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The Credit Card Hack That Has Saved Caitlin THOUSANDS Of Dollars

It’s time to admit it: I, Caitlin Higgins, am one of those credit card freaks. You know – the kind of person who reads blogs and forums about the best cards and redemptions and offers and points valuations and 5/24 strategies (that’s a deep cut for my fellow dorks out there, hi!!!)…and, well, I’m sure you get the picture, right?

That brings us to today’s post: I have a money-saving “hack” that I want to share with the class. You don’t need to sign up for anything, you don’t need to scan or upload receipts, you don’t need to mail anything in, and it’s saved me thousands (no joke – THOUSANDS) of dollars over the past few years while also allowing me to support brands, restaurants, and hotels (especially small ones!) that otherwise would have been a little out of my budget. You ready for the secret?

CHECK YOUR CREDIT CARD’S REWARD OFFERS. (Cue: sound of deflated balloon to play concurrently along this anticlimactic information.) I know, I know – it’s not rocket science, or a groundbreaking hack, or even a particularly novel idea (sorry), but I’m going to walk you through the entire process (and we’ll tally up my savings at the end, because what is a blog for if NOT consistently oversharing my personal financial information?). Let’s kick it off with…

1. Find Your Offers

Most major credit card providers have a section of their app or website dedicated to these rewards. Today, I’m going to show you screenshots of my actual American Express backend, but Chase and Bank of America also offer similar deals with similar brands (though in my experience, the AmEx offers are THE BEST out there). These rewards change frequently and new offers are added daily, so I like checking in once a week.

Before we get too excited, my inner meemaw needs to step in – I do want to remind you that having a 20% cashback offer from Chairish does not mean that you need to spend $750 at Chairish right now. These are awesome money-saving tools that have been built into credit cards that many of us already use, but please be careful! Budgeting is important. I don’t want anyone going on an impromptu spending spree – MEEMAW IS LOOKIN’ OUT FOR YOU, OK? These offers often have a pretty long shelf life, so you have a while to plan for your new purchases!

That said, these price qualifications (e.g. “spend $500”) also include the tax, shipping, incidentals, tip, etc. which I love! You can also stack them on top of a site-wide sale or coupon code for EXTRA SAVINGS. (We’ll get there.) But before you can earn big rewards, you need to…

2. Add An Offer To Your Card

It’s super simple – just click to add an offer to your card before making any purchases! I have 63 offers currently saved on my Amex, and WAY more across my other cards. Do I plan on using them all? No, but it’s nice to have them all in one place. When I realize I need something – be it bedding, or a hotel, or skincare, or a dress, or a restaurant recommendation – I can see if any relevant offers fit what I’m looking for.

I’m currently in the market for an extra pair of sheets, an outfit for my friend’s Elvis-themed birthday, more overnight moisturizer, and a not-dried-out mascara, so here are a few of the offers currently catching my eye:

  • Spend $300, get $60 back at Parachute. I upgraded to a king bed and Em gave me a set of their linen sheets – they’re UNBELIEVABLE. (They’re also the only set of king-sized sheets I have so far and my cat recently vomited on them which led to an emergency 7 AM laundromat run, so this feels like it’s the most pressing.)
  • Spend $250, get $50 back at Shopbop. So many of my favorite retailers!
  • Spend $200, get $50 back at Alex Mill. This is pretty compelling – I’m crazy about their high-end basics, but they’re not always in the budget.
  • Spend $400, get $80 back at Boll & Branch. I bought their bath sheets a few years ago and I love the size and weight – their bedding is just as nice!
  • Spend $150, get $40 back at CUUP. THESE BRAS ROCK. I love them. I want more!
  • Spend $150, get $30 back at Girlfriend Collective. Do I need new leggings right now? Yes. Is that my current priority? No (but I wish it were).
  • Spend $10.99, get $10.99 back (up to 2 times) from Showtime. Two free months of binge-able TV? I can do that!
  • Spend $150, get $30 back at Turo. I know Em has used Turo and she loves it – maybe this is a good car rental option for my east coast trip later this month?
  • Spend $75, get $20 back at Armstrong Garden Centers. Catch me here this weekend as I try to buy some hanging spring planters!
  • Spend $750, get $150 back at 1stDibs. I mean…this ROCKS.

