Dec 01

Get A Rebate on Every Hotel Room. And Other Stuff. Seriously.

(Today’s post is a bit longer than usual but could get you some extra miles or cash. I hope you find it useful.)

I’m trying to encourage people to shop locally for the holidays, but sometimes, that’s impossible. Online shopping, or shopping at a “big-box” retailer, is frequently more convenient and offers better variety. If you do that, you should never, ever shop without getting something back, particularly online. And that includes travel. I have a page dedicated to it here, but there are 24 shopping days left until Christmas and 23 until Chanukah, so a reminder is always good.

What Is An Online Shopping Site?

shop

They give you stuff. Why? Because they can.                             Photo Credit: Creative Commons

The concept is simple: If you use a certain site to access a store, the store will give the site a commission, which they will share with you. In other words, you could buy something at macys.com and save nothing, or click on a rebate site to direct you to the exact same macys.com and get something back.* If you are accessing a site directly to make a purchase, you are doing it wrong (with one big exception).

Shopping for Miles

online shopping

You’ve gotten emails about it before, but every airline has an online shopping portal. They will give you miles for every dollar that you spend, with some paying as high as 20 or 25 miles per dollar spent (Think high-margin stuff like flowers.). I have a list of the airline portals here so you don’t have to hunt around on their sites.

Cash Back Shopping

 

online shopping

For those who just want a few extra bucks

I usually stick to cash back shopping sites, since the money tends to be worth more to me than the miles, and one of the best times to use these sites is when you travel. You will get rebates on almost all hotel and rental car companies, as well as a few airlines. You will get all of your miles and can use any discounts, AAA rates, coupons, etc. Think of it as making a purchase through your local travel agent. They get a commission, and share it with you. Let’s say that you are booking a Hilton property. One site will give you a 4% rebate. If you are booking four nights at $200 per night, you’ll pay $800 by going to Hilton.com. Or, you’ll pay $768 if you go to Be Frugal and click on the Hilton link there. All sub-brands are included. Remember, the shopping portal is taking you to the exact same Hilton.com that you would go to directly. Using Expedia or Travelocity? No problem. You can get rebates there, also.**

online shopping

An example of a few of the brands that are represented

What Can I Buy?

online shopping

 

 

Travel, of course, isn’t the only place you can save money. In fact, you can get a rebate at just about any store that you can think of. You can browse any store by category or simply search for the name of a particular store.

This particular example comes from the site Be Frugal. It’s one of my favorite sites to book travel. Different sites offer different deals, but I’m going to give you three that are consistently among the highest paying.

We’re in the holiday shopping period now, so most sites are offering a little extra to draw you to their pages. But there are always special offers going on, so keep your eyes peeled.

 

 

 

The Exception

There’s one big retailer that generally does not participate in cashback shopping sites: Amazon. Certain categories, such as jewelry, electronics and clothes do offer rebates, but the biggies, such as books and music, get you nothing. Fear not, though. You can still get some money back for your purchases:

  • Shopping through Amazon Smile, the same ol’ Amazon that you’re used to, will help your favorite cause. Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchase to a charity that you choose.
  • Many supermarkets, office supply stores and other locations sell Amazon gift cards. If you buy a gift card with a credit card that pays 5% in those categories, you’ll get your rebate up front. Then, load the gift card to your Amazon account and it’s there for you to spend.

Where to Shop

There are many, many cashback shopping sites. You could go nuts trying to figure out the single best one. But when I do shopping, I always check three.

Please note: These links are referral links and I appreciate if you sign up through them. It’s not a ton of money, but I have a full disclosure policy whenever I could benefit from something.

Mr Rebates is my personal favorite and go-to site. It’s not always the single-highest paying site (although it’s usually in the top 20%), but they are reliable, customer-friendly and easy to use.

Be Frugal is another one that I use frequently. I use Be Frugal almost exclusively for travel, where it tends to offer higher rebates than just about anyone else.

ebates is the best-know cashback site. You may have seen advertising for it. Its offers are generally good and I use them occasionally, as well.

The Bottom Line

If you’re making purchases online but not using a miles or cashback site, you’re doing it wrong. Full stop. Use an airline site for miles or one of the cashback sites above to get something back for each purchase that you make.

