BigCrumbs Site-Wide Sale; My Musings About Free Rebates and Cash-Earning Credit Cards

BigCrumbs is currently having a sale throughout its Internet web site through November 26, 2012 where you can earn a higher cash rebate on qualifying purchases through participating merchants — some of which are companies in the travel industry such as Alaska Airlines and InterContinental Hotels Group — with no fees and free standard shipping to sweeten the deal.

BigCrumbs offers a free on-line loyalty program that pays the highest overall cash back available at popular retailers via the Internet — and its members can earn even more cash with referrals. However, you must first register as a member of BigCrumbs before you can take advantage of this sale — but registration is free of charge.

An example of one deal from BigCrumbs is that you can earn 10,000 Starwood Hotels and Resorts Starpoints for fewer than $60.00, according to FlyerTalk member Mrgolfer21. That translates to 0.6 cents per Starpoint, as the cash-back rebate increases to 2.82 percent — up from 2.1 percent when the sale concludes. You can also earn a 1.88 percent cash-back rebate on American Express gift cards, which can be like earning 1.88 percent in free money — more if you use a credit card which will earn you cash back or frequent traveler loyalty program miles or points to pay for the purchase. There are many participating merchants which offer an even larger temporary cash-back rebate percentage.

Although I do not participate in BigCrumbs at this time, I see no clear disadvantage to joining and recommend you join as a member if you believe you will benefit from its loyalty program.

Other ways of earning free money are in shopping for products where they are free after rebates. I used to do this all of the time with OfficeMax and other retailers, thinking that it was a “no-brainer.” I also received free cash by using a cash-back rebate credit card to actually profit slightly on the deal. The problem is that at the time I was fully involved, I not only had to create copies of my receipts and rebate forms and mail them out — costing me postage — but I had to keep track of my rebates. There were several times where the company processing the rebates would deny my claim, but I always won out. Still, it was a lot of trouble — but I had never even thought of writing a weblog about my experiences, as I thought that anyone who was not already doing it was simply not interested.

However, rebates are much easier today, thanks to companies such as Staples. While the products are not nearly as attractive to me as the ones OfficeMax offered — free USB hubs, card readers, a tool kit, compact disc cases and monitor cleaners were some of the items I found useful at the time which I received at a slight profit using my cash-back rebate credit cards — you can still profit from the deals, as illustrated by FrequentMiler, whom I met earlier this year but will not publicly reveal his identity.

I mentioned that I use cash-back rebate credit cards, rather than credit cards which earn frequent traveler loyalty program miles and points. While he was driving Ben Schlappig of the One Mile at a Time weblog, me and a couple other passengers to an event in California a couple of years ago, Gary Leff of the View From The Wing weblog and I had a friendly argument about which is better. Gary prefers a credit card which earns frequent traveler loyalty program miles and points if he gets a rate of return more substantial than I receive with my cash-back credit cards. I maintain that while that may be true — but not always — I can do whatever I want with the cash I receive and not have to be subject to the rules and limitations of the frequent traveler loyalty program. Imagine my surprise, then, when I read what Gary posted yesterday:

Consider a Cash Back Credit Card. If you aren’t going to redeem for awards where the flights would normally cost thousands of dollars, then you’re likely to do better with a 2% cash back card like the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express. Take the cash, you can even buy airline tickets with that cash, and you don’t have to worry about capacity controls. This is a reasonable strategy if your likely airline redemptions are for domestic economy travel.”

It is nice to know that Gary acknowledges my argument as to the benefits of having a cash-back rebate credit card, although I do acquiesce to his argument that if you are able to benefit enough from the frequent traveler loyalty program points or miles — as well as attain elite status — then perhaps it might just be worth paying the annual fee and minimum required spend to get a credit card which earns frequent traveler loyalty program miles and points. However, the credit cards I use have no annual fee and I receive cash back, although the amount of the rebate can vary with the annual spend, depending on the card.

There are also credit cards which earn frequent guest loyalty program points — such as the Hilton HHonors card by American Express — which charge you no annual fee. However, how does it compare to the Hilton HHonors Surpass card from American Express, which charges a $75.00 annual fee — and are the upgraded benefit rights for you?

I suppose that Gary and I can agree that perhaps it is best to equip your credit card arsenal with the credit cards which benefit you the most and use them efficiently and properly to get the most out of them.

The point is that it can seem like a full-time job wading through the world of cash back offers and free rebates while earning frequent traveler loyalty program miles and points — and victory can seem sweet when you profit from arbitrage opportunities, as I have done countless times.

Is the effort worth it? Not if it takes your valuable time away from activities which can earn you more money. Spending an hour to profit $20.00 and have a product you can use can be worthwhile to you as opposed to working at a fast-food restaurant or a retail store for $8.00 per hour before taxes. However, if you are a consultant earning $50.00 or more per hour, then you will not benefit from this activity unless you enjoy doing it in your spare time.

Calculate your return on investment, including your time spent. Unless the item is truly free after rebate or you actually profit from the deal, it is usually not worth the trouble just to receive an item you probably never wanted anyway.

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