I can’t remember when or why I got a Banana Republic credit card. I think it was one of those days where we were buying a bunch of clothes, probably several hundred dollars, and they ask “do you want to save 10% on your order today?”, and back then I probably was happy to give up a hard inquiry on my credit report for maybe a $30 or $40 discount. But anyway at some point I got the card, which basically offers 5% of spend at Banana Republic / Gap brand stores in the form of vouchers for use at their stores, and 1% everywhere else. Not very exciting at all, and you can do better than the 5% back just by using a Chase Ink at Staples to buy Gap gift cards and earn 5x Ultimate Rewards. So this card serves little purpose in the average wallet.
However the reason I absolutely love this card is the ridiculous promos they run. For the past couple of years they have run targeted promos in the last two months of the year where they offered 200 bonus points (worth $2 in voucher) for each transaction during a two month period. I got targeted last year and I distinctly remember getting the flyer in the mail and scouring the fine print to see some minimum transaction size or upper limit on the number of points you could earn, but those terms just weren’t there. A little trial and error and SlickDeals interaction quickly taught me you could do 20 transactions a day before your card locked out. You could in theory call in and have them lift the lock, but I figured 20 a day is a healthy number to go with. And so last year for all of November and December I paid my water utility bill $0.01 at a time, earning around $2,400 in vouchers for use at Banana Republic / Gap. Of course we only ever redeemed those vouchers when there was at least 40% off, and in one case managed to spend a bunch when Banana Republic online was mistakenly allowing multiple discounts to stack, giving us 64% off. So overall we bought nearly $5k worth of clothes at Banana Republic, Gap and Athleta in 2013 that actually cost us maybe around $50. It was without a doubt the best deal of 2012!
So imagine my disappointment when I got the flyer again this year… but finally they worked out to cap it at 5000 points, or $50 value. Well at least they still let me play in the sandbox, even if they had removed most of the sand. I figured the marketing guys finally got their act together and read about the concept of anti-selection. But then today, out of the blue, I get an email from them with a new promo:
One can only assume their marketing department thinks the world is made up of normal people, who maybe have a handful of transaction over $75 they would want to make in any given 10 day period. What they clearly did not bank on was people relatively proficient in techniques of manufactured spend, who see this as an opportunity to earn 13.33% cash back on spends of exactly $75.
There are significant limits. First of all, you need to be targeted. If you have a BR card, check your email. Looking on SlickDeals it looks like some people have different offers such as $10 for $100 or $10 for $150. It seems after the abuse I gave them last year, they are daring me to do it again with the best offer this year!
The next limit is just 10 days, with just 20 transactions a day without having to escalate through customer service. Now last year this was easy to manage with lots and lots of small transactions. But 20 x $75 transactions puts you at $1,500 spend a day. My BR card only has a paltry $4k limit, so I am going to need to be paying down the card on a very regular basis.
So how best to take advantage? There are numerous way I can think of. I first considered Amex gift cards via TCB. But that’s a lot of little Amex gift cards to deal with. In the end I decided on a non-free but very easy mechanism – Google Wallet. While you do pay 2.9%, you are still coming out way ahead. Essentially each transaction earns you $10 and costs you $2.11 so a net profit of $7.89. Do that 20 times a day (which would take you maybe 30 minutes a day to do between loading and unloading) and you end up with $2,000 to spend at these stores at a cost of $422. There are other techniques that can certainly get that cost down to zero or even below, but I don’t think there is anything as convenient, so this is the path I am taking.
Hopefully you got the email, and if you don’t have this card it is definitely one to keep in the back pocket while they have clowns running their marketing.
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