 


*Before you access an online shopping site, you should clear your cookies to start on a “clean slate.” If you access a merchant directly before going to the online shopping site, there is a risk that the purchase will link to your initial click and you won’t get credited.

**You can often double-dip or triple-dip on rewards, but cashback shopping offers the rare quadruple-dip. You’ll get points from the credit card that you use, cash back from the shopping site, points from Expedia/Orbitz/Travelocity, etc. and, finally, you could get points from the provider (airlines, hotel, etc.). With hotels, you’re not supposed to get hotel points if you book through a third-party online site, but you occasionally get credited, anyway.

 

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Note: This post may contain credit card affiliate links. All credit card proceeds are donated to charity.

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Nov 30

Is The “New” Marriott Credit Card Really The Highest Reward Offered?

One site that keeps me up to date in the credit card world is Doctor of Credit. A few days ago, the site mentioned a new version of the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, which some people labeled a “150,000 bonus points” card. Not quite.

The Bonus Card That Isn’t 

marriott credit card

150,000 points. Sort of.

It’s not a bad deal, either, particularly if you are a Marriott customer. Instead of getting 80,000 points up front after making $3,000 in purchases, you’re getting five points on every dollar of the first 30,000, no matter where you spend it (Typically, the Marriott card only offers bonuses in certain categories.). So you’re picking up the additional 70,000 points for $27,000 in spending. 70,000 points is enough to get you a room at any Ritz property and more than one night at a Marriott property. Is that good?

The best way to value points is to determine how much you would have earned if you had put the spending somewhere else. Let’s say that you put the $27,000 in spend on the Citi Double Cash card, which gives you back 2%. You get $540 back (We’re going to leave out the additional $85 you get the first year for the annual fee waiver.), which will get you a few nights at most Marriott properties and a night at most Ritz properties. That’s not terrible, either.

Having said that, read these offers carefully. The “150,000 bonus points” really isn’t 150,000, but it’s not terrible. There is a direct link to Chase (I don’t offer the card.) here.

Want to subscribe? Just enter your email in the box above (and to the right) and click on the confirmation. GMailers, check your Social or Promotions boxes!

Note: This post may contain credit card affiliate links. All credit card proceeds are donated to charity.

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Nov 29

JetBlue Flash Sale: 20% off Base Fares

Short and sweet: JetBlue announced a sale for 20% off all base fares. Here’s the scoop.

JetBlue Discount

jetblue

JetBlue recently announced its 100th city and is using that as an excuse to offer a fare sale. Hey, don’t have to ask me twice.

  • Bookings should be made at the promo site and use code CELEBRATE. The code should populate for you automatically, but keep an eye on it, just in case.
  • You have two days to book and there is a heavy blackout period, from 12/16/16 – 1/8/17. Sorry, no discount on your holiday travel.
  • Sundays are also blacked out.
  • You must originate in a US city.

If you can get around the exclusions, this is an excellent deal. 20% is a big chunk of cash.

On the downside, it costs you a few TrueBlue points, which are based on dollars spent.

Want to subscribe? Just enter your email in the box above (and to the right) and click on the confirmation. GMailers, check your Social or Promotions boxes!

Note: This post may contain credit card affiliate links. All credit card proceeds are donated to charity.

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Nov 28

Cyber Monday Sale: Club Carlson, JetBlue

No doubt your inbox is getting pounded by all kinds of Cyber Monday deals and offers. Here are a couple that might get overlooked.

Club Carlson: 15-30% off

cyber monday

Let’s start with Club Carlson, the little program that could. Club Carlson, owner of the  Country Inn & Suites and Radisson hotel chain (among others), offers bonuses that are not only frequent but also quite good. This one isn’t a points bonus, but rather, a discount. Stay for one night at a participating hotel and get 15% off. Stay for more than one night and get 30% off. There is a list of participating properties, so be sure to check it out before booking.

JetBlue Contest

It’s easy. Just head over to JetBlue’s site and accept the offer to get the ShopTrue newsletter. In turn, you’ll be entered in a contest to win 65,000 TrueBlue points. That’s a pretty good return for entering your email address. You can read all the details at my Inside Flyer post here.

