Money Saving Monday: Saving money with points

By glblguy

Scoreboard
Photo by: bjearwicke

One of the things my wife and I have been trying to do a little more lately is taking advantage of points programs. Points programs provide you with points for doing various things. These points can then be used like cash to purchase items, receive gift cards, and give to charity. We’ve been primarily using two programs, but are on the prowl for others:

  1. MyPoints
  2. Debit Card Rewards Points

MyPoints – Earn Points by reading your email

I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical of MyPoints when I first read about it. I incorrectly assumed that I would need to sign-up for a bunch of things in order to get points. Not true. MyPoints provides a number of options for receiving points:

  • Clicking on links in your email – This is the option I use exclusively for 98% of the MyPoints email I get. MyPoints will send you an email, and by just clicking on the email, you get 5 points. Best part, there’s no catch. One little click, and you have your 5 points.
  • Signing up or doing something – In addition to clicking on the links and getting 5 points, you can also sign-up, subscribe, or buy something on the site you’re directed to. These options give you additional points. The amounts vary depending on what you are being asked to do and by the site, but they are much larger. I have signed up for a few things and doing so gave me anywhere from 50 – 250 points. Another option is to use the link to purchase something. These options give you points based on how much you spend. This is a good option if you need to buy something anyway AND the price is competetive. Be careful though, don’t get caught up buying stuff you don’t need or paying too much for something just to get the points. Personally, I haven’t bought anything yet. My wife has bought one thing.
  • Surveys – Surveys have been hit or miss for me, and I sometimes find them a bit frustrating. With surveys, there is usually a pre-screen that asks you about 5 or so questions. Depending on the pre-screen results you may not be eligible to complete the full survey. You get a smaller number of points for the pre-screen, and a larger number of points for filling out the whole survey (if you can). Generally, the surveys take anywhere from 5-15 minutes. I few have taken me significantly longer and I was a pit peeved by the amount of points I received vs. my time. Fortunately this is rare. MyPoints has also added a status bar at the bottom showing you how far along you are. Just make sure the amount of points is worth the time.
  • Visiting their site – The main MyPoints site runs web surveys that can give you additional points. These offers are not sent to you via email, so you’ll need to visit the site daily to get optimum value. These are usually very quick poles that take only a couple of seconds. After you complete them, you are routed to an advertisers site and presented with an opportunity to get more points.
  • MyPoints Toolbar – They offer a toolbar you can install, and by using it you get additional points. I personally don’t install stuff like this, but my wife used it for a few weeks. While maybe coincidental, we noticed she started getting a bit of spyware, so we un-installed it.
  • Play Games – They also offer an option to play games and get points. I haven’t used this option yet, as I assume the games are just fancy ads. Anybody tried these?
  • Referring othersMyPoints also gives you points for referring others.

There are many other ways to get points as well, including shopping through MyPoints, and they seem to come up with new and creative ideas all the time. For example, if you create a new eBay ID and place a bid, you get 100 points. This is easy and painless.

Overall, I like the program a lot. I’ve actually found some interesting services and companies through MyPoints and it can be kinda fun. Right now my wife has over 2,000 points and I have over 1,700. We’re even thinking about letting our two older boys join up to get the referrel points and accumulate points.

MyPoints points can then be redeemed for a HUGE assortment of things, visa gift cards, merchant specific gift cards, restaurants, computers, online stores, etc, etc. For a really good article on how maximize you MyPoints points, read Paid Twice’s article Maximizing Your MyPoints Rewards. Lots of good tips and analysis.

Debit Card Rewards

Another points program we use that is really pretty passive is debit card rewards. Not all banks participate in these programs, but I bank with Wachovia and fortunately they do. Their program is called Wachovia Possibilities. Whenever you purchase items using your check card, you earn some number of points for each dollar you spend. Here’s the trick though, you only earn points on signed purchases. So if you use your PIN, you don’t get points. This was something I didn’t realize until recently. I generally always use my PIN, but no more. I want those points!

You also earn points my making internet purchases, phone and mail order purchases, and by paying your bills online. Note on bills online though, if you use your banks bill pay, this doesn’t count. You actually have to use the card to pay the bill.

Points can be redeemed for gift cards, gift certificates, and to purchase products. The concept is similar to MyPoints, but more passive in that you can just use your debit card normally. Again though, don’t buy things just to get points.

Do you use points programs? If so, which ones? What tips do you have? Share your perspective, thoughts or feedback by adding a comment!


26 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Money Saving Monday: Saving money with points”

  1. paidtwice Says:

    Thanks for linking my rewards post!

    Those are the two programs I use too. My debit card also has reward points. the collection is SLOW but, I just use it normally and I get points so, painless. Eventually I’ll earn some free money!

