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Mr. Pickles Guest Blog Post: Using Big Crumbs to Get Cash Back on Credit Card Spend

by on May 2, 2011 · 61 comments

in American Express, British Airways, Credit Cards, Guest Blog Posts

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I’m excited to announce that starting today that I will be featuring guest blog posts from some of the greatest minds in the frequent flyer world. For the first post, I’m happy to introduce Joshua Pickles, also known as Mr. Pickles. In the frequent flyer community Mr. Pickles is known for his ability to analyze opportunities and push the boundaries on what is possible when it comes ways of earning miles and points.

Update: There is a chance your credit card company may characterize these purchases as cash advances, so I recommend making a small purchase to verify how the charge posts, before buying a lot of Amex Gift cards.

Greetings to all TPG followers, I am Joshua Pickles and I contribute to the Flyertalk and MilePoint forums under the handle “mrpickles”. Beginning today I will be guest blogging with tips and tricks to help you maximize your miles and points potential. To read more about me see the end of this post or visit my own blog at www.TheMrPickles.com or follow me on Twitter @TheMrPickles.

The Points Guy contacted me and asked if I could weigh in on some ideas on how to make some worthwhile purchases on your newly acquired Chase British Airways 100K mile Visa card. As you know, to get the 100K miles you need to make a total of $2,500 in purchases within 90 days. The first 50K miles post after your first purchase, which can be a purchase as small as a pack of gum or a tomato at the grocery store, then bam you have 50K points in your account. But for some people, finding a way to complete the $2,500 total spend requirement in the next 90 days requires some creativity.

Today and Thursday I will outline some different methods you can use to meet these spend requirements. Today’s post covers spending money on the credit card to Double and Triple dip rewards.

When I was a frequent flyer newbie I would get a thrill out of earning points and miles. I felt that I was getting something for free, and when standing on the jetway boarding for my next flight I would sneak a glance at other passengers boarding passes and notice no status or no frequent flyer number and snicker to myself thinking that these people were losing out on miles. Even today I cringe when I see someone in a restaurant or grocery store handing over a fist of money. All those lost miles.

Well, it did not take long until I realized it took an awful lot of activity just to get just one free flight or hotel night. Then I was enlightened that a better way to rack up miles was to Double Dip. I use online shopping mall websites and for simplicity I will focus on one called Big Crumbs. This is a online shopping mall where members sign in and then click through to the popular stores where they want to purchase an item such as eBay, Expedia, Walmart, Drugstore.com, etc. Members earn a cash back incentive which is a percentage of the total amount spent per store for example Flowers.com is 9.6%, and Nordstrom is 5.6%.

How it Works

BigCrumbs is very simple to use. First you click on the link and sign up for a free account. Next you sign-in and shop as usual. Third; in about 2 months you will receive an automatic cash rebate via Paypal on all of your purchases. Payments lag about 8 weeks, so purchases made throughout the month of May will be paid on July 15.

How to Double Dip and Triple Dip.

One of the stores on BigCrumbs is the American Express Gift Card store which pays 1.6% cash back. You can use a Chase British Airways Visa card, for example, and make a purchase at the American Express Gift Cards/Business Store,(earning 1.25 BA miles per dollar spent) and then use the American Express gift cards for everyday purchases. There are two Amex Gift Card stores, one for personal and one for business gift cards. The personal store has an upper limit of $3,000 per gift card ($5,000 per order) and the Business store has an upper limit of $5,000/gift card ($75,000 per order). American Express will not ship gift cards to Hawaii or Vermont.  There is a current offer code from American Express “GEN374” which gives an additional $5.95 discount to help absorb any fees incurred like a shipping fee. Another offer code is “EMMOTCM” for FEE-FREE Amex Gift Cards good until 6/30/2011 (this is the better deal for the time being). This would be the Double Dip:

  • Miles for British Airways using your Chase British Airways Visa card
  • Purchase the gift cards for use later to complete your $2,500 spend requirement right away
  • 1.6% cash back for the Amex gift card purchase

You can take it a step further and use the newly purchased Amex Gift Card and go back to Big Crumbs and book your travel through the Expedia travel website and earn an additional cash back of 6.4% on all air, hotel other travel bookings. This would be your Triple Dip:

  • Miles for BAEC using your Chase British Airways Visa card
  • 1.6% Cash Back for purchase of Amex Gift Card
  • Additional cash back for Expedia purchases

So in essence, say you really need the 100,000 miles to book an award and you don’t want to wait several months to meet the $2,500 spend requirement. Once you get the card in the mail and activate it, you could buy $2,500 in gift cards from the American Express Business Gift Card store, which would cost $2,500 plus $8.95 in shipping and handling. You’d then receive an automatic Paypal payment from Big Crumbs for $40 the next month, so you’d come out $31.05 ahead once you take out the shipping fee. So in essence you’ve just taken nearly 33% off the $95 annual fee, earned 3,125 additional BA miles on top of the 100,000 bonus and you hit the spend requirement immediately. If you then spent those gift cards on travel through Expedia using Big Crumbs, you’d then get an additional money back:

Cash Back Tiers Product/Category
Air $3.20
Hotel 1.6%
Packages 3.2%
Car Rental 2.4%
Cruises 1.6%
Activities 4%
Expedia Special Rate Merchant Hotel (includes Unpublished and Sponsered Rates) 6.4%

Big Crumbs as a Passive Income Stream

BigCrumbs works on a referral system much like any multilevel marketing program. There are three tiers. First tier is the person who referred me, second tier is myself, and the third tier is the person who signs up under me. I make a small commission on the purchase that I make and so does the person above me, and above them. The person below me makes a small commission on their purchases and so do I and the person above me. Anyone that you get to sign up makes a commission and so do you and I. So basically you get a commission on your own purchases and the purchases of the next two steps below you. If you have many buyers below you then you will have a continuous stream of passive income. So to get started please sign up under my link here.

