In Episode 6 of our Manufactured Spend Data Points (MS DPs) series, we’ll review our purchase of two $100 fixed-value Visa Gift Cards (VGCs) that we purchased from Tom Thumb on July 25.
For those who don’t know, Tom Thumb is a grocery store. Tom Thumb participates in the “Just 4 U” rewards program, which was the legacy rewards program for Safeway brands and has been adopted by Albertson’s following its acquisition of Safeway a few years ago. Our purchases for this experiment were motivated by a Just 4 U coupon for $15 off when purchasing two $100 VGCs.
As always, remember that we’re total rookies when it comes to manufactured spend (MS), and we’re sharing experience far more than expertise in this series – including our own mistakes! The trial-and-error process is a huge part of the MS learning experience. Also, remember that we’re exploring online liquidation methods, as we know many people prefer doing this online rather than using methods that require an in-person visit to a store.
- Total purchase price = $196.90
- The gift cards themselves cost $200, of course
- There was a fee of $5.95 for each card, bringing the total to $211.90
- The $15 Just for U coupon was applied at checkout, bringing our purchase price down to $196.90
- Note that we also added a few grocery items to our purchase
- Rewards from cards, offers and/or portals:
- We were not aware of any cashback or portal offers that would apply to this deal, other than the Just for U coupon
- Paid with Amex Gold card earning 4x at grocery stores = 788 Membership Rewards (MR) points
- Worth about $11.82 at our baseline value of 1.5 cents per MR point
- Acquisition summary for these cards:
- Acquired $200 in VGCs (2 VGCs of $100 each)
- Net cost = $196.90
- Points earned = 788 MR points, worth about $11.82
- Card characteristics:
- Issuer: MetaBank
- Can be registered? Yes, and you can set up a PIN
- Website: www.giftcardmall.com/mygift
- We registered each card and set up a PIN prior to any attempted use
Other questions related to acquisition:
What else can we tell you about the Just 4 U coupon offer that might be helpful?
- We needed to have a “Just 4 U” account, which was easy enough to sign up for. We believe that the Just 4 U program applies to all Albertson’s/Safeway brands now.
- The coupon needed to be loaded into the account prior to purchase, by clicking on the coupon in the app on our phone.
- There were some indications that you might need to have your preferred store set to the location where you’re purchasing the GCs. We’re not sure about this but we made sure our location was set correctly.
- At check-out, they scan your membership card from the app on your phone, and the coupon automatically applies to reflect the $15 discount at the conclusion of your check-out.
- Alternatively, we believe that you can just give them your phone number rather than scanning your membership card.
- The coupon was for one-time use. That said, we’ve now set up a second Just 4 U account, so presumably we could use the coupon twice (once per account) next time this promotion runs.
- There was also a Just 4 U coupon for $10 off the purchase of two $50 VGCs, but we didn’t use that one as it would have been only minimally profitable at best.
For starters, we knew from our previous experiences that these MetaBank-issued VGCs could not be used on Plastiq (scroll to the bottom of this page to see Plastiq’s exclusions of certain prepaid Visa cards).
We also tried one of these VGCs on Doxo. You’ll recall from Episode 3 of this series that most gift cards can be liquidated on Doxo, but the standard-rate fees are very high (upwards of 3.5%). We had also subscribed to Doxo’s “premium” service, DoxoPlus, during our Episode 3 experiment, which allows for fee-free bill-pay up to $2,000 per month using certain payment methods, for a $9/month subscription fee. In this case, we successfully loaded a $100 VGC onto Doxo for a potential payment on our Citi credit card account, but the payment would incur a fee of $3.99 (!). The card did not qualify for fee-free liquidation with DoxoPlus. We did not go through with the payment using Doxo.
We decided to use this situation as an opportunity to examine the Prism bill-pay service, which we’d found through online research. We had a hard time figuring out how to add our VGC as a payment method. Prism has a long list of types of cards that can be added as a payment method, but they all seemed to be either “normal” credit/debit cards, or prepaid-and-reloadable cards like Serve, Gobank and Netspend. We eventually found Gift Card Mall on the list of card types, under “Other” (remembering that the registration website for these cards was a Gift Card Mall site, even though the issuer is MetaBank). We provided our card info and verified our login details. But then we received an error message from Prism – they “don’t yet support Gift Card Mall.” At this point, Prism had taken all of our card details but they would not let us pay anything with the card. Needless to say, we did not like this at all. We (a) took screenshots of everything; and (b) submitted a message to Prism that we were not happy that it prompted us for all our card details when it knew it wouldn’t actually let us pay.
Given the uncomfortable situation with Prism, we felt like we needed to take quick action to immediately liquidate the card we had added to Prism. Fortunately, we were able to liquidate right away using Bravo.
You’ll remember that we discussed Bravo at some length in Episode 5 of this series. Please refer back to Episode 5 to see more details. In short, we were able to edit our payment card to one of these $100 VGCs and liquidate it at a 2% fee by making a Bravo payment to a “friendly” account, and then do the same with the other $100 VGC the next day.
Liquidation details using Bravo were:
- $100 VGC #1:
- Payment amount: $98.03
- Bravo fee (2%): $1.97
- Payment made through Bravo: Wednesday 7/31
- Amount of payment deposited & available in “friendly” account: Monday 8/5
- $100 VGC #2:
- Payment amount: $98.03
- Bravo fee (2%): $1.97
- Payment made through Bravo: Thursday 8/1
- Amount of payment deposited & available in “friendly” account: Tuesday 8/6
Just like in Episode 5, Bravo came through as an effective liquidation option. Importantly, we were able to easily change our payment method on Bravo each time, using the “Edit card” function within the Settings menu on the Bravo app. This gives us further hope that easy 2% liquidation through Bravo will be sustainable.
Final Accounting for This Experiment
We acquired and liquidated $200 in VGCs for a net cost of $200.84. Although we had a net “cash loss” of 84 cents, we earned 788 MR points worth about $11.82, making this a profitable deal overall.
This isn’t a killer deal by any means. But for us, we have a Tom Thumb store close to our house and occasionally shop there, so the incremental time commitment to do this deal is minimal to non-existent. And since Bravo works as a liquidation method for us, that part is very easy too. Given the ease of doing this deal, we’ll probably do it again when the promotional $15-off coupon comes around again. If acquisition and/or liquidation are tougher for you, this deal becomes a lot less attractive in a hurry.
The other important thing we learned during this episode is that Prism was entirely non-useful as a liquidation option. In fact, Prism gave us reason for concern – the way it showed Gift Card Mall as an available card option, allowed us to enter all of our card details, and only then told us that the card was unsupported. In addition, we really didn’t see any signs that online GC liquidation was going to work for any type of MCGC or VGC. Thus, we do not plan to experiment further with Prism at this point, or use it in the future.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Episode 6 of our MS DPs series. Once more, we successfully completed the MS cycle. We experimented with another liquidation option, although it proved unsuccessful. And we gained further confidence in Bravo as a liquidation option. Please feel free to comment on our efforts!
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