    The only thing I have bought through MYPoints I used a gift card I earned through MyPoints to buy… I am tricky. lol. I even got points for it! How about that… ;)

  2. Kacie Says:

    Good stuff! How do you plan to redeem your points?

    For a double-whammy on some points programs, if you were planning to buy something online, you could access it through MyPoints and pay for it with your points debit or credit card. Woo hoo!

    I use MyPoints and Ebates to rack up the points/cash. There’s another one out there, Fat Wallet (I think) but I haven’t tried it.

  3. Randall Says:

    I’ve used Mypoints for years. I don’t use the toolbar, but the points do add up. I’ve just mass-opened the e-mails every week or so, don’t really bother to read them, and gain 5 points per. I use the points at the end of the year for a gift for the family. I haven’t spent any money on magazines in years because of this.

  4. Lynnae @ beingfrugal.net Says:

    I love my points too. Writing about it tomorrow, in fact. ;)

    I hardly ever read the emails these days. I don’t use the toolbar either, but when I’m shopping online, I go through their site. The points add up really quickly!

    I wish my debit card had rewards points. We don’t have a Wachovia here. :(

  5. Justin Says:

    You know that using your PIN you are giving up even more of your protections, right? Visa or mastercard, whichever is on your debit card, does not protect PIN based transactions.

  6. glblguy Says:

    @Justin – I honestly don’t think about it much. But, the points thing made me think about it, so signing will be a win/win :-)

  7. paidtwice Says:

    You earn points for the debit card transactions with signed purchases only as gibble said, so using your pin is obsolete! I always sign :)

  8. Deamiter @ handlingfinances.com Says:

    Justin — you’re absolutely wrong about protection with Debit cards. Both Visa and Mastercard have voluntarily (i.e. they can choose to change their policy as it’s not law) limited fraud losses to $50 for all debit card transactions. Signed transactions are actually legally more risky since they aren’t always processed entirely on Visa/Mastercard servers (so they might not be responsible for the loss) but in practice, consumers virtually always get their money back both ways.

    As for the article — glblguy, you should be aware that signing for the transaction actually increases the cost to the merchant from about $0.08 for a pin-based transaction to around 2% of the transaction. Unless you’re getting 2% back in rewards, you end up paying for it in the price of the merchandise you buy so you’re not really ending up ahead. The rewards program makes you FEEL like you’re coming out ahead, but the only one making more money off the signed transaction is the banks that process the transactions.

  9. justin Says:

    @Deamiter: With all due respect, no. I am 100% correct and you are the mistaken party. You have it reversed. According to Visa, PIN-based transactions may process through non-Visa networks, which may or may not match Visa’s zero-liability policy. The financial institution that issued your card will decide your liability in cases of fraud. Signing for purchases ensures that the transaction processes over the Visa network and falls under the protection of the zero-liability umbrella. See http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/banking/creditcardsmarts/debitcardstooriskyforbigpurchases.aspx

  10. justin Says:

    Oops. As for the 2% more, you me and everyone else is already paying the 2% extra. It’s not like the price of a dozen eggs changes when you get to checkout and you try and use your signature based card.

  11. glblguy Says:

    @Kacie – Haven’t decided yet on the myPoints points. With my visa rewards, I ordered a Visa Gift Card. Probably use it to pay against my credit cards.

  12. Deamiter @ handlingfinances.com Says:

    Sorry about that, I did get the systems mixed around. Regardless, whether or not you use the PIN has absolutely no bearing on fraudulent transactions. The problem is when a THIEF uses the card, and unless you share the pin number with the world (or fail to conceal it when you punch it in) the thief will only be able to use signature-based transactions anyway. Unless you’re planning to make fraudulent transactions yourself, it’s a bit silly to worry over whether your valid transactions are protected! The link below discusses how signature fraud is 15 times higher than pin-based fraud and mentions that most pin-based fraud is perpetuated by family or friends (don’t give out your pin!) or skimming schemes that wouldn’t fall under the $50 either way.

  13. glblguy Says:

    @Deamiter – Sorry, there are a few comments that for some reason don’t show up. I’ll see if i can get it to post.

  14. glblguy Says:

    ok here is the rest of Deamiter’s comment:

    As for the 2% fees, it’s true, the fee isn’t passed directly on to the customers at most stores. Given that credit and debit cards have passed 50% of in-store payments, the price of goods must have increased by at least 1% to compensate. If you’re okay with giving 1% to the bank for the convenience of using a credit card (and I certainly am) that’s fine, just don’t fool yourself into thinking that the cards don’t increase prices. Of course, when you pay with a debit card, you do have a choice to either give the banks a higher cut in exchange for a kickback (also known as ‘rewards’) or to have the transaction processed more efficiently. It’ll end up about equal either way, just don’t pretend that rewards are putting you ahead financially.
    http://www.digitaltransactions.net/newsstory.cfm?newsid=738

  15. Deamiter @ handlingfinances.com Says:

    No problem — it’s a petty issue anyway, I certainly use credit cards since I feel that a 1% increase in overall prices (50% of in-store transactions processed with a 2% merchant discount) is worth the convenience of not having to carrying around cash or checks. I just think we need to be aware that rewards cards are little better than kickbacks as the banks give us 1% while merchants have to increase prices slightly to account for the 2% merchant discounts.

