Money Saving Monday: Saving money with points
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:
- 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 others – MyPoints 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!