Introduction and Basics of Slide
Recently, the team that brought us the gift card purchase website Raise released a new app called Slide. Basically, Slide allows users to purchase exact-value gift cards at participating merchants, with the purchaser earning 4% cash back.
In the points-and-miles world, Slide is most similar to United’s MileagePlus X (MPX) app, which also allows the purchase of exact-value gift cards. But whereas MPX earns United miles and has variable earn rates depending on the merchant, Slide’s 4% cash back rate is fixed for all participating merchants.
Right now, Slide is only available to iOS users. Slide advertises that it will become available to Android users soon.
How Does It Work?
Slide is pretty straightforward. The graphics on the Slide website tell the story nicely, although one added step is helpful:
The next step is to select a merchant, enter the amount of the GC you want to purchase (that is, the amount you want to pay), and “slide” the purchase bar to complete your purchase. The app will prompt you to choose whether you want to pay with a credit card, Apple Pay, or Slide credit, before you “slide” the purchase button. If you select Apple Pay, then after you “slide” the purchase bar, you’ll get a subsequent prompt to select the card within your Apple Pay Wallet that you want to use for payment.
When your purchase completes, you’ll see a barcode, gift card number and PIN. Then, …
Slide says that there are 2 ways to redeem your cash back rewards. One, you can apply the cash back you’ve earned towards your next transaction on Slide. Two, you can withdraw earnings to Venmo or PayPal. Importantly, there is a minimum transaction requirement of $15 for withdrawals to Venmo or PayPal.
Gift cards purchased through Slide can be used for either in-store or online purchases. Many (all?) merchants prohibit using a gift card purchased through Slide for the purchase of other GCs.
What Merchants Participate with Slide?
As you can see from the graphic above, Slide says that more than 150 merchants participate. You can see the logos of some of the most popular merchants above.
Other popular participating merchants include:
- American Eagle Outfitters
- Ann Taylor
- Barnes & Noble
- Baskin Robbins
- Bloomin’ Brands restaurants
- Brinker restaurants
- Burger King
- Crate & Barrel
- Dave & Buster’s
- Dean & DeLuca
- Fleming’s Steakhouse
- Foot Locker
- Goody’s department store
- Guitar Center
- Hard Rock Cafe
- Hot Topic
- Jersey Mike’s Subs
- JoAnn Fabrics
- Joe’s Crab Shack
- Krispy Kreme
- Landry’s restaurants
- Office Depot/Max
- Omaha Steaks
- On The Border
- Outback Steakhouse
- Papa John’s Pizza
- Peet’s Coffee
- Princess Cruises
- Red Robin
- Regal Cinemas
- Saks Fifth Avenue
- Steak ‘n Shake
- Stein Mart
- Taco Bell
- TGI Fridays
- The Cheesecake Factory
- The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
- The Vitamin Shoppe
- White House Black Market
- World Market
- Yankee Candle
Initial Thoughts and Questions about Slide
Our initial thoughts were that Slide seemed to present some opportunities for enhanced points-earning, so it would be worth spending some time and effort to run experiments. Our thoughts and questions included:
- For merchants that are on both Slide and MPX: Slide earns a flat 4% cash back, whereas MPX earns different amounts of United miles for different merchants, ranging from 0.5x to 5x. When would it be best to use Slide rather than MPX?
- Slide offers an additional 1% cash back (total 5% cash back) if you pre-load funds into Slide using a debit card. Would this ever be worth it?
- Short Answer: We don’t think so. We can always use a credit card as the payment method to earn more than 1% in rewards, which would be better than the extra 1% cash back.
- Slide allows Apple Pay as a payment method. How about using our US Bank Altitude Reserve card, which earns 3x points on payments made using a mobile wallet (points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel for a 4.5% return)?
- Note, though, that US Bank historically has been sensitive to GC purchases using the Altitude Reserve with a mobile wallet. Would using this payment method on Slide result in shutdown or increase the risk of shutdown?
- But if this type of purchase is ok, it presents a great use case for the US Bank Altitude Reserve via Apple Pay. The return would be the 4% cash back via Slide + a 4.5% points rebate on the USB AR card, for a total of 8.5%. That’s very often going to be a best-in-class return.
- Will the category of the underlying merchant pass through for purposes of bonus category earning?
- On MPX, the category of the underlying merchant does pass through for Citi and Chase cards. For example, if you purchase a Domino’s GC using MPX and paying with a Citi Prestige, you will earn 5x TYPs on the Prestige as a restaurant purchase, in addition to the 5x United miles earned through MPX.
- If underlying merchant categories do not pass through, how does Slide code and will it be eligible for any bonus categories?