Want to subscribe? Just enter your email in the box above (and to the right) and click on the confirmation. GMailers, check your Social or Promotions boxes!

Note: This post may contain credit card affiliate links. All credit card proceeds are donated to charity.

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Nov 27

500 Free United Miles from MyPoints

Welcome back, and I hope that everyone had a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

MyPoints And United

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-6-00-04-pm

I love free points, no matter how I get them or who they are for. In this case, they are United miles from MyPoints, an online shopping site. Simply sign up for the site and they will give you 500 United miles. I rarely fly United, but 500 miles is good to keep your existing account from expiring, if nothing else. You’ll get another 1,000 miles for making purchases through their site, but they are rarely the best deal in terms of cash back.

MyPoints is a traditional cash back shopping site, although it gives you “points,” which are worth a little under a penny apiece, instead of actual cash. They’ll send you a few emails per day offering deals, but you’ll get five points just for clicking on the offer in it. Not terrible for no work.

Want to subscribe? Just enter your email in the box above (and to the right) and click on the confirmation. GMailers, check your Social or Promotions boxes!

Note: This post may contain credit card affiliate links. All credit card proceeds are donated to charity.

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Nov 24

Holiday Shopping: Remember, Double Amex Points at Small Businesses

One of my resolutions this year was to shop at more small and local businesses.

shop small

American Express is making this a bit easier, with its “Shop Small” offer. Make sure to check that your card is eligible and then enroll here to get your card registered. Once you’ve done so, you’ll earn double Membership Rewards points at eligible small businesses (See the FAQs on the site.). It’s a good way to support your community while picking up extra points for yourself. The promotion runs through December 31.

Wishing you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Want to subscribe? Just enter your email in the box above (and to the right) and click on the confirmation. GMailers, check your Social or Promotions boxes!

Note: This post may contain credit card affiliate links. All credit card proceeds are donated to charity.

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Nov 23

The CVS Black Friday Game

Every year on Black Friday, the drugstore chain CVS gives out a lot of good stuff for free. Well, almost free. But you have to know where to look.

The freebies come in the form of “extrabucks (EB),” a form of CVS currency usable only at the store. You’ll often see those coupons printed out at the end of the 7-foot receipts that the chain seems to be so fond of. Every so often, you’ll get a “free after purchase,” which is along the lines of “Buy XYZ for $3.00 and we’ll give you $3.00 EB back for a future purchase.” Simple enough.

On Black Friday, you’ll get a ton of those. Do you really need all this stuff? Probably not. But there may be a shelter or charity that does. And it’s fun. You can do it all at a self-service register, so you’ll have nobody looking at you funny.

extrabucks

This year, there are over $54 worth of freebies and it will cost you about $.12 out of pocket. The trick is to use the EB from your previous purchase to make your next one. Continue down the chain until you hit the end. Calculating the best way to do it is a pain, but fortunately, I’ve done the hard work for you.

First, check out the Black Friday Ad. Note that yours may be slightly different. There are just under $55 worth of “free after rebate” items in mine. The magic number is “$11.” By that, I mean that I’m going to match items up so that they total $11 each to maximize the refunds. Here’s how you should order your purchases:

  1. Buy the candy bar, batteries, Green Giant, Glade, wipes, pantiliners and soda. Your total is $11.12
  2. Buy the mascara and toothbrush. Your total is $11. You’re out $.12 here.
  3. Buy the CVS blade, Nicotine gum and Skittles. You may need the cashier to help you here if you have an extra penny. You won’t get the penny back.
  4. Buy one more CVS blade (You can do two in this deal.), the pain relief and Propel.
  5. Finally, buy the leggings, Trolls candy and Ocean Spray. You’ll get $10 worth of EB.

You put $11.12 in, you get $10 back. You also still have a dollar left from step four to spend. So what I would do is buy the $2.00 Cheerios, with a dollar and that remaining dollar from step four. You’ll get a dollar back EB. And now you’re down to $.12 out of pocket.

There is also toothpaste on sale. You can get a $.50 coupon at cvs.com and a $2.50 in-store coupon. The toothpaste costs $3. So that’s one more freebie.

