Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Oct 07

Subtotal: Instant Payments Add Another “Stack” To Rewards

Save Money Or Get Miles Instantly

Occasionally, I’ll run across a tip (well-known or not; this one is) that I want to post but can’t think of a way to do it without making a simple concept seem complicated (For further reference, see: Rebates, Shopping & Travel.). So bear with me, because it’s actually pretty easy, and it offers you an opportunity to double-dip your rewards.

As loyalty programs have developed, merchants are finding themselves dealing with an increasing number of intermediaries. You used to buy something directly from Macy’s (or whatever store you want to insert there). Then, Macy’s began offering commissions to others to sell their products, so now you can go to Mr. Rebates (referral link) to be directed to Macy’s and earn a 4% rebate, because Mr. Rebates gives you a portion of the commission that Macy’s gives them.

Now, we’ve moved on to “Stage 3,” so to speak. You can buy an instant gift card to pay at a merchant or restaurant and double-dip your rewards. Unlike online shopping malls, these bonuses work at actual brick and mortar stores, and you’ll get an instant gift card for the exact amount of your purchase. Over the next two posts, I’m only going to talk about two sites, Subtotal and United’s MileagePlus X. Today is Subtotal.



Just a few of the many restaurants available

Subtotal is, by far, the better of the two apps that I am going to discuss. It’s clean, it’s easy and the rebates are better than any of its competitors offer. It specializes in restaurants. I have heard no complaints about its technology, which is not only impressive but ridiculously easy to navigate (which means that I can do it). Click on the link to get the app.

The current payment process at restaurants is easy. Your server brings you a bill, they scan your credit card and then you sign the bill. Simple.

Using Subtotal for a rebate is just as easy. Subtotal has partnerships with the restaurants and when you use the app, the restaurant gives them something, which they share with you. Simply open the app, select the restaurant and create a gift card for the exact amount that you choose, so there is nothing left over, unlike a traditional gift card. That amount can include the tip.



The system will verify the total and confirm how much you will get back. Then just hit continue to generate the bar code. The server scans the bar code and you’re done. You’ll get a rebate in one to two weeks. Don’t want to give the server your phone? That’s fine. You can just read them the number off the gift card it generates.

Unlike many rebate apps, Subtotal sticks almost entirely to national chains, and it offers rebates ranging from fast food (Burger King) to casual dining (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Chili’s, Applebee’s) to high-end (Smith and Wollensky, The Capital Grille). And after you’re done with dinner, you can stop at Krispy Kreme and get over 8% back on doughnuts.

Bottom Line: Receive bill at end of meal. Open app. Input cost and hit enter. Show server bar code that it generates to pay bill. Get refund to your credit card within two weeks.


There Must Be A Downside. What Is It?

Glad you asked. With these instant rebate apps, you are purchasing an electronic gift card for the exact value of the purchase. But if your credit card offers a category bonus for the merchant, you may not get it. For example, if you use your JetBlue card for Subtotal at Krispy Kreme, you would normally get two points per dollar spent because it’s a restaurant (double points at restaurants). Instead, the card thinks that you are buying at a generic merchant and will only give you one point per dollar spent. Of course, by using Subtotal, you’ll get back an extra 8%, which more than offsets an extra TrueBlue point.

On the other hand, certain banks do recognize the merchant and give you the category bonus as well as the bonus from the app. Chase is thought to be one.

My advice is to download Subtotal and, if it seems confusing, try them out with a small purchase at home (Amazon is always a good start.) to make sure it works smoothly for you. Enjoy your extra miles or cash!


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