3. Make Sure You’re Getting the Best Deal

If you have more than one card, cross-check your offers. Case in point, my AmEx and my Bank of America card both offer Parachute deals, but one seems to be superior for me:

If my cart total is greater than $300 – I suspect it will be – I’ll pay with my AmEx and get that sweet $60 statement credit. And if it’s less than $300, I’ll pay with my BoA card and happily collect my 10% cash back. (In a past life, I would have shoved stuff in my cart to reach the $300 threshold EVERY TIME – more savings! – but as an adult, I’ve had to come to terms with the whole “buying things you don’t actually need leaves you with too much inventory to manage, even if you think it’s saving you money” thing. My brain is constantly like “DON’T MISS OUT ON THE BIG DEAL,” but the big deal isn’t always worth it!!! It’s a work in progress over here 🙂

4. Make Your Purchase (and Stack Your Coupons!)

Lemme fill you in on the trifecta real quick:

  1. A Site-Wide Sale: These usually launch around holidays (or on the weekend). A lot of brands have standard discounts – like, you can almost always find a 15% off coupon with a little digging or by signing up to receive emails – but ideally, you’d be capitalizing on one of the bigger deals.
  2. The Sale Section: OH BABY. We all see these pop up occasionally – you know, with messaging like “take an extra 40% off sale items for a limited time” – and those are the BEST deals to grab, obviously.
  3. A Special Coupon Code: Think personalized birthday discounts or referral codes here. Example: in 2018, I was eyeing one of Madewell’s Transport Totes. The color I wanted (a deep green – it was around $160) went on sale, and then a site-wide holiday event knocked an additional 30% off the price. I used my birthday coupon to bring the cost down even further, and an AmEx offer got me $50 cash back. All in, I ended up paying about $40 for a bag I still love and use today! IT ROCKS.

5. Proof’s In The Pudding

OK. That brings us up to speed, right? Time for some first-hand, real-time documentation.

Parachute is currently running a “Last Chance” sale that offers an extra 20% off of sale items, so the stars have aligned for me. (It literally could not have happened at a better time – I am SO EXCITED to get a second set of sheets for my new bed.) Here’s what’s in my actual cart right now:

THAT’S A LOT OF STUFF. Ready to do the money math?

  • The Traditional Purchase Price: $798. I know that number is pretty big and jarring (to me, at least), but I actually don’t think it’s unreasonable – I spend 4 months per year asleep; I keep and use my bedding for years; their linen feels incredible. I think it’s a totally fair price for this type of high quality product, but it’s definitely not anywhere CLOSE to being within my budget.
  • New Sale Pricing: $679. We’re getting closer here!
  • Plus An Extra 20% Off: $543.20. This is a pretty good deal, but still no dice.
  • Combined With My AmEx Offer: $483.20. DING DING DING! We have a winner, folks! I was willing to save up to buy these sheets at full price, but this discount means that I can take the plunge and place my order now.
  • Final Savings: $315. NOT TOO SHABBY, right?

I don’t want to sound flippant or out of touch – $483 is still a ton of money to me (it’s more than my car payment!!!) – but I’ve been budgeting for this splurge since I upgraded my mattress and I’m SO EXCITED to bring home some new bedding that I’ll enjoy using for many years, if not the rest of my life.

In any case, figuring out how to optimize these built-in credit card deals has made it possible for me to splurge on some nicer, heirloom-quality pieces without totally destroying my budget. I hope that maybe this can help you, too – even the smaller offers (you know, the “get $5-10 cash back” ones) REALLY add up over time. Happy saving, happy shopping, HAPPY FRIDAY. (PS. If you added any offers to your cards after reading this, I’d love to hear about it!!! Let’s chat??) xx

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Tessa Neustadt | From: Master Bedroom Refresh with Parachute Home

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Vera
1 year ago

Caitlin!! Only you could make this topic fun, relatable, and actually useful!!

🥰 Rusty
1 year ago

OMG! Caitlin, you’d make an awsome Math Teacher! 💥The kids would be excited to learn!

