I like Bigcrumbs.com, the shopping site, a lot. That’s where you can earn cash back.
For online shopping–and this includes travel vendors such as Expedia (to 4.7%) and Cheapoair– you get $15 off per ticket. You can also purchase American Express Gift Cards and Business Gift Cards, which are mailed to you, and the Crumbs cashback (1.5%) you receive covers the shipping fees. You can purchase the gift cards using your credit card, earning flyer miles.
Online banking services, such as American Express’s Bluebird (BB) and Serve, will allow you to load these Gift Cards into your account, but you must go to a Walmart store to do that. Once loaded, you can write checks, withdraw cash with no ATM fees, and pay bills online. So it is particularly rewarding for those cash or check purchases you would not normally get miles for. BB has been very popular, and another new program is Serve. Many people are switching to it, some keep both, and both offer Amex special offers.
There are limits for the value of the gift cards you load this way, but they earn you thousands of points each month. While stores like CVS have ended reloading, new ones pop up all the time. Another advantage of loading Gift Cards this way is if you use a new credit card where you need a spend level in a short three-month period, this is a good method to qualify for that miles bonus. Some cards, like United or Chase Ink, also give annual miles bonuses based on spending.
Other Gift cards:
Visa or MasterCard Gift Cards (GC): They usually have a higher activation fee, so these are better for higher-value cards.
Since April 2013, most Visa & MC GC’s now come with PIN functionality, so you can use them for purchases that require a PIN-based debit card. Ideally you would get a bonus of more than 1 mile/$ for these purchases, known as a category bonus, often for office supplies. Sometimes these contain a rebate gift card that covers any costs.
Staples has some very good programs–two weeks ago (10/18–24) they offered a free $20 Visa Gift Card when buying the Visa Gift Card ($300 minimum). These Staples offers are usually for one week only. You can load to the Bluebird or Serve account.
Money Orders: You can purchase money orders using any gift card. There is a minimum fee of 70 cents per MO at WalMart Money Centers; you can also use PIN debit cards to purchase them.
Other Credit Cards:
Citi ThankYou Premier: This is the “workaround” card. 50K Thank You Points (Citi’s version of Miles Rewards), with 20K the first year, 30K the second. 3X points for entertainment and dining, 2x for airline and hotels, one point per dollar for all other purchases. $125 AF waived the first year. It’s usually not a problem getting it waived the second year. Points can be used for airline tickets at 1.25 cents per point (i.e., your 50,000 points are worth $625 in travel expenses) but can also be converted to Air France miles at a 1:1 ratio.
Bigcrumbs has “Crumbshares,” which gives you shares in the company based on your spending and referrals. Top-tier referrers get $10 per new person who joins. Please email me at [email protected] for more info.
By Phil Kestenbaum