Example of signup page:

BigCrumbs signup page

Once you sign up you can then create a referral code of your own and then email that to your friends and family and start earning on their purchases too.

About Me

“mrpickles” has been writing on the Flyertalk.com forum since 2009 and more recently on the MilePoint.com forum telling stories of racking huge amounts of frequent flyer miles in a short period of time. Primarily focusing on American Airlines AAdvantage miles mrpickles found notoriety in December 2009 when The Wall Street Journal wrote a front page article which featured a story that hinted about how mrpickles earned American Airlines lifetime Platinum status without ever stepping on an American Airlines flight. More recently he was featured as one of the Legends of Flyertalk at the Chicago Seminar 2010, a gathering of over 500 frequent flyers learning the tricks of the trade. mrpickles currently holds over 5.8 million miles and points over several programs and this year has top tier status with United, Air France, Continental, and American Airlines as well as Starwood Hotels and Hilton Hotels.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Bringer May 2, 2011 at 9:46 am

Great tip and AWESOME to see Mr. Pickles blogging. He is indeed very knowledgeable in maximizing your miles/points and an all around great guy. This knowledge and info he shared on the forums in the past have revolutionized my accumulation of miles and points. Period! Thanks again Mr Pickles!

Maury May 2, 2011 at 9:52 am

Isn’t buying Amex Giftcards with a VISA considered a cash advance?

Bringer May 2, 2011 at 9:58 am

No, you can go to any grocery store or dept store or even walmart and buy gift cards..some are store gift cards and some are prepaid AMEX or Visa gift cards…a purchase is a purchase.

mrpickles May 2, 2011 at 10:46 am

@Bringer Thanks for the kind words of support!

ScottC May 2, 2011 at 10:47 am

Can you meet Amex spend threshholds this way? I recently got the Starwood card. I don’t think I’ll have any problem hitting the $15K spend requirement in 6 months, but if I came up short, could I buy Amex giftcards through Big Crumbs or would that not count since it is Amex for Amex?

Tim May 2, 2011 at 10:54 am

Thanks Mr Pickles for a great post!

I should add for people like me who use an airline or hotel affinity card to get bonus miles, EQMs and hotel status this may not be the best way to use your cards

98% of my paid flights are on United and I get double miles for all united purchases on my United Chase Visa and also one elite qualifying mile per $ spent on the card at united.com

But I have to use united.com and not

Likewise my Amex Starwood card. I am gold and to get 5 Starwood points per dollar I need to book my hotels through SPG.com

Likewise

Ted May 2, 2011 at 10:56 am

How do you factor in the loss in miles on those purchases you paid with the AMEX gift cards?

The Points Guy May 2, 2011 at 11:06 am

@Scott- should work with an Amex card as well- Mr. P, correct me if I’m wrong.

@Tim- Great point- this isn’t the best way for everyone to use their card since many offer category bonuses (like double points on airline purchases). However, this is a quick and lucrative way to hit spend thresholds and get even more money back from every day purchases.

@Ted- what do you mean? You earn miles on the gift card purchase, so its an even exchange.

John May 2, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Would you be able to deposit the gift cards back in your checking account? If so you would have the 2,500 points from buying the cards, the $31.05 of rebate from the purchase net of the shipping, and have money in your checking account to pay for the credit card bill.

JP May 2, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Another thing to think about if you use bigcrumbs is if you live with a significant other or husband/wife…have one person sign up for the site too and use the other person in the household as the referral. Then person A buys the item, gets the rebate, and person B also gets the referral $.

FWIW, I just found out about bigcrumbs from mrpickles, so I haven’t used this idea, but it was the first thing that came to mind after signing up for the site (using pickles’ link). Can we call that a quadruple dip?!?

Roger May 2, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Mr. Pickles, that is just what I needed to hear. You are the relish of my life. As a guy who just got 2 BA Visa cards, I was just last night talking to my wife about how to meet the minimum spend requirements. Please, give me more.

Mr. Pickles May 2, 2011 at 2:21 pm

@John- Yes you can. I plan on outlining a couple of methods of how to do this on Thursday.

@JP- that would work, but remember it takes away from the person two steps above you, and then they earn nothing. Bad Karma, you need to keep the Travel Karma gods happy.

@Roger- You and your wife will be thrilled when you read Thursday’s article. It is easier than you think.

Mr. Pickles May 2, 2011 at 2:25 pm

@Scott- Yes it will work with any Amex card, but today we are focusing on the Chase British Airways 100K mile bonus Visa card since the signup expires this Friday May 6, 2011. Once you get the card this is a way to lock in the mileage bonus ASAP, and then possibly use them for summer travel.

jason May 2, 2011 at 2:26 pm

wait a minute, is this really the “big announcement”?

Sergey May 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Am I right, Big Crumbs works like shopping mall of any frequent flyer program? In other words, if I want to purchase something in target.com, I should use either AMEX/AA/Delta/Continental, etc shopping portals OR Big Crumbs? And I have to choose, what I want more – cash