X Marks the Spot

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One of the fun things about the miles game is that every day consumption becomes a big puzzle.

Every purchase becomes an opportunity to flex your savings muscles.

Mundane things like filling up your gas tank: Goldmine!

Buying toilet paper? 5% cashback baby.

At its worst the miles game can seem like a mental gymnastics meet.

Buying a pack of gum you may find yourself tortured with the thought, “which card is the best one to use now?” or “Is there 3X miles opportunity here that I’m missing out on?”Admittedly it can be a bit taxing.

But There’s definitely some low hanging fruit out there.

One worthy goal is to try to get 5X miles (or cash back) on every purchase.  Over the course of a year 5% is big money.

So let’s just take one family of cards and look at all the ways they can allow you to get 5% back on your purchases.

With the Ink Plus and and Ink Bold Business cards from Chase bank you get 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points just for signing up and spending 5000$ within the first three months after approval.

But even after you’ve acquired this bountiful stash of Ultimate Rewards Points , there is still a tremendous opportunity to acquire more.

That is because this family of cards has tremendous bonus categories. You get 5X points for your cell phone bills, your cable bills, and telephone bills.

So if you autobill $200 a month on these services, that’s 1000 ultimate reward points (conservatively $20 worth of travel) coming to you with almost no effort.

Invest the savings in the stock market and get 7% interest over 10 years and you’re $3500 richer at the end of that time in exchange for almost zero effort.

And here are a couple of slightly more involved ways to get 5% back on many more purchases.

Since these cards get 5% back office-supply stores, you can buy gas cards at office-supply stores and get 5% back on all of your gasoline purchases.

So you can probably add another $3500 to your retirement savings in 10 years with that angle.

Furthermore you could buy Amazon gift cards at office-supply stores for zero cost, and get 5% cashback on a wide range of disposable products including household goods, pet supplies, books, and office supplies shipped to your door from Amazon.com.

In addition to any savings from purchasing goods at the price competitive Amazon, you can also count on an additional $10,000 in your retirement account in 10 years from the 5X cash back if you maximize this strategy.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

You can sometimes double or triple dip by going through cashback portals on the Internet.

double-dip-chipGo ahead…Double dip.  You know you want to.

As an example, find an online portal with an aggregator (like cashbackmonitor.com) using your Ink card to buy OfficeMax gift cards at OfficeMax.com. Get up to 10 times points (5X points for using the ink card, and 5X points for going through a portal ) just for buying the card. Then you can go back through the portal using your gift card to buy an actual product (the legendary triple dip!). At this point you’re at a 15% rebate.

Admittedly this is a bit extreme and requires some patience and planning, but it just goes to show that these strategies can be amplified should you so choose.

And if you get into it, the whole thing feels like a treasure hunt. It’s fun.

The obvious peril is that this could encourage you to buy stuff that you don’t actually need. Not acceptable.

In addition the best laid plans do not always work out exactly as calculated.

But at the end of the endeavor you will likely be pleasantly surprised to find that you have significantly more money in your bank (or retirement) account.

Not to be a nag, but money saved only to be spent on something else is not half as valuable as money saved and invested. The act of putting your penny down on your future completes the picture.

Once you’ve invested your savings the game is no longer just a figurative treasure hunt for fun or diversion.

Its an actual treasure hunt. And the prize is financial freedom.

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