ev’reward: An Awesome Shortcut for Miles and Cashback Comparison Shopping

Late last week, I learned about a great website that I think is worth sharing: ev’reward.

I strongly believe in going through a portal whenever I online shop, so once I find something I want to buy, I put it in my check-out basket and then visit several portals to find out which one is giving the highest mileage or cashback return for that store. As I showed a while back, there isn’t one portal that is always the best – some portals have more partner stores than others, and the highest miles/ cashback yield varies by portal and store. And while I still visit several online portals, I admit that checking every one is a fairly time-consuming process if all you want to do is click “buy” and have an item delivered to your house.

Step in ev’reward. Through this website, you don’t have to decide whether visiting each portal is worth it for you – ev’reward automatically visits them and tells you what their deals are! All you have to do is type the name of the online store from which you’re buying something, and ev’reward gives you a list of portals and the miles or cashback each one will give you for making a purchase from that store. This cuts the research process to just a few seconds, and you can immediately see which portal will suit you best.

ev’reward’s output for Banana Republic: portals for cashback, savings, points, and miles

There are only two caveats that I’ve seen so far. First, some rates are a little outdated. For example, United’s Mileage Plus Shopping Portal is currently offering 2.5 miles per dollar spent at Banana Republic online, but ev’reward is showing only 2 miles per dollar. Second, it doesn’t list every portal out there, so that if you typed in “amazon.com,” you wouldn’t know through ev’reward that Hawaiian’s and US Airways’ shopping portals currently give miles for Amazon purchases.

Nonetheless, if you usually check several portals like I do before buying, ev’reward is a great starting point to find out which ones are even worth looking into. In the case of J.Crew, for example, ev’reward correctly does not list ShopDiscover as a cashback portal, so I know there’s no point in checking, which saves me some time. On the other hand, if you are not planning on investigating each portal before buying, with the ev’reward output, you can at least be sure that if you go through any portal on its list, you’ll get more miles or cashback than if you didn’t go through one at all.

If It’s Broken, Have It Fixed

In this economic environment, it is not surprising that people are trying to get more mileage out of the cars they already own rather than buying new ones.  In contrast to car dealerships, auto repair shops actually reported a sales growth over the past year, as noted by the private firm Sageworks in a recent article to the WSJ.  The same is happening on the home front, Sageworks added: companies related to remodeling and home repairs experienced a 4.6% sales increase over the last 12 months.

But big ticket items like cars and housing are not the only ones that can be remodeled and fixed for less than it takes to replace them.  Look around for broken items you might have lying around the house that you would like to replace for sentimental or financial reasons, and chances are the store and/or manufacturer might be able to help you out.  As part of their customer service, several companies offer to repair and/or replace items even without a warranty or after it has expired.  A few years back, for example, I snapped the plastic wrist band of a Nike watch I had had for a while.  I checked online and found that they offer a watch repair/replacement service, which is covered under a 2-year warranty.  Of course, I didn’t have the receipt anymore, but I sent it to them anyway for an estimate.  Ultimately, the band could not be mended and had to be replaced, but even without the warranty my total cost came out to $7 plus the postage I paid to mail it to them, much less that what I would have paid for a brand new watch.

My latest experience in getting more years out of an item, however, does not even involve a company guarantee.  A few weeks ago I noticed a hole on the bottom of a purse I bought just last year.  I checked Longchamp’s website to find their guarantee policy, but did not find anything besides a recommendation to visit the store in which the item was purchased.  Because I bought my purse at an airport and have no plans to be there again anytime soon, I left a message on their website explaining that I had bought the purse a year ago and expected it to last longer.  Within a couple of hours a Longchamp’s representative wrote me back promising to send me a return authorization so that I can send my purse to a repair center.  The only cost I will incur: mailing it to them.

As stated above, many companies offer similar repair/replacement services, so definitely look around.  Some of them even make that part of their core promotion strategy.  Birkenstock, for example, lists affiliated and mail-in repair stores in the “store location” section of its website.  I haven’t used them yet, but it looks like my Birks will have to re-soled soon…

Have you had any successful (or unsuccessful) experience trying to get items repaired or replaced?  Please share in our comments section.

Picking Up Discounts in the Produce Section: the Benefits of Grocery and Pharmacy Cards

Sign up for the free loyalty cards from your local grocery stores and pharmacies if they offer them.  They cost you nothing (I don’t even get junk mail from them!) and give you exclusive discounts and/or cash back.  Those offers marked by signs hanging under products throughout the store (clearance items, discounts, two-for-one deals, BOGOs, etc.) are usually only available when you use the store card.

I, for example, have a Safeway and a CVS card for these purposes.  One cool feature of the Safeway Club Card is that when you use it, the receipt tells you how much you saved in your purchase through their deals and other coupons.  I saved 25% on my last purchase!  Of course, Safeway cashiers are usually nice enough to ring up a default Safeway card for you if you don’t have/forgot your own.  But (1) you can’t count on them to do that every time and (2) that will keep you from stocking up on points from affiliated programs such as United Mileage Plus or UPromise cash for college (more on that in a future post).

CVS’s ExtraCare card, on the other hand, gives “Extra Bucks” that may be used for any purchase at CVS.  Every 3 months you get Extra Bucks equivalent to 2% of your purchases in the previous quarter, and the weekly specials usually feature several products that also come with Extra Bucks (if you buy the product, you get Extra Bucks that can be used on your next CVS purchase).  A few weeks back, for instance, I bought three boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch for $10 and got $5 Extra Bucks.   I used that on my next purchase.  I don’t buy my prescriptions at CVS, but its website also says that you can get 1 Extra Buck for every 2 prescriptions purchased in-store.

The main caveat of CVS’s Extra Bucks is that you really have to remember to use them if you want to transform your everyday purchases into good deals, as they tend to expire after 2 or 3 weeks.  Also, you need to present your ExtraCare card in order to use the Extra Bucks, but that should not be a problem since you should have it on you anyway (i.e., on your keychain) for accumulating all those Extra Bucks.

You probably shop at groceries and pharmacies more frequently than at most other types of stores, and most likely have your local favorite.  If it’s offered, make sure you get and use their loyalty card – claim the chance to be rewarded for helping them stay in business!