Where Have You Been... All My Life?

So there's been a short little hiatus on this blog. Ok, maybe not so short, more like almost half a year hiatus. But I can explain, no really! Let's just say that I've been a little busy. Actually, a little busy is an understatement. Wifey quit her job back in September, so I ramped up my side hustle basically from 10% to full blown 110% to try and make up the income that we were losing. The following have been how I've been doing it and some other things that have kept me from blogging!

 

Gift Card Arbitrage

 
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What you're looking at here is approximately $150K worth of gift cards that I have bought and sold starting from July of last year through this month. Most of the stacks are primarily iTunes, but there are Nike, Amazon, Regal Cinemas, Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic, xBox, etc. mixed in there. So what exactly was I doing? Well, as simple economics would have it, I was buying low and selling high. The holiday season was particularly crazy, as there were a slew of Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic and iTunes sales. I was buying Gap/etc. at 20% off, while selling them for 81-82% of their face value. Meanwhile I was buying iTunes for 15% off, while selling them for anywhere from 86-89% of their face value. 

Now you might be thinking, "pssssshhhhh, that's only $1-4/$100, how is that even worth my time?" Well, you have to think bigger! Based on the numbers given, let's say I earned an average of $2/$100 in gift cards. Between Black Friday and the end of December, I maxed out 4-6 of my credit card lines, and was "floating" close to $100K in gift cards to sell. Looking at those numbers there, that's a cool $2K! But wait, there's more! We're forgetting all about what I'M ABOUT, and that is CREDIT CARDS!

Most of these purchases were either made using a 2% cash back (on any and all spend) or 5% cash back/5x flexible points rewards card (at office supply stores only). I'm not going to do the math for you, but let's just say the months of November and December were super lucrative in terms of points and cash back earned! On top of that, there were additional income streams through cash back portals and store rewards programs (e.g. - Best Buy).

 

Reselling

 
 

Reselling follows the same principle as gift card arbitrage or any selling of merchandise for that matter - you purchase the item for a fraction of the retail cost, then sell at retail or mark it up for even more profits. 

Here's an example of a BAD reselling opportunity, which could have potentially been super lucrative:

Marriott had a shopping portal (it's crap btw, don't ever use it) that had a payout mistake of 150 points/$1 spent at HP.com. This was purely a speculation play, because if the portal paid out, it would have resulted in a crap ton of Marriott points, and what with the recent merger with Starwood Preferred, would have been many thousands of valuable SPG points. I ended up purchasing 27 monitors, in the meantime pissing my wife off since I was taking up living room space and "messing up the aesthetics". I made 5% cb on the purchase, then had a friend who was an Amazon reseller list and sell them for me, and in the end... I lost money. haha O.o I should have returned them instead of trying to sell them! 

Some GOOD reselling opportunities that have come my way: 

  • Nintendo NES Classic Mini
    • Retail price with tax = $63.59
    • Sold 1 on eBay for $159.91
    • 2 to friends for $100
    • Gave the last one I had to my niece and nephews as a belated Christmas gift
  • Apple AirPods
    • Retail price with tax = $168.54
    • Sold 4 x $200
    • Have 10 more to sell
    • Currently selling on eBay for close to $300, which means gross profit of approximately $260.

Again, extra income, on top of the buy low/sell high profit came on purchasing these items through cash back portals, along with the use of cash back/points earning credit cards.

Several other items that I have pre-ordered but have yet to see profits on are the Nintendo Switch, the Nintendo DS Pikachu edition, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild switch game. We'll see what happens!

 

Mattress Running

First of all, what is mattress running? It is essentially booking a hotel room for cheap, in return for something much more valuable. In my case, I am currently in the midst of a mattress run for Diamond Status with Hyatt. Why am I doing this, you may ask? Well, it goes back to cost versus benefit. Diamond members receive free breakfast, along with 4 Diamond Suite Upgrades (DSU). We were not diamond members, however, a friend who was, helped us with our Park Hyatt stay when we spent a weekend in NYC for wifey's birthday, and you saw how marvelous that turned out.

To achieve Diamond Status, you need to stay 25 separate nights. This means I had to book a room every other night, and also make sure that I checked-in to the Category 1 Hyatt Place right down the street from where we live. Also, to actually get a nights stay, it could not be an award booking, but has to be a full cash or points + cash stay. I opted for the points + cash. What is this costing me? 62,500 Hyatt points and approximately $1,402.50.

As I mentioned in the gift card section, a lot of the 62,500 points came from earning 5x at office supply stores, and the additional $1,402.50 is coming from travel credits that I have on a certain credit card earned from initial sign-up bonuses coupled with manufactured spending (such as giftcard arbitrage/reselling). So in reality, the only cost to me has been the time spent in earning these points, travel credits, and checking-in to the hotel.

How will this benefit us? Well, we have a Hawaii trip starting in countdown t-minus 23 days! EXCITED! The second half of our trip we will be staying at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa. I booked this using cash + points and will be applying a DSU to our stay. Regardless of what kind of suite we get upgraded into, the $1,402.50 "spent" will be paid back at a minimum of 4 to up to 8 times!

 

Conclusion

To be honest, the past couple of months has been a lot of work - running around buying gift cards, un-packaging them, entering them into a spreadsheet, scanning/submitting them, ordering items online, meeting up with people to sell to them etc. - and lots of late nights. I'm very thankful for my wife who has been patient and understanding through all of it, and continues to help me try to find travel/finances hacking/life balance. Bottom line is, we made it through the holidays with food on the table, gifts for our friends and family, and on time mortgage payments!

As you can see, credit cards (and major hustlin') have played a huge part in keeping us afloat financially these past couple of months. Recently, several friends have sent me pictures showing me their >750 and 800+ credit scores. While I'm happy for them, I'm still a firm believer of leveraging the crap out of your credit score to better both your financial and travel account balances!

*Be on the lookout for posts on how I planned our Hawaii trip, travel plans for the year, Hawaii trip report, and a recap of 2017!