In Episode 7 of our Manufactured Spend Data Points (MS DPs) series, we’ll review our purchase of a $200 Mastercard Gift Card (MCGC) that we purchased from Bed Bath & Beyond on July 26.
This article is quite similar to Episode 2 and Episode 4 of this series, in that we purchased the same type of fixed-value MCGC issued by MetaBank that we had purchased from Staples in those two prior episodes. And we used the same favorable 1% Plastiq liquidation method for this card that we had discovered and written about in Episodes 2 & 4.
This episode is a bit different on the acquisition side, though, as we purchased this MCGC at Bed Bath & Beyond (BB&B) and learned some things there that we’d like to report, as they may be helpful to Middle Age Miles readers.
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 = $206.95
- GC value: $200
- Purchase fee: $6.95
- We did not add any other items to our GC purchase
- Rewards from cards, offers and/or portals:
- Amex Offer at BB&B, $5 statement credit when spending at least $25 = $5
- Ebates/Rakuten on MR-earning account, 3x Membership Rewards (MR) points per dollar (promo rate; usual rate is 2x) = 620 MR points
- Worth about $9.30 at our baseline value of 1.5 cents per MR point
- Paid with Amex Blue Business Plus earning 2x (based on $206.95 less $5 credit = $201.95) = 404 MR points
- Worth about $6.06
- Acquisition summary for this card:
- Acquired $200 MCGC
- Net cost = $201.95 (considering fee and Amex Offer credit)
- Points earned = 1,024 MR points, worth about $15.36
- We’re ahead by about $13.41, pre-liquidation
- MCGC characteristics:
- Issuer: MetaBank
- Can be registered? Yes
- Website: www.mcgift.giftcardmall.com
- Card was registered and set up with a PIN prior to any attempted use
Other questions related to acquisition:
What can we tell you about purchasing a MCGC at BB&B that might be helpful?
- At our local BB&B, these $200 MCGCs were not out on the display rack. There were other cards available on the display rack up to $200, but we wanted to purchase this type of fixed-value MetaBank MCGC if possible, because we knew we could liquidate it at 1% using Plastiq. There was exactly one $100 MetaBank MCGC on the display rack, so we took it to the customer service counter and said that we’d really like to buy a card “like this one” but for $200, and was it possible that they had any inside the display rack case? The customer service lady was very nice, took the time to come over to the case and open it, and sure enough we found at least two dozen $200 MetaBank MCGCs inside. She took one for me, and we went back to the customer service desk to check out.
- The customer service lady was a nice, older woman, which would be expected at our local BB&B. She said that they kept the larger-value gift cards inside the case because they’ve had some problems with fraud and they were trying to be careful. That said, she didn’t seem suspicious of me at all – maybe I don’t look like a scam artist? – and the checkout process went smoothly.
- If you go to BB&B, just be prepared that it may be a far different experience than the run-of-the-mill everyday transaction that you’re accustomed to at stores like Staples and Office Depot/Office Max where GC sales are more common. It may take a little longer than usual, and you might not have the good fortune to get a customer service agent who is as nice and gracious as the woman who helped me.
There are reports that Ebates/Rakuten may claw back rewards from gift card purchases. Are the earnings from this purchase really in our account? Yes, at least so far. The earnings have posted to our Ebates/Rakuten account. We’ll hope that there’s no clawback in the future. In this case, we doubt that this single-GC transaction for a little over $200 would attract scrutiny. Here’s a screenshot from our Ebates/Rakuten account showing the points for this transaction (remember that Ebates/Rakuten shows the earnings as cash back, even on MR-earning accounts):
As we learned in Episodes 2 & 4, these fixed-value MCGCs issued by MetaBank qualify for Plastiq’s 1% fee using debit cards, and we could use it to pay off part of our balance on a Citi credit card account. This is an outstanding online liquidation method, and it’s exactly what we did to liquidate this MCGC.
- Liquidation method: Plastiq
- Payment made to: Citi Cards, for an outstanding credit card bill
- Fee: 1% ($1.98)
- Payment: $198.02
- As is typical with Plastiq, the payment was scheduled to be delivered 9 days after the payment request
- We have had other Plastiq payments to this Citi account post correctly, so we anticipate that payment will likewise go smoothly here
Final Accounting for This Experiment
We acquired and liquidated a $200 MCGC for a net cost of $203.93 (including the purchase fee, liquidation fee, and Amex Offer statement credit). Although we had a net “cash loss” of $3.93, we earned 1,024 MR points worth about $15.36, making this a profitable deal overall.
Looking at it another way, doing this deal allowed us to “buy” the 1,024 MR points at 0.38 cents per point.
Note that this deal is not really scalable, given that we used an Amex Offer to offset $5 of the fees. Without the Amex Offer (but assuming the same Ebates/Rakuten 3%/3x promo and paying with an Amex BB+ card for 2x earning), we’d be talking about $8.93 in fees to “buy” 1,024 MR points, severely reducing our profit margin and resulting in a purchase price for the MR points of 0.87 cents per point. That’s a solid deal on its face, but it is completely unattractive if it requires any effort.
That said, we have no problem doing this deal on a cherry-pick basis, especially since we have a very convenient BB&B store that we drive past on a regular basis (and ours is right next door to an Office Max store).
We hope you’ve enjoyed Episode 7 of our MS DPs series. We successfully MS’d again, and we learned some new things on the acquisition side about BB&B that may be helpful to Middle Age Miles readers. Please feel free to comment on our efforts!
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