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With very few exceptions, there is no reason to pay retail price when you shop. With all the tools, websites, loyalty programs, gift cards, and technology in existence today, I'd argue there is always at least one way to save at any retailer you visit. When you combine multiple savings techniques into one purchase, we call that a “stack.” I try to at least double stack on every household purchase, including the mundane. Today, I'll give a few examples of stacking techniques I use to save as much money as possible.
Tools of the Trade
Many stacking techniques use apps or rewards portals that you need to be familiar with. Here are some of the most common ones: (Links are my referral links if available. Thanks for your support.)
DOSH — A cash-back app that allows you to link a debit or credit card and earn cash back when you use your linked card at a participating merchant.
TopCashBack — A cash-back portal that often has good payout percentages. I've had very few problems with this site tracking my purchases.
Ebates/Rakuten — Perhaps the most popular cash-back portal. It also has a mobile app and offers in-store cash-back deals when using a linked credit or debit card. You can now also earn Amex Membership Rewards through Ebates—check out this post for details.
United MileagePlus X — A mobile app that lets you earn United miles by purchasing eGift Cards, dining at participating restaurants, or shopping online. MileagePlus routinely offers 5X–10X United miles per dollar at many merchants and restaurants.
Swych — A mobile app that often sells merchant gift cards at a discount. You can also enter gift cards from any merchant into the app, and it will generate a barcode for an easier checkout process in store.
SPENT Money — Another cash-back app that works by allowing you to link a credit or debit card and shop at participating merchants. SPENT often has some very attractive payouts—like 6% currently available on Home Depot purchases made online.
Fetch Rewards — Take a picture of your grocery receipt and earn cash back (or even free items). Search the listing of current items offering bonus payouts and add them to your account before uploading a receipt. This clever app gets me lots of cash back on my grocery shopping.
Bumped — An incredibly interesting new app that rewards you not with cash back, but with stock in the participating merchants when you shop with a linked credit card. I am currently earning AT&T, Kroger and Spotify stock with my monthly cell phone, grocery and Spotify purchases.
Ibotta — A cash-back app that works by offering you discounts on specific products. Add the discounts to your Ibotta account and upload a picture of your receipt or link your grocery-store loyalty card to give Ibotta your purchase information. This is an easy way to save cash on your next trip to the grocery or drug store.
Cashbackmonitor — A great website that aggregates the earning rates for a particular merchant on all of the different shopping portals. Quickly compare who is offering the most points or cash back for an online purchase before you buy.
There are two items you need on top of these programs:
First, you'll want a solid rewards-earning credit card that ensures you earn more than 1X points (or more than 1% cash back) on every purchase. We like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card as personal cards. For business spending, the clear winner is The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express.
Second, sign up for merchant-specific loyalty programs like Kroger Fuel Points or Chipotle Rewards. You'd be surprised by the merchants that have a loyalty program.
The Kroger Sextuple Stack — My largest household expense outside of the mortgage is our grocery bill. Saving at Kroger has been an obsession of mine ever since I saw the rising bill as my two kids continue to grow and as we continue to make our diet healthier. Here are the six ways I save every time we head to Kroger:
- The American Express® Gold Card earns 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X). The card comes with a ton of benefits that easily justify the $250 annual fee (Rates & Fees). I value these points at 2 cents each, so the earning rate works out to an 8% rebate on my Kroger purchases.
- Kroger App Coupons — We get some nice discounts on the items we buy often. Make sure to add these to your Kroger account before checking out in-store.
- Kroger Fuel Points — Typically you earn 1X Fuel Points for every dollar spent. Often there are coupons in the Kroger app (like currently) for 2X Fuel Points on all purchases, and about once a month, you can get 4X Fuel Points on gift cards. 100 Fuel Points will save you ten cents per gallon on up to 35 gallons of gas. Through buying and reselling gift cards, I always earn enough Fuel Points to save the maximum $1 off/gallon when I fill up at Kroger.
- Ibotta — Before shopping, I do a quick scan of the Ibotta app and save offers for specific items to my Ibotta account. Since my Kroger loyalty card is linked to Ibotta, I earn cash back automatically on the items I added to Ibotta before checking out.
- Fetch Rewards — I upload my receipt and earn a receipt scan bonus plus additional savings on any offers I've saved on Fetch Rewards for specific items bought.
- My Amex Gold is linked to the Bumped app mentioned above, and I earn 1% of my checkout total in Kroger stock every time I shop.
The Absent Power Bill — Arcadia Power is a green energy company that acts as an intermediary between you and your power provider. Although I’m not 100% sure how their finances work, it seems that the company uses its buying power to negotiate better rates and uses part of the surplus to purchase renewable energy credits. When you refer others, they get up to $25 for signing up, and you’ll get a $5 referral credit. Even better, they sometimes offer targeted referral bonuses. I recently took advantage of an offer for a $1,000 credit for referring 10 people in a month, and I haven’t had a power bill since February.
Haircut Triple Stack — With my receding hairline now negating the ability to get stylish, all I need is a quick clipper trim at my local SuperCuts salon.
- If you sign up for the Super Cuts e-mail list, you'll get a coupon for $2 off your first haircut.
- Several of my Chase cards are frequently targeted with a 10% discount when I activate the deal through Chase Offers.
- Then, I use my Chase Freedom Unlimited® card to earn 1.5X Ultimate Rewards on the purchase.
With frequent $1-to-$3-off coupons by email, a 10% discount from Chase Offers, and 1.5X Ultimate Rewards on the remaining cost, I score an easy 20% off my “dad haircut” every time.
Triple Dip(stick) Oil Change — There are a few ways to save on oil changes, but here's my personal favorite:
- I wait for a Groupon offer to come up for a national chain like Jiffy Lube.
- I go through a cash-back portal to buy the (already discounted) oil change.
- I pay with my Freedom Unlimited card.
You save with the Groupon, earn cashback through the cash-back portal, and earn Chase Ultimate Rewards on the purchase. You can regularly find a Groupon promo code as well for local deals and turn this one into a quadruple stack.
The Gas Triple Stack — I've covered this in detail a few times here on the AwardWallet Blog, and you need a few additional apps to reach the triple or even quadruple stack with fuel savings.
- Use the Shell Fuel Rewards program to drop the price at the pump.
- Pay With Gas Buddy to earn Shop Your Way points based on how many gallons you pump.
- Upload your receipt into TruNow and GetUpside to earn additional savings.
Although it's true that stacking can be a fair amount of time and effort at the beginning, I think it's well worth making the investment. Once you learn the basics and set up your system for a particular category of purchase, it becomes second nature rather quickly. There's a bit of a learning curve, but once you get going, it's surprisingly easy to continue saving with minimal time.
With automatic earning on apps like Ibotta or DOSH, you may even forget you're saving money until you look at your account at the end of the month. It's worth noting that there are a few highly lucrative stacking techniques that save up to 50% at certain retailers. Dig into the stacking world, and you'll soon be finding new opportunities everywhere.
For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees)
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