So apparently people really liked my post about the mindset I use to maximize my points when I make a purchase online or in store. One of PointsNerd’s readers, Paul, reached out with a very specific question about how to maximize his points when it comes to making a purchase of a $2,500 fridge.
Cash is Worth More Than Points
As you can probably already tell, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE points. I love the freedom they represent and the thrill of having them accumulate in my account is something hard to explain … addictive is the only word that I can think of that somewhat captures it.
That being said, to me cash is much more important, especially if you are making large purchases like appliances.
The reason is simple.
Imagine you are Paul and you need to purchase a new fridge. Getting a discount of $100 off that fridge is worth WAY more than the extra 100 points you would earn by paying full price. Those extra hundred points might be worth the equivalent of $2 … $5 if you are really lucky. Either way, it’s nowhere close to the $100 savings if you looked for a better deal.
With that in mind, I will give you guys a couple of strategies that I employ when I make large purchases.
Do Your Research to Find the Best Possible Price
I find that brick and mortar store have a very tough time competing against online stores on price so my first step to finding the lowest price is to look online.
I know that this is a very common strategy but stay with me.
Once I find the lowest price possible on the item online, I will take a print out of that price to a brick and mortar store that sells appliances and ask them to beat (not match) the price. If I’m feeling lazy, I’ll do an online price match.
I actually purchased a washer/dryer combo late last year during Black Friday Week so I actually did something very similar.
One of the first things to do is to familiarize yourself with the price matching policies of the common Canadian retailers.
Here’s Sears’ policy:
Home Depot has the same policy:
As does Lowes:
Next Level Ninja Matching
Let’s say Paul finds his fridge 10% lower at Sears than at Lowes. What you could do is take the Sears advertisement into Lowes and ask for a Price Match with an additional 10% off the lower price.
As an example, let’s say Paul’s fridge was $2,500 at Lowes and $2,200 at Sears. Lowe’s would match the price ($2,200) and provide a further 10% off the lowest price … in this case, an additional $220 off, making the total price for the fridge $1,980.
You could purchase the fridge at Lowes and while you are waiting the 2-5 days for delivery, use your receipt to go around to other retailers to see if they will price match/beat your already discounted price.
We could get into a whole ethical debate on whether or not you should do this but ultimately you have to decide if this strategy makes sense for you.
Let’s Maximize Points
Now that I have lectured you enough about getting the best price, let’s talk about how to maximize the points you earn. I’ll warn you, this strategy employed her is going to be very similar to the one you read in the previous post … but with one small twist.
Let’s stick with the example from above. Paul has found a lower price at Sears and wants to price match with Lowes.
The first thing we want to do is to look for a retailer that sells gift cards for Lowes (or whatever retailer you want to purchase from). The great thing about this is that most retailers that sell gift cards are either grocery chains or pharmacies. Both of which attract a 2x bonus for Paul’s American Express Gold Card.
When you are deciding which retailer to purchase your gift card from, check to see if that retail has a rewards program that will allow you to double dip. Below are some retailers and their points programs:
- PetroCanada – PetroPoints and More Rewards
- Safeway – Air Miles
- SaveOn Foods – More Rewards
- Esso – Extra and Aeroplan
- Rexall – Air Miles
- Uniprix – Aeroplan
Now keep in mind that most Terms and Conditions in these programs don’t usually allow for points collection on gift card purchases but in practice, I find that you get them about 80% of the time.
To keep the math simple let’s imagine Paul needs $2,000 in Lowes’ gift cards. Now let’s see what you would get in terms of points from PetroCanada.
2x Membership Rewards for purchase at a Gas Station using Paul’s American Express Gold Card.
4,000 Membership Rewards
10 PetroPoints per dollar spent in-store.
1 MoreReward Point per dollar spent in-store
2,000 MoreRewards Points
On their own, it may not seem like a lot of points but trust me. They add up fast.
More Ninja Savings
Ok. We have purchased the gift cards. We have the price match ready to go … how can we extract even more value?
By using a cash-back portal of course. If you don’t know what a cash-back portal is, you should read my overview of them to get up to speed.
I know from experience that when you request a price match from Lowes online AND you have an account with Lowes, the CSR can actually manipulate the price of your item in the cart to reflect the price match.
So here’s what you do:
- Log into your Lowes’ account and add your item to the cart
- Use Lowe’s online chat feature and tell the CSR that you would like to do a price match to Sears or whatever retailer you want
- Provide the URL of the price matched item
- The CSR will complete the price match and ask to call you to complete the order. This is where you tell them you want to complete the order online. Some CSRs may tell you it is not possible. I can guarantee you it is. I’ll provide proof below.
- Once the price adjusted/price matched item is in your cart, use a cash-back portal to direct you to Lowes’ website. I used Ebates.ca because I was eligible to receive 2% cash back during Black Friday Week (normally 1%)
- Ebates will direct you to the Lowe’s site where your cart should still be intact. Continue with your purchase and complete the order.
Here’s is my cash back from Ebates on my washer/dryer purchase at Lowes.
Oh … and did you know that purchases from Lowes earn AirMiles? I’m not a fan of AirMiles but free points are free points.
I just realized in researching this article that AirMiles hasn’t credited me my miles so I have a homework assignment to ask for those miles to be credited but let’s assume that Paul gets his miles.
I know this is all theoretical but it’s based on a very realistic situation. Let’s look at the total haul in cash and points.
Savings with Price Match = $520.00
Cash Back Portal (1% of Cost Before Tax – $1,980) = $19.80
Total Cash Saved of $549.80 on a $2,500 purchase … that’s a WHOPPING 22% savings.
Membership Rewards from using AMEX Gold at a Gas Station (2x Bonus) = 4,000 MRs
PetroCanada Points Programs = 20,000 PetroPoints and 2,000 MoreRewards Points
Lowes Loyalty Program (1 Airmile per $20 Spent) = 99 Airmiles
Again, these numbers are theoretical but very real in terms of the points and cash most people leave on the table. Don’t be like most people. Take advantage of all the programs you can and earn as much as you can. These points represent very real value that can be redeemed in the future for vacations and merchandise if you so choose.
The mindset you need to have to do well in this game is a learned behaviour that doesn’t come naturally to most but I hope this article articulates the value you can receive if/when you employ these strategies.
One thing I neglected to mention is that you need to have the right card in order to maximize your returns. The one card that has the best category bonuses is the American Express Gold Rewards Card. With the card, you get 2x Membership Rewards when used on gas, grocery, drug store/pharmacies and travel related purchases. For a full overview of the card, feel free to read my review.
Currently, the AMEX Gold Personal is offering 30,000 Membership Rewards and the First Year Free!