This Week’s Five Loyalty Deals

Loyalty programs are already set up to reward customers for their frequent patronage by offering points, miles, or exclusive discounts.  But sometimes there are periodic promotion periods in which the reward system is ramped up either to pick up sales during a down time or simply to encourage continued customer loyalty.  Either way, there are savings to be had or extra points or miles (eventually converted into extra savings or a freebie) to be earned.

Here are five loyalty deals for this coming week or longer:
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The Art of Double and Triple Dipping

Most stores do not allow the use of multiple coupons for the same item (an exception is Harris Teeter – I have never shopped there, but apparently the grocery chain allows up to 20 double coupons, and, on some days, triple coupons), but there are other ways to get more than just the coupon discount.  If you have a credit card that gives you cash back, for example, you can easily double dip by using a coupon and getting some cash back by charging on your card.  Or even better, you can redeem your accumulated cash back for a gift card (a better rate for cash) and use a coupon when paying with that gift card – gift cards are not coupons and are thus perfectly compatible with them.

Triple dipping might require a little more effort, but is certainly worth the benefits.  Here are two examples of how I’ve gotten three times the bang for my buck:

Coupon + Cash Back + Miles: I subscribe to J.Crew emails, and a while back I got a coupon code for 20% off one item (Incidentally, there’s a sale going on at jcrew.com right now, and the coupon code EXTRA20 will give you an extra 20% off sale items until this Saturday, July 10th), which I chose to use on an item that I had been meaning to buy.  I made sure to use my Discover card on that purchase, since it was giving me a 5% cash back bonus for purchases at clothing stores during that quarter.  Finally, I also checked my frequent flier options.  Instead of visiting  jcrew.com directly, I accessed it and placed my order through the AAdvantage eShopping program, which gave me 3 American Airlines miles per dollar I spent on that purchase (minus taxes)!

The triple dipping results: An item on sale for $100, bought for $80, giving me another $4 in cash back and 240 miles.

Store Card + Miles + Upromise cash: Two weeks ago I bought a $260 netbook for my mother at Best Buy.  I already had the Best Buy Reward Zone card, which gives $5 in store credit for every $250 spent (a 2% rate), but I made my purchase through Upromise rather than by going directly to bestbuy.com, earning another 2% plus a $10 incentive (Upromise sends emails with extra offers if you don’t use it for a while).  And of course, I used my Citi/American Airlines card so I would get miles as well (a better deal than Discover when outside the bonus period).

The triple dipping results: A $260 purchase, for which I got $5 in store credit at Best Buy and $15 on Upromise as well as 260 miles.

Admittedly, the extras I got for triple dipping were relatively small compared to the price of the purchases, but they made it a much better deal than spending $100 at J.Crew or $260 at Best Buy and not getting any breaks for that.  And all I needed was a little creativity to consider my options among the available offers.

Have you had a great double/ triple (/quadruple?) dipping experience? Please share it in the comments section!

Paying for Education, One Purchase at a Time

If you have student loans to repay to Sallie Mae or are trying to save for education through a 529 Plan, you may want to use Upromise to help you out.  Upromise is a service that gives you cash for certain purchases from grocery stores, restaurants, online retail sites etc., which can then be transferred to your student loan account or 529 Plan – essentially a cash back program under which the cash is redeemed for education expenses.

To be honest, the cash back rates for Upromise are generally lower than most other programs such as ShopDiscover.  However, Upromise covers a much larger number of merchants and combines different programs to generate even more potential rewards.  Discover’s 5% cash back at Target.com and the Apple Store, for example, beats Upromise’s 2% and 1% rates at these online sites, respectively.  Upromise, however, offers 2% cash back on eBay and 1% on several travel sites, such as Orbitz and Travelocity, while Discover has not partnered with those sites as of yet.  Furthermore, Upromise also gives up to 8% cash back on restaurants that belong to the Rewards Network (for a full list visit rewardsnetwork.com) and on in-store purchases at a few places such as Bed Bath & Beyond (1%) and the Sunglass Hut (6%).

Upromise also allows you to add your grocery cards to your account, so that you get cash back on Upromise for certain items on top of your grocery stores’ discounts and/or points.  Participating stores include Safeway, Harris Teeter, and CVS.

Now the best feature of Upromise I think is that it allows you to add friends and family to your network.  That is, if they create a Upromise account and add you as a beneficiary, they can use the cash back program to help you pay for your education.  Alternatively, for online shopping, you can simply send them a “guest shopping” link, so that they do not even have to sign up for Upromisem but you can still earn cash on the program whenever anyone shops through that link.  So if your mom usually does the groceries and uses store cards, you may want to have her sign up for Upromise and help you pay off your loans; and if your grandparents are coming to visit, you might to want to send them your Upromise “guest shopping” link so that their trip can help you get some money into your 529 Plan.