March 21, 2012
A reader challenged me recently to help him find a way to quickly earn more Membership Rewards points. He’s planning on taking advantage of the current bonus offer in which Membership Rewards points can be transferred to British Airways Avios miles with a 50% bonus. That is, until May 31, for every 1000 Membership Rewards Points transferred, you get 1500 British Airways miles. Below is the plan I suggested. It’s not easy, but if you want British Airways miles this will do the trick. It will also help quite a bit with meeting minimum spend on an Amex MR card if you need to do so.
To do this trick, you need an American Express card that earns Membership Rewards. You also need a nearby Kmart that sells BP gas cards. And, you need nice cashiers at that Kmart. Oh, and patience and attention to detail would be helpful too.
The plan is to buy Sears gift cards through the Membership Rewards shopping portal, upgrade them to BP gas cards, and then sell them to get most of your money back. The end result is that you will have bought Membership Rewards points for about 1.07 cents each. Once you convert those points to British Airways miles with the 50% bonus, you will have bought British Airways Avios for .71 cents each. Here are the steps:
Step 1: Buy Sears gift cards
Go through the Membership Rewards shopping portal to Sears and buy Sears gift cards for yourself. Currently the portal offers 4 points per dollar for Sears so you will earn 4 points from the mall and one point from your credit card for a total of 5 points per dollar. Note that you can buy either physical gift cards or e-gift cards, but the physical ones are a bit easier to use at Kmart so I recommend those.
NOTE: A few readers have reported that Sears only shows 3 points per dollar through their view of the Membership Rewards shopping portal. Apparently, the bonus points you get depends upon which Membership Rewards card you have. If you only see 3X, then this trick is not for you.
CAUTION: Reader Kathy stated in the comments section that Amex bonus points are inclusive of the regular points you get for credit card spend. That is, when the mall says 4X it really means 3 bonus points plus 1 regular point. If true, this kills this opportunity. Rats!
Step 2: Upgrade the gift cards
This is the painful part. Hopefully you pre-checked that your local Kmart carries BP gift cards. If so, go to Kmart and buy BP gift cards using your Sears gift cards. I’ve done this many times and only once was told no. Since then I’ve only bought 2 or 3 at a time and usually load up my cart with staples I needed anyway (tissues, cereal, dog food, etc.) to obscure the gift cards. That has always worked for me.
Step 3: Sell the gift cards
Go to the TopCashBack portal and find PlasticJungle. PlasticJungle currently buys BP gift cards for 91 cents to the dollar. You’ll get 4% (of 91%) additional cash back from TopCashBack.
Add it up
Suppose your goal is a round trip ticket to Hawaii. You can go from LA to Hawaii using British Airways miles for 25,000 miles round trip. To get that many miles, you’ll need 17000 Membership Rewards points. To get that many points with this plan, you’ll need to buy $3400 worth of Sears gift cards. Now, let’s do the math:
- Buy $3400 in Sears gift cards via the Membership Rewards shopping portal. Receive 3400 X 5 = 17,000 Membership Rewards Points.
- Upgrade to BP cards and sell cards to PlasticJungle via TopCashBack. PlasticJungle will give you 91% of $3400 = $3094 cash back. TopCashBack will give you 4% of $3094 = $123.76 cash back.
- Total cost: $3400 – $3094 – $123.76 = $182.24
- Transfer Membership Rewards points to British Airways and you now have enough mile to go to Hawaii!
Note that the trip to Hawaii was just an example. BA also has great short haul redemptions such as Detroit to New York City for only 9000 miles round trip. With this technique, a trip like that would only cost about $65! Will I do this? Honestly, probably not. I already have a boatload of BA miles and I don’t really cherish the idea of virtually living at Kmart for the next few months. Also, my favorite points are Ultimate Rewards, so I’ll continue to focus on schemes to buy those. This trick is tempting though…
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