I don’t have a credit card and only buy things that I’ve aready saved up for (and then wait for big sales); but … if I had one, I’d be trawling through your information.
🤑

KWu
1 year ago

Ah man, I knew about credit card offers like this but got out of the habit of checking them regularly. Thanks for the update, it’s great they’re including more modern brands like Parachute and not just brands that like… Aren’t doing well in malls.

Anyway, I’ll also add the checking for cashback sites can really add up too! I like to use Cashback Monitor’s browser bookmark and then pick the cashback site that I already have an account with. Have definitely saved hundreds over the years with just a couple extra clicks.

ja
1 year ago
Reply to  KWu

Please elaborate for novices – what is a cashback site and how do you know you’re not getting scammed through them? Love, Grandma (dig on myself being old and always suspicious of apps/sites)

ja
1 year ago
Reply to  ja

AND now I fear I have offended the elderly with this comment, so sorry! my mom is actually mega tech savvy and 92 so not sure why I just said that, but can’t delete. I’m usually more sensitive than that.

Angela
1 year ago
Reply to  ja

Cashback sites work by sending traffic to a store (like, say the Gap) and then getting a commission from the store. (Kinda like affiliate links on blogs.) They pass on some of that money to you, the customer. You need to install them on your browser (I think? Maybe there are workarounds here) so you’re definitely agreeing to have your shopping habits tracked, but other than that, I’m not sure there’s a downside or way to be scammed. (You don’t pay any money to the cashback site, just purchase your Gap jeans or whatever as you normally would on the store’s website.)

I use Rakuten and don’t seek out cashback deals, just happily accept the money when there’s cashback on something I was already going to buy. It’s maybe $30-50 a quarter for me…not a ton but a fun little bonus.

ja
1 year ago
Reply to  Angela

thank you!

Alice
1 year ago
Reply to  ja

It’s ok, I’m right there with you. I was in Target yesterday trying to get the “Red Circle” additional 20% off books and had to just hand my phone to an employee and let them figure it out. I still don’t know what she did to make it work.

JJ
1 year ago

Caitlin- you’re a gem and I look forward to your articles (on any subject!) the most. Our styles could not be more different, but your voice is awesome!

Christina
1 year ago

This post was soo helpful! I’ve been eyeing Parachute linen sheets for almost a year and just ordered them thanks to this!

HOT TIP: the parachute offer didn’t show up on my “offers” tab on my AmEx app, but when I googled it I was able to find it and then add it to my card. Not sure why that happened, but it worked and got added to my cart, so wanted to share that in case anyone else is in that position!

Thanks again, Caitlin!!

Jessie
1 year ago
Reply to  Christina

Wow, I’m really showing my age and lack of knowledge in the technology department! Do you need to install apps on your phone and/or set up online accounts to access these offers? I don’t do this and am apparently missing the boat.🥴

Angela
1 year ago
Reply to  Jessie

Not sure about AmEx, but for Chase cards or Cap One, you can see them on your online account. You click on the card/account and there’s a section that says something like “shopping offers.” You’ll see all of the stores that currently have offers and then click on one you want, which will take you to the merchant’s website. Then you make your purchase from there.

1 year ago

So fun! For folks interested in these sorts of tips delivered in a clear, actionable way, I highly recommend Ramit Sethi’s book, I Will Teach You To be Rich.

1 year ago

P.S., Congrats on your new bedding, Caitlin! I’ve tried cheaper (but still decent quality) alternatives to Parachute and none of them were as good. Parachute makes the best linen sheets!

Sahaja
1 year ago

Totally agree! What a truely helpful book that was for me

Lori
1 year ago

I love this topic, I’m right there with you playing the points and miles game. Did you consider splitting your Parachute order into two so you could take advantage of both offers? Put enough stuff in one order to get the Amex credit, and then pay for the rest with BofA to get the 10% back?

Plus Rakuten is currently offering 2% cash back at Parachute.

The “don’t buy things you don’t need just because you have a coupon” struggle is SO REAL though, ugh. Plus this really works best if you can pay off your credit cards every month–saving 10% is nice, paying 17% interest is not.

