Update 4/16: It appears the payout from the Barclay RewardBoost portal has decreased to 2 points per $1 spent. Combined with the Arrival card, this can still be lucrative at 4 points per $1, but converting the 4 points to cash would result in just 2% cash back.
Since the Vanilla Reload shut down, I’ve gone straight to Plan B. That will involve buying American Express gift cards through a shopping portal and using those to buy Visa gift cards (instead of Vanilla Reloads) to offset purchase fees. You can buy up to $5,000 worth of personal gift cards per day, every 14 days. Be sure to check this Flyertalk thread before placing your order to ensure the credit card you’re using does not process these as a cash advance. Cash advances come with fees and do not points or miles, defeating the purpose of this exercise.
Currently, American Express is offering codes that waive the card fees altogether. If you’re going through a shopping portal, it’s important to use the codes provided by the portal, otherwise you may forfeit the points. Below are the portals you can go through, the cash back amount you’ll earn:
Barclay Rewards Booster - 4 miles per $1
Use your Barclay Arrival Card to purchase American Express gift cards through the Barclay Rewards Booster site and you’ll get a combined 6 miles per $1 (or 6% back in travel credits) back on your purchase. If you order the daily maximum of $5,000, you’re looking at 30,000 miles, which can be redeemed for a whopping $300 in travel credits. The way these work is you simply charge travel expenses to your card (i.e. hotels, airfare, car rental) and then request statement credits to cover those expenses. Each mile is worth 1 cent in credits, and you’ll get 10% of your redeemed miles back.
Ordering just $10,000 worth of American Express gift cards every month at 6 miles per $1 amounts to $7,200 worth of travel credits each year. It’s like getting the sign-up bonus from the Arrival card 15 times over.
HT to Michelle for sharing the 4 mile/$1 offer from the Barclay Rewards Booster portal.
TopCashBack – 2%
TopCashBack is currently offering the second highest cash back offer at 2% cash back on consumer and business cards. The down side is that TopCashBack is that this offer is only good on $500 gift cards. In the past, TCB has paid out on gift cards in larger increments as well as cancelled orders. However, recently when I requested cash for my purchase, I was alerted that TCB would be much more vigilant about only paying out cash back on eligible purchases.
Big Crumbs - 1.2%
This isn’t the highest cash back offer, but there are two factors that give Big Crumbs an advantage over the other portals: 1. Big Crumbs is far less prone to tracking issues than, say, TopCashBack. 2. Big Crumbs occasionally runs promotions offering upwards of 3.5% cash back along with purchase fee waiver codes. The fact that you also earn 0.2% cash back from the people you refer is a plus.
Despite being more reliable, I’m not going with Big Crumbs unless they at least match TopCashBack. I’m not worried about tracking issues with other sites, as I’ve made it a habit to take screenshots from click-through to purchase no matter which portal I’m using.
I’ve used eBates for other cash back offers and have generally had a pleasant experience. If they do up their offer past 1%, I’m happy to switch over as I’ve never had a tracking issue with them before. Ebates also has a pretty generous referral system, with bonuses paid out based on the number of referrals.
Mr. Rebates - 1%
I’ve never used Mr. Rebates to purchase American Express gift cards and wouldn’t use it now at just 1%. Again, it’s good to be aware of the cash back portal options and to check them frequently for higher offers. It’s worth noting that if you refer friends to Mr. Rebates, you will get 20% of their cash back.
BeFrugal – 1%
Recently, BeFrugal was offering 3% cash back on American Express gift cards, which is now down to 1%. This is a portal worth checking the next time you place an order for American Express gift cards, as the cash back amount may bounce back up to 3%.
Cash back portals not only make manufactured spending affordable, at times it’s downright profitable. While you are limited to just $5,000 every two weeks, in a year that amounts to 120,000 points/miles and a few thousand dollars in profit. Use the points to cover airfare/hotels and use the cash back to splurge while you’re gallivanting through whatever amazing city previously seemed out of reach.
Disclosure: I will receive a commission if you sign up for the Barclay Arrival and shopping portals using the links in this post.
Note: Keep in mind that there are some issues related to ordering gift cards. Orders can get cancelled for various reasons, which are outlined in the Flyertalk thread.
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