    As for signature vs. pin, I was wrong about which method is covered by VISA/MC systems. Justin — thanks for correcting me! Of course, since virtually all stolen-debit fraud is signature based, I don’t see how using the debit card legitimately is more risky, but since my explanation with a link seems to be censored by the almighty and temperamental WordPress, I’ll just let it go.

  16. Justin Says:

    @Deamiter: No worries. I saw all your replies as email comments, but they don’t appear on the site. Weird!

    As for only getting 1% back? You need to get more creative. Over the last 12 months I was getting back 12% on Gas, Groceries and drugstore. 3% on restaurant. 2% on travel. Everything else varied between 1.5 and 3%.

    Yes, signature based fraud is more common than PIN based, however should you ever get your PIN stolen by a skimmer or whatever, you don’t even have the Visa or Mastercard protections available to you. Then you are completely at the mercy of your bank.

  17. NoDebtPlan Says:

    I just signed up with (I’m guessing) your affiliate link. Hopefully that helps you out. Worth a shot, right?

    I use FatWallet for additional cash back on purchases I would have made regardless.

  18. JadedTLC Says:

    Ugh those my points programs. Please reconsider using them. Basically they are scamming advertisers out of good money because the advertiser thinks you’re an interested person when you click those email links. Then when you don’t purchase, the advertiser thinks they just aren’t doing the ads correctly when that wasn’t the case.

    Also if you use my points, you’re just selling your information to my points to sell to other folks. I guarantee your junk email and junk snail mail will increase at least threefold. :( Sorry, i wish i had blogged about it.

  19. Deamiter @ handlingfinances.com Says:

    Don’t the companies advertising with the points sites understand the business model of the points sites? It seems to me that the points model might be rather lucrative as people are minorly rewarded for actively clicking on an ad, and promised even more points if they purchase from the advertiser. If the companies that make the ads really don’t know that they’re being presented as part of a points program, I could see your point but I don’t think that’s the case (not that I’ve actually researched it or anything).

    As for the spam, again, I don’t see anything fundamentally wrong with selling your information and getting junk mail in return. I wouldn’t do it myself, but it’s not inherently evil or anything.

  20. glblguy Says:

    @JadedTLC – Well, I don’t know the details about what the advertisers think, but I am sure they are privy to the idea and provided with stats on click throughs. I am sure they know, AND pay to be part of the program. Companies are not stupid, nor do they spend their money unwisely, so they know the benefit vs. the payout.

    I get no spam as a result of MyPoints, most the advertisers give you an option and an opt-out. The companies on MyPoints also have to conform to strict guidelines MyPoints has set up.

    Check it out a little more and I think you’ll find it’s a good and reputable program. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t feel strongly it was a good program for my readers.

    @Deamiter – Good points. They are paying for exposure. Sort of like using StumbleUpon.

  21. FranticWoman Says:

    I forgot how I discovered MyPoints, but I’ve been using it since Aug 2006. I’ve already earned one $25 gc to Target and another for $50. It came quick after requesting it too.

    I dont make any purchases without going to MyPoints first! I’m buying things I normally would – but now earn stuff instead! I just booked a hotel room thru them – they linked me to Orbitz – 3 points per $ ! I would have done that anyway…nice to get a reward.

    A gift card is a good idea too….that way I dont have to worry about potential extra income that might be taxable.

    PS: I also use MemoLink. It is the same concept, but I don’t find it so friendly; but, I’m on my way to earning $10 soon, so I shouldnt complain.

  22. justin Says:

    @Franticwoman: A giftcard is just as much income as cash. Whether or not either are considered income to the IRS is another question, but if say, you worked at Target and were paid in Target gift cards, you will still owe income tax on those gift cards.

  23. FranticWoman Says:

    If it is a gift, why is it considered income?
    When I receive a gift card from a friend or family member it isn’t income and MyPoints is sending a GIFT card. I don’t see why it isnt considered a gift in that instance.

  24. justin Says:

    You can call it whatever you want, it’s still income. Whether it’s taxable is another question. If your employer paid you in GIFT cards, do you think it wouldn’t be income?

    Friends and family can give you up to 12,000 dollars worth of gift before it’s taxed.

    Mypoints is paying you to do something, it doesn’t matter how it comes. I am NOT saying it’s taxable, I don’t think it is. Whether it comes as cash or check or gift card doesn’t make any difference though.

  25. Becky Says:

    I also signed up through your link. Thanks for the info and idea to make some extra $$!

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