Liz
1 year ago
Reply to  Lori

Damn. Splitting it into two purchases is next level, and then you top it off with the best reminder!!!

Blake
1 year ago

Fun read Caitlin, as always!
Great reminder to regularly check the cashback percentages and rewards available on my cards and adjust accordingly. Been missing out on 5% back at grocery stores since Jan 1!

Andrea
1 year ago

This article sounded like it could be coming from me. I get everything in your second sentence. 🙂 I work in finance, so this type of stuff always gets me excited. Two other things that you can stack to save money: 1) Going through a portal like Rakuten (I see they are a currently giving you 2% back at Parachute) and 2) the normal rewards you get through a credit card. I always tell people that if you aren’t getting at least 2% back on your credit card purchases you are using the wrong card (of course it might be beneficial to use a card with a lower return for your purchase if the credit card offer is higher but that is really getting in the weeds). If you also stack your purchases with these two items, you might save another ~$20.

Roberta Davis
1 year ago

I think if I was younger and needed more things than I do now, and had less money than I do now, I would jump on this. But as an old person who is trying to pare down possessions, it feels like a lot of work and time spent when I might rather be doing something else! 🙂 I’m still price-sensitive when I do buy things, but I just don’t want to spend that much time thinking about and managing the getting of things. But you certainly are saving lots of money on things you want! Thanks for sharing- I did not know about this and I’m not promising that I won’t also become an “offers” fanatic! It could happen.

Alice
1 year ago

Are linen sheets actually comfortable? I mean, they must be, but how? Any linen clothing I’ve had in the past was scratchy.

Steph
1 year ago
Reply to  Alice

it depends on the company. My brooklinen linen sheets are super soft. I have a duvet from a really lovely portland company in linen and its really scratchy. I keep washing and drying and hope that will soften it up.

Ellen
1 year ago
Reply to  Alice

I bought simple, inexpensive linen sheets of Amazon and I LOVE them. The texture feels amazing.

karen
1 year ago
Reply to  Ellen

can you post a link?

Alyce
1 year ago
Reply to  Alice

All linen isn’t equal. Better quality linen is thick and get very soft (and gets softer over time with washing). Scratchy linen isn’t very good linen.

Mary C
1 year ago
Reply to  Alice

They get softer each time you wash them. They wash well too, stains come out so easy (we have 4 dogs in our bed). I found mine on H&M for much less than Parachute.

Kc
1 year ago

Thanks for the great suggestions. I’d like to add that if you can do your banking/ get a credit card from a local credit union I would highly recommend it. Credit unions are local, usually very invested in the community and they are not for profit. Their credit cards and their reward programs are usually extremely competitive and since they’re not for profit the profits go back to their members in the form of lower rates. Generally their employees are treated a lot better than a large bank would. My local credit union invests a ton of time (volunteering) and money in the local community and it really feels good to support something like that.

Emily
1 year ago

I do this too for recurring purchases that I will be making anyway. Aveda, for example, had a reward offer on one of my cc’s (yes I’m also a crazy cc points person) so I just bought 2 large bottles of the shampoo I use anyway. Saves me money in the long run.
(Yet another example of the fact that it takes money to save money. Only someone with disposable income can pay upfront for 3 months of shampoo and save money over the long run! Being poor is expensive.)

Amy
1 year ago

I do this too! But I also stack Rakuten on top. So you can get cash back from Rakuten and cash back from your credit card in the same purchase. It adds up!

Kj
1 year ago

I like Financial Samurai (https://www.financialsamurai.com/) and his book Buy This, Not That: How to Spend Your Way to Wealth and Freedom (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09HH2L1SQ/)

KL
1 year ago

I love my Parachute linen sheets! I actually switched over from Cultiver (a similar priced brand) when we upgraded the bed size, and the Parachute ones fit much better on US standard bed sizes. My Cultiver queen size sheets were always super loose, but the Parachute cal king fits perfectly on my cal king mattress (and the queen vs. cal king mattress is exactly the same brand from Costco, purchased 8 years apart, because that’s how great the original $600 memory foam mattress was).