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Note: This post may contain credit card affiliate links. All credit card proceeds are donated to charity.

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Nov 22

Southwest Airlines Offering Big Points for Hotel Bookings

I’ve often felt that hotel points are undervalued. Everyone knows what frequent flyer miles are, but fewer people use hotel points to pay for their stay. Having said that, if all you want is miles, there are a few different ways to do it. Some hotel programs offer you miles instead of points. That’s okay, but the value is usually pretty low. Other companies, such as Rocketmiles, which give you miles to book through them, but they can’t guarantee you the lowest price.

Southwest Airlines And Booking.com

rapid rewards

As usual, it takes Southwest and Rapid Rewards to come up with a little innovation. Southwest has partnered with Booking.com to come up with a program that will give you miles and allow you to get the best price. Simply visit the site and type in your city. Some hotels will give you only a point per dollar. Others will give you up to 10,000 Rapid Rewards per night that you stay. You’ll have to search for a hotel, of course, to figure out which is which, but it’s absolutely worth a visit.

rapid rewards

6,500 points per night at the Hard Rock Las Vegas

Found a better price somewhere else? No problem. They’ll match a price if you find the same room on another site. Read through the terms and conditions to determine exactly what you’ll need.

One downside: Because it’s a partnership with Booking.com, you probably won’t get elite benefits at the hotel or hotel points. But if you weren’t interested in these benefits, anyway, you might as well get the Rapid Rewards points.

Want to subscribe? Just enter your email in the box above (and to the right) and click on the confirmation. GMailers, check your Social or Promotions boxes!

Note: This post may contain credit card affiliate links. All credit card proceeds are donated to charity.

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Nov 20

Mr. Buffett Goes to Airlines

Well, wasn’t expecting that one. Last week, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway announced that it was a major holder of airline stocks. The filing, which showed holdings as of September 30, indicated that the holding company owned shares in American Airlines, United and Delta. The Oracle of Omaha also indicated that he bought shares of Southwest Airlines after the quarter ended.

Warren Buffett’s History with Airline Stocks

warren buffett

Buy! Sell! Fly!                                                                                    Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Mr. Buffett’s history with airline stocks has been, to say the least, turbulent. He invested in US Airways convertible debt in 1989 and, in 2008, famously told his shareholders:

The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money. Think airlines. Here a durable competitive advantage has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down. The airline industry’s demand for capital ever since that first flight has been insatiable. Investors have poured money into a bottomless pit, attracted by growth when they should have been repelled by it. And I, to my shame, participated in this foolishness when I had Berkshire buy U.S. Air preferred stock in 1989. As the ink was drying on our check, the company went into a tailspin, and before long our preferred dividend was no longer being paid. But we then got very lucky. In one of the recurrent, but always misguided, bursts of optimism for airlines, we were actually able to sell our shares in 1998 for a hefty gain. In the decade following our sale, the company went bankrupt. Twice.

So What’s New?

Mr. Buffett once swore off the industry, which rarely made money over any extended period of time,, but the airlines have actually managed to generate profits over the past several years, even as prices have declined.

 


Photo Credit: Creative Commons

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Nov 18

Remember That The Holidays Are Coming…

It’s around this time of year that I get emails from every airline and hotel telling me to use their shopping portals to generate miles for my purchases. If you’ve never used a rebate site when making online purchases, check out my page here about getting miles, points or cash for buying items online.

If you are shopping at Amazon, I highly recommend that you start your purchase at Amazon Smile. It’s the same Amazon that you know and love, but they donate 0.5% of your purchase to charity.

And what I really recommend is that you shop locally. You can check out an offer from American Express for double points at small businesses.

Best Western

It's like Wheel of Fortune with hotel points

It’s like Wheel of Fortune with hotel points

Don’t forget to enter the weekly Best Western Smilebration contest. There’s no cost to enter, and you’re virtually guaranteed to win something.

Want to subscribe? Just enter your email in the box above (and to the right) and click on the confirmation. GMailers, check your Social or Promotions boxes!

Note: This post may contain credit card affiliate links. All credit card proceeds are donated to charity.

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