Early Experiments and DPs with Slide
So far, we’ve done 2 transactions using Slide – a purchase of a Domino’s GC for $8.65 and a purchase of a Chipotle GC for $15.48. Let’s look at these transactions and see what we can learn:
Purchase #1 – $8.65 Domino’s GC on 6/2/20 paid via Citi Prestige
Items of note here:
- The purchase method shows as an Online purchase
- This, combined with the category description below, suggests that there’s a good chance that Slide purchases will earn 3x TYPs in the Online Retail bonus category of the Citi AT&T Access More card (ATTAM).
- The category is “Merchandise – Misc General Merchandise Not Classified”
- This suggests that the merchant category did not pass through. Domino’s would show up as a restaurant if the merchant category passed through (as we know from purchasing Domino’s GCs via MPX in the past).
- The merchant shows up as Slide *Domino’s
- Merchant categories *do* pass through in some situations with similar merchant details – for instance, purchases through MPX and purchases at restaurants that use Toast payment processing systems (which show up as MPX *[Merchant] and TST *[Merchant]). That format could be consistent with pass-through merchant categories, but it doesn’t appear to be the case here.
- Based on the merchant category, we would expect that this purchase ordinarily would have earned 1x TYP
- In this case, though, we earned 5x TYPs. Why?
- Unbeknownst to us at the time, the date of our purchase was the day that a Citi Prestige promotion went into effect where Online purchases would earn 5x TYPs.
- It’s also possible that the merchant category actually passed through, despite what we’re seeing here, and we earned 5x TYPs as a restaurant purchase.
- Our best guess is that we earned 5x as an Online purchase under the new Prestige promo. When checking past MPX transactions where the restaurant category passed through on Prestige, the merchant category is “Restaurants – Eating Place, Restaurant.”
- If our guess is correct, this further supports our preliminary conclusion that Slide purchases will earn 3x TYPs on the Citi ATTAM card.
- In this case, though, we earned 5x TYPs. Why?
Purchase #2 – $15.48 GC at Chipotle on 6/4/20 paid via Apple Pay/US Bank Altitude Reserve
Items of note on this transaction:
- The charge was for $15.13. The Slide app automatically applied the $0.35 we’d earned on our Domino’s GC purchase to this transaction.
- Thus, we purchased a $15.48 GC, but after the $0.35 earnings were applied, the charge on our USB AR card was for $15.13.
- US Bank expressly recognizes that we used Apple Pay for this transaction
- Our USB AR statement hasn’t cut yet to confirm that we earned 3x points for this transaction, but given that the transaction data expressly shows Apple Pay, we’re pretty certain we’ll earn 3x.
- We have a weird contradiction on how this purchase codes. On the USB website, the merchant category shows “Miscellaneous General Merchandise.” However, on the USB app, the category shows “Food & Dining.”
- So, the merchant category didn’t pass through for the website data, but it *did* pass through for the data shown on the USB app. Note also that the transaction detail on the USB app doesn’t mention Slide at all – it simply shows that we made a purchase from Chipotle.
- This is all very curious and keeps us from making firm conclusions about category pass-through. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter for purposes of our USB AR, as the transaction should earn 3x as Mobile Wallet purchase regardless of the merchant category.
- We’re cautiously optimistic about being able to use Slide in conjunction with Apple Pay/USB AR going forward without being shut down. First, the amounts of the purchases aren’t likely to be huge and thus should be less likely to set off alarms at USB. Second, the amounts of Slide purchases should be varied and won’t belie that they are GC purchases (like a purchase for $505.95 would do). Third, the way this purchase displays on our USB app suggests that US Bank’s systems may be seeing this as a purchase from the restaurant. Fourth, nothing in the transaction data indicates that this is a gift card purchase. And fifth, it doesn’t seem like this is the type of GC purchase that US Bank wants to discourage in any event.
We need to experiment further with Slide to learn more about how it works. But for now, our best guesses are that:
- Underlying merchant categories will not pass through for purposes of bonus category earning for Citi; thus, Slide purchases will only earn at an unbonused rate (except for Citi ATTAM, as discussed in the next bullet point)
- Slide purchases should qualify as Online transactions, so we believe they should qualify as Online transactions for bonus category earning on the Citi AT&T Access More and Bank of America Cash Rewards card
- For now, we believe we should be able to use Apple Pay with a US Bank Altitude Reserve card as our payment method to earn 3x USB points per dollar, without significant risk of shutdown, at least so long as the volume of Slide purchases is moderate
We’ll use these assumptions in our section analyzing when to use Slide vs MPX, below.
Slide or MPX?
There’s a lot of overlap of participating merchants between Slide and MPX. Obviously, if a merchant only participates in one of these platforms, that’s the one we’ll want to use. But what about when merchants participate in both? Which will we choose?
