Monday, February 28, 2011

Groupon 3 for 1 Rental at Redbox - Today Only

   If you are a Groupon member, they are offering a 3 for 1 rental deal  today only.  Plus, if you hold a Discover credit card, you can get another 20% off the $1.00 price by shopping through the Shop Discover portal on the Discover website.

   If you are not a Groupon member, you can sign up here.  I get a nice referral fee to help keep the lights on, and you get access to screaming deals in your city every day for free! Thanks

Breakdown of a Recent Cash Back Transaction

   Too much talking and not enough doing does not make Steve a very interesting blogger.  So I thought that I would occasionally post a recent cash back transaction that I did, so you can see the thought process and the savings realized.

   I have started to take up cooking, just to throw a little variety into our chicken-fish-meat-fish dinner routine.  Through one of the many "hot deal" aggregator sites on the Internet, I came across a 6 qt. slow cooker at J.C. Penneys, originally $59.95, now on sale for $29.95 plus S&H.  I probably would not have bought it, except that there was a checkout code that whacked another $10 off the price, bringing it down to $19.95.  Now I was interested!

   Here is how I proceeded.  I first went to the evRewards site to see which cashback portal was offering the best deal that day.  Ebates was offering 4% cashback if I used them to make my purchase at the J.C. Penney website.  Then I went to Gift Card Granny to see what kind of discount I could get on JC Penneys gift cards.  It turned out that you can buy these giftcards at a 13% discount through Cardpool, 14% through Plastic Jungle, and 15% through  I already knew that I could get an extra 1% if I used Mr. Rebates to buy a Cardpool giftcard, which was the only site at the time offering Ecodes.  Since I was buying online and the sale was of a limited duration, I wanted my gift card fast. I paid for the giftcard with my 1% back credit card, bringing the total savings up to 15% for the giftcard.
  So I went ahead and purchased an eCode giftcard to J.C. Penney through Cardpool using the Mr. Rebates portal.  Then I went to Ebates, selected J.C. Penney as my merchant and was directed to the J.C. Penneys website.

   I placed my order, earning 4% back from Ebates on my $26.69 total purchase, and paid with my J.C. Penney's giftcard Ecode, for which I had just paid 85% of face value.  Net savings were 19% off the already heavily discounted price of $19.95.  

  It was a very small purchase, but it illustrates the power of stacking cash back rewards.  My slow cooker was shipped this morning.  Hopefully, by next week, I will be burning my first crockpot pot roast!

Who Is Paying for All These Cash Back Rewards?

   Do you ever wonder who pays for all of the cash back rewards that are paid by the credit card companies?  Well, the answer is - you do!  The credit card companies and issuing banks charge fees to merchants for every credit card transaction, and the fees are based on the type of credit card being swiped.  Rewards cards exact the highest charge.  Of course, merchants try to pass on as much of that cost as the market will bear, and ultimately it is the consumer who is paying in the form of higher prices.  Since you are already paying, wouldn't it be nice to get some of it back?  The above article, written by Eva Norlyk Smith Ph.d., offers a fairly detailed explanation of how the system works, and who is calling the shots.

Merchant Cashback Strategies:

   Each week, I hope to feature an article detailing the best strategy I use for getting the maximum cash back from a particular merchant.  I have decided to start with, one of, if not the largest retailer on the Internet. During the holidays, Amazon's business soars, and so remember to bookmark this post for when you do your holiday shopping.
   Amazon is one of the few major Internet merchants for which there is not a cashback discount offered through any of the cashback portals that I recommend. 

So what options are there? 

   Basically, one has 2 options.

  1.  You can apply for the Amazon Rewards Visa credit card.  If you qualify, you will receive 3% cash back on all of your Amazon purchases, a $40 signup bonus, 2% back on gas station, restaurant and drugstore purchases and 1% back on everything else.  There is no annual fee, and the card carries a variable interest rate of 13.24% to 21.24%, depending on your creditworthiness.  Surprisingly, in my opinion, Lifehacker readers just last week voted the Amazon Rewards Visa as the best cash back Rewards credit card available in the market.  Perhaps it was because of the demographics of their readership, but I find the card relatively unremarkable.  To read the Lifehacker article, click here.

2.  The 2nd option is to purchase an Amazon online gift card Ecode through one of the gift card resellers I have recommended in my earlier blogs, such Cardpool or Plastic Jungle. My experience has been that Cardpool seems to more frequently offer the Ecodes and their discount runs 3%.  There are two other benefits to using this option.  First, if you use the Mr. Rebates portal to reach Cardpool and purchase your card or cards, the Mr. Rebates cashback discount brings the total savings to 4%.  The 2nd benefit is that you receive your gift card Ecode within a couple hours, and if you buy the gift card with a cashback credit card, the total savings can go up to 5-6%, depending on your cashback credit card.  A side benefit is that you do not have to ding your credit rating by having one more credit card in your wallet.  The one negative is that one does not get the onetime $40 signup bonus that the Amazon card offers. As I have recommended before however, do not buy more gift cards than you can use in the short term.  There will always be more available for purchase at a later date.

   The choice is yours, but I recommend using Cardpool via the Mr. Rebates portal.

The Cashback Cookie Jar

   Sometimes I find that it is hard to quantify how much I have saved by using the cashback methods which I set forth in this blog.  So I decided to create the Cashback Cookie Jar, and to put my savings in this jar as I receive them.  It is a sweet way to pay myself (no pun intended), and once it reaches a certain level, I invest these savings for an even higher return. You can adopt this idea, or perhaps you have even better suggestions for how to reward yourself for your smart financial management.  Feel free to throw out your suggestions.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Coming Soon: A Review of Cash Back Credit Cards

In this coming week, I hope to do a post on the best cash back credit cards available, and some info on a couple of new innovative websites that can save you money.  Bookmark our site and visit often!

Mr. Rebates and Cardpool Team Up

   On Friday, Mr. Rebates, one of my favorite cashback portals, announced that it had added Cardpool to its list of cashback merchants.  Now, by going through Mr. Rebates to access the Cardpool website, you can add an additional 1% cashback in savings to any gift card purchase. I have just changed the url link for Cardpool in my bookmarks toolbar to to insure that I always get this additional 1%.  Not yet signed up at these sites?  Then just click on the links in this post to register.  It takes 2 minutes, and will guarantee that you are maximizing your cash back savings.

Savings Example

For example, today I purchased a Walmart $100 gift card through Cardpool for $97.00.  By going through Mr. Rebates, I received an additional $0.97 back, and by using my cashback credit card, I earned an additional 1% or $0.97.  Net cost to me = $95.06 or approximately 5% savings on everything I buy at Walmart with this card.

Discounted Gift Card Sites

   I use discounted gift cards frequently for my everyday purchases. The two sites that I am going to tell you about today represent the most professional of the sites out there.

First, why use discounted gift cards?  Well, they are easily purchased in the amounts you need, the discount savings are significant (up to 30% off), and you don't need to buy a store "loyalty" credit card to get the savings.  It is an easy, safe and guaranteed way to put money back in your pocket. My only caution is to buy only what you will use in the next 2-3 weeks, as your money is locked up in these cards until you use them.

The biggest of the discount  gift card sites is Plastic Jungle.  They offer more cards for more merchants than anyone out there.  They also tend to offer the highest discounts on many of the popular merchants. Register now, because you do not want to take the time to register when your favorite card shows up, or you could lose it.

The 2nd most popular site is Cardpool.  This firm is good at getting some of the hard to come by gift cards, like Amazon, Whole Foods and Walmart. Each morning at 7 a.m. Eastern, they put a fresh batch of cards on their site, and I have found this to be the best time to grab the hard to come by cards.  These cards usually are sold within 10 minutes.

So how do you know which site has the best deals for your merchant?

Well, I use Gift Card Granny.  This site is an aggregator of all of the top discount giftcard resellers, and also includes giftcards being sold on Ebay. I go to this site virtually every day to find giftcards I am interested in, and it is a good way to see who offers the best discounts on any given merchant.

Let me share a bit of advice, however.  I would NEVER buy a giftcard from the Ebay site.  The giftcard resellers guarantee every purchase to be as represented for up to 100 days.  No Ebay seller will do that.  I personally had $388 in Whole Foods giftcards that would not work.  I notified Cardpool and my credit card was credited my entire purchase price the same day.  That is the type of service you will get from these companies, and I can sleep at night because of it.

In a future post, I will go through the analysis of why I think discounted gift cards represent the fastest, cleanest way to big discounts; and if you purchase with a cashback credit card, the savings just multiply.

Cash Back Website Portals

If you have ever purchased items on the Internet, then there are several sites that you should definitely know about.  I call these sites "cashback portals" because if you go through these websites to your destination, and then purchase your items(s), the site will give you cash back on your transaction. No additional work needed on your part, and you can get anywhere from 1% to 30% additional cash back on every purchase. The only major site that is not covered by these portals is Amazon, and I will discuss how to get cashback on the Amazon website in a later post.

There are 3 cashback portal sites that I highly recommend.  The 1st site, which has been around for over 10 years, is Ebates.  Registering takes all of 2 minutes, and by using this link, Ebates will offer you a free gift card or $5 credit just for signing up. Just click on their logo.

The 2nd site that I highly recommend is Mr. Rebates. Sometimes, this website offers higher cash back than Ebates.  Again, signing up takes just a couple minutes, and Mr. Rebates will put $7.50 cash in your account just for the effort.  Click on the logo below or link above to get started. 

Mr. Rebates

Finally, there is a relatively new site called Big Crumbs, which can sometimes offer the highest cash back of the 3 sites, but you have to check the fine print to make sure the high cash back applies to the type of purchase you are making.  it can be misleading at times, and for that reason, I rank it 3rd on my list, but it is definitely a site that I use. 

Keeping It Simple

What I do is add a simple bookmark for each site to my bookmarks toolbar in either Firefox and Chrome.  One click and it takes me to the site that I want.
 The $64 question is : How do I know which site gives me the best cash back without having to go to each site?  Well, there is a sweet website called evRewards ( which will tell you which cashback site has the best deals for any merchant that you select.  Just know that things can change dynamically on the Internet, so on any given day, the best cashback site may change.  What I do is to make it a habit of ALWAYS going to evRewards FIRST.  That site can then send you directly to the cashback site of your choosing.  

One site, two clicks, and you are on your way to adding additional cash back for shopping at sites that you already planned to purchase at.  Now that is what I like! Don't forget to add evRewards to your Bookmark Toolbar too!