards that you own. BOA, Chase, they all have them, book mark them.
- Go through the portals of all the airlines that you are loyal to. They all have them. Bookmark these as well
- When you shop, find a store and then search the portals
- Now do the math and figure out which portal has the highest effect value/dollar.
- You should be able to typically double your rebate with this trick, so on average, you should be able to get an addition 3 to 8.5 cents with this trick in addition to selecting the right card to use.
For the sellers without any connections like Amazon, then the trick is to find a rewards site that issues gift certificates.
- If the seller doesn't have any rewards rebates, then look for gift certificates to those sites.
- As an example, Amazon doesn't offer them but a few gift certificate sites like giftcardmall.com do have Amazon and provide reward points. Some even offer Visa gift certificates if you are really desperate although these typically have a 1% charge that you lose, so do the math.
The final thing is to look at the straight rebate sites. Here the plan after you figure out the above, then you can look at the rebate sites. These are straight dollar rebates. If you have a decent card, you will rarely get to this comparison since most rebates are low in the 1-3% range
- Evrewards.com this is the central collector of rebates
- eBates.com is one of the few with Amazon direct rebates on certain stores like Kitchen and home.