To choose between Slide and MPX, we’ll want to analyze our total return and choose the best option. Total return consists of the portal benefit *plus* the credit card rewards you can earn.
To help calculate this, it helps to know some things about MPX: For the MPX portal benefit, there are varying rates of return, ranging from 0.5x to 5x United miles per dollar (and sometimes higher during short-term promotions). We give United miles a baseline value of 1.25 cents per mile (but right now, I’m not sure we’d “pay” 1 cent out of pocket for a UA mile). On the credit card reward side, underlying merchant categories pass through for Citi and Chase (but not Amex), so, for instance, we can earn 5x TYPs when purchasing a Domino’s GC through MPX. All MPX purchases code as Online purchases for Citi, so a Citi ATTAM card can earn 3x TYPs on all purchases.
The Slide side of the analysis is easier. The portal rewards are always 4% cash back. We’ve talked a lot above about the credit card side. For us, we’re going to use 4.5% as our benefit – Apple Pay using the USB AR card as the payment source for all Slide purchases. (If you don’t have a USB AR card, you’ll need to plug in your own best-in-class card.) That makes our personal total return on Slide 8.5% for all merchants.
Let’s look at some restaurant examples:
Domino’s Pizza: On MPX, Domino’s would earn 5x UA miles (6.25%) plus 5x TYPs using a Citi Prestige (another 6.25%). That’s a total return of 12.5%. Thus, we’ll use MPX for Domino’s.
Chipotle and Baskin Robbins: On MPX, Chipotle and Baskin Robbins would earn 0.5x UA miles (0.6%) plus 5x TYPs using a Citi Prestige (6.25%). That’s a total return of 6.85%. Thus, we’ll prefer Slide for Chipotle and Baskin Robbins.
Fleming’s Steakhouse: On MPX, Fleming’s would earn 3x UA miles (3.75%) plus 5x TYPs using a Citi Prestige (6.25%). The total return using MPX is 10.0%, so it looks like we’ll still prefer MPX over Slide at Fleming’s.
We think 3x earning on MPX is the tipping point for restaurants. At 3x UA miles or greater, we’ll choose MPX; less than that, we’ll choose Slide. We recognize that 2x UA earning on MPX would technically result in a higher return on MPX (8.75%) than on Slide (8.5%). But at that point, we think we’d prefer more cash back over more UA miles.
Now, let’s look at some non-restaurant examples:
Gap: On MPX, Gap would earn 5x UA miles (6.25%) plus 3x TYPs using a Citi ATTAM card (3.75%). That’s a total return of 10% on MPX. As with the Fleming’s example above, we’d use MPX for this purchase.
Guitar Center: On MPX, Guitar Center would earn 3x UA miles (3.75%) plus 3x TYPs using Citi ATTAM (another 3.75%). The total return using MPX is 7.5%. Thus, for Guitar Center, we’d prefer Slide.
For non-restaurants, the tipping point for us would be 5x UA miles or greater. 4x UA earning on MPX would technically result in a higher return on MPX (8.75%) than on Slide (8.5%), but as we noted above, we’d prefer more cash back over more UA miles given that the overall returns are so close.
Slide Opportunities That Jumped Out at Us
We wanted to be sure to point out a couple of Slide opportunities that jumped out at us. Groupon is 4% cash back on Slide but not available at all on MPX. A total return of 8.5% on a Groupon GC, which could then be stacked with a shopping portal, seems like a good opportunity. We also saw that eBay is available on Slide with a 4% cash back return plus credit card rewards. eBay is only 1x on MPX, which makes Slide a much better value proposition if you’re purchasing an eBay GC.
General Reminders About GC Usage & Purchases
Before we close this article, we wanted to issue a reminder about when we don’t want to use merchant GCs for purchases at all. We’ll want to use a credit card directly, and not a GC, when:
- We’re purchasing an item that we might need to return
- Returns with refunds made to GCs are notoriously troublesome
- We’re purchasing an item where extended warranty protection, purchase protection, or price protection would be helpful
- This would typically be the case with a big-ticket, electronics and/or computer item
We also want to remind readers that GC discounts that are even better than returns on Slide or MPX can be available through Raise or other discounted GC sites, through Sam’s Club or BJ’s, or through other promotions. We really like the ability to purchase exact-value GCs, though, so that we don’t have to keep up with physical GCs, track balances, or even remember that we have unused GCs that we need to use.
We’ve tried to examine the new Slide app in great detail here. Further experiments and data points are needed to see exactly how Slide works and when it’s the best option for maximizing our points-and-miles returns. But we think we’re off to a good start here. We’re certainly happy to have Slide as a new option to earn more points and miles!
What are your thoughts on Slide and our analysis? If you have experience and data points with Slide and earnings on various credit cards, can you please contribute them here? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!
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