Rebecca
1 year ago

I’d also say–you can take advantage of both deals (assuming that the other coupons don’t require a minimum purchase to kick in). In this case, if you have both cards you could have split your purchase up into one cart totalling ~300 for the flat $60 back and the other cart with the remaining things, thus getting the bank of america percentage discount as well.

A.B.
1 year ago

This is awesome.

Julie
1 year ago

This is so useful and interesting, but I wish there were a version where someone (or an app????) would do the leg work for me. I just don’t have time for that. When I have to order diapers, I order them. When I have to buy new pants because the others wore out, I’m purchasing that night. Maybe when my kids aren’t little and as time consuming, I’ll have more time…?

Sarah L
1 year ago
Reply to  Julie

I agree it’s extra work- I have trained myself to peek at the offers and add any remotely interesting/applicable ones when I’m setting up my monthly payment. They apply automatically and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised, and I’ll pop into my apps to check them if I’m making a big purchase- fancy linens is a great example.

Colleen
1 year ago

This is totally off topic— but Emily, what’s the news with the mountain house, given the historic snow the area has gotten? I hope everything is okay! Heading to LA tomorrow to visit family for spring break. It may be colder there than in Maryland right now but ah well! I love CA. If you guys have any good orgs to recommend that are helping people suffering from those snowstorms, let us know Sunday.

Sookie K
1 year ago

This seems poorly timed, if nothing else. The NY Times and NPR JUST ran pieces about how credit card rewards programs benefit the affluent at the expense of the poor (https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/04/opinion/credit-card-rewards-points-poor-interchange-fees.html

Emily
1 year ago
Reply to  Sookie K

I just commented similar. I heard that segment on NPR and it was interesting to hear of possible legislation that would make our credit card systems more like a European model with minimal “rewards” but also much lower rates and a cap on fees.

Sarah L
1 year ago
Reply to  Sookie K

I know some people who take their rewards savings/points and donate the cash!

Emily
1 year ago

This was an interesting post to read after hearing a segment on NPR yesterday about how credit card rewards are a system of rewards for wealthier persons that are funded by poor individuals. I would be curious if anyone else heard this as well. It was the recent “All Things Considered” episode. https://www.npr.org/2023/03/09/1162380399/the-dirty-secret-to-credit-card-rewards

1 year ago

I use an airline miles card and do the same thing. You usually get extra miles added on top of your miles, that add up! The trick is to only buy something you were gong to anyway!!

Sally
1 year ago

I’m sorry to be the fun police here and I love Caitlin’s posts but this article may well be considered general financial advice as defined by a range of regulators. In Australia at least, there are significant disclosures and disclaimers that are legally required to accompany this sort of column.
These offers are designed to make money for both finance provider and retailer, and as someone who worked for many years in financial services marketing, including for global organisations based in the US, I can tell you they do. Someone is paying for these offers and it is always the end consumer. They contribute to the out of control debt problem that besets most of the developed world.
While well-meaning, this is not an appropriate or responsible article for someone who is not appropriately qualified to write and does not belong on a lifestyle/interiors blog. There are many pitfalls, terms and conditions and ‘small print’ catch outs that should be highlighted when writing such an article.

Juanita
1 year ago
Reply to  Sally

As an adjunct to the above comment, YOU do have a part in world finance. I spent three months in The Netherlands last year with my USA credit cards and discovered this: the Dutch use DEBIT cards for everything, and in many grocery stores would not accept my Credit Card because WHY…. because US credit Card companies charge the merchant/ vendor a 2.5% fee EACH time you swipe your card. That’s why in NL, most merchants say no thank you, I’m requiring use of DEBIT cards. It was a real hassle at times because I couldn’t use the self checkout lanes, and had to be in the cash only lane ( which necessitated lots of euros in cash). All this to say: when AmEx, BOA are “giving” you those 20% off discounts, it’s all part of this merchant/ vendor fees dance they are doing with businesses. And, yes, we the consumer are losing out. (… and business owners, non profits that accept CC donations : 2.5 % every time you swipe).

Sarah
1 year ago

Thank you. Going to get shake shack sometime this week. 😋

Trevor
1 year ago

Caitlin posts are THE best posts!