Round trip to Hawaii for $125!

How I plan to turn the Nordstrom 36X opportunity into cheap travel.  image

I’m sure that most readers know of The Point Guy’s recent post “Amazing Deal Alert: 36 British Airways Avios Per Dollar Spent at Nordstrom!”  When I first read this, I was skeptical because the deal relies on two promotions (a Nordstrom double points promo AND a Nordstrom first purchase triple point promo).  I was betting that they would only award points for one promotion.  However, since then, I’ve seen that many people, including The Points Guy, have all 36 points per dollar showing up as pending!

If you have a real reason to buy from Nordstrom, you would be crazy to let this deal pass up.  Make sure to jump on it by February 14th before it expires!  Also, be sure to carefully read The Point Guy’s post showing exactly how to qualify –you don’t want to take a chance of messing this up!

Buying Miles

For those of us that are not really interested in buying from Nordstrom, all is not lost.  If you’re willing to invest some time and energy into buying and selling, I believe that you can turn this promotion into an opportunity to buy British Airways Avios miles for as little as half a cent each.  With Avios, you can fly round-trip short haul American flights for 9000 miles, or LA to Hawaii round-trip for 25000 miles.  If you can buy Avios for half a cent per mile, this means that you can fly round trip on short haul flights for only $45!  Or, you could fly round trip from LA to Hawaii for $125!

In my last major mile-earning adventure, I bought and sold electronics from Sears.  With Sears offering 10 points per dollar through the Ultimate Rewards Mall at the time, and with the ability to double dip by buying Sears’ gift cards and then using them, I was able to earn over 20 points per dollar.  As I described in the post Mileage run shopping results, I gained over 49,000 Ultimate Rewards points for a net cost of $391.  In other words, I bought Ultimate Rewards points for .79 cents each (which is an awesome value, by the way).

I think it is possible to do a similar churn with the Nordstrom promotion:

In my Sears adventure, my net costs amounted to 17% of my total Sears spend.  If one can find items at Nordstrom to resell for a similar loss, the math works out even better.  Suppose, for example, you buy $5000 worth of items at Nordstrom and sell them for a net loss of 18%.  In that case you would earn 180,000 Avios for $900.  In other words, you would buy Avios for .5 cents each!  The great thing with this promotion is that it would be OK to have a net loss as high as 36% because this would amount to buying Avios for 1 penny each, which is still a great deal if you redeem your Avios wisely.  Even at 1 penny each, for example, round-trip flights from Detroit to NY would cost only $90!  Sweet!

Should I do it?  Should you?

My first look at Nordstrom’s website was depressing.  Gift card purchases don’t qualify for the promotion.  DSLR cameras (which I bought through Sears) are nowhere to be seen.  However, I dug deeper and found some great possibilities.  I’m now convinced that this deal is worth investing in and that it is possible to earn Avios for a half cent each. 

If you decide to jump on this, please be aware that this could end up costing you much more!  There is no question that this is a gamble, so go into this only if you’re willing to risk big losses.  Also note that this will cost you time and effort that would be hard to justify if you count this time as “work”.  Do this only if you can afford it, and if it is a hobby that you enjoy.

What to buy and how to sell

I’m not going to publish what I plan to buy.  If too many people buy and sell the same items, the resale market for those items will be flooded and the resale price will necessarily drop.  None of us would do well in that scenario.  Instead, in tomorrow’s post I’ll describe how I went about finding the best options for resale, and I’ll follow up with another post on how to sell your inventory.

Are you in?

Are you planning to take advantage of this opportunity?  If so, what is your strategy?

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  1. Your thought process on this has been about the same as mine, I have a good idea where I would go with it but not sure I want to invest the time right now due to other factors (the ol’ time/earning equation). Look forward to your other posts, especially the one with your ideas for moving inventory.

  2. $125 X 36 Avios per dollar = 4,500 points, which is well short of the 25,000 Avios needed for the LA-Hawaii roundtrip. And how does one buy Avios for a half a cent per mile? Help me understand the math.

    • Ashwin: The math assumes that you will re-sell whatever you buy and incur a loss of 18%. Take the following example where someone buys $1000 worth of stuff:
      Initial cost: $1000
      Sell stuff at 18% loss, get back: $820
      Total cost: $180
      Miles earned: 1000 * 36 = 36,000
      Cost per mile: $180 / 36,000 = .5 cents per mile

  3. @ashwin

    Buy 700$ worth of stuff to get the 25000 avios, resell it at an 18% loss, the cost is then 0.5 cents/mile.

  4. I have been eyeing some items that might hold up well for resale myself – Very curious to read your post tomorrow on this topic. This would be my first resell strictly for the miles game, but this seems like an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often! (especially for those of us that actually value Avios)

  5. What are peoples thoughts on just getting the miles, using them to book a flight, then returning the merchandise. Can they charge you for the miles, or hunt you down and collect what you’ve already spent?

    • Ryan: I would ship from my house in this case. This deal is only available for your first purchase so to get many miles, you would need to buy a lot in that one purchase, have it delivered to your house, and then sell from there. Some people I know have been successful selling locally on Craigslist.

  6. The beats headphones sell for $300 plus tax. They sell for $250 on ebay minus paypal fees, ebay final selling value fees, and shipping fees. You’d lose your shirt trying to sell these.

  7. Hi FM, have you considered buying virtual gift cards through Bigcrumbs first?

    If no one knows why this shouldn’t work, seems like a few extra % of savings.

  8. Nordstrom sells a lot of products that are rarely discounted like uggs. Cosmetic and beauty items too are rarely on sale.

  9. You could use Bigcrumbs to buy virtual gift cards to get the extra 3.5%. The cards are active within a couple of hours. The largest card you can buy is $1,000. Also, NOTE: you can only use ONE gift card per transaction.

  10. I am not well versed in Ebay selling. I have bought quite a few things. FM, I would suggest buying Chloe, Fendi or Marc Jacobs handbags. They are around $500 -$3000 each. I know quite a few people that have bought purses one Ebay.

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  12. What if you return merchandise to a Nordstrom store for store credit, then you can convert that into gift cards? Nordstrom has a great and very flexible return policy, so I think this may be a viable option. Thoughts?

    • Jordan: there is a lot of talk about that on FlyerTalk. It’s unclear whether or not Nordstrom will revoke the miles if you do this. I also don’t like to advocate return item schemes since they result in the merchant giving a lot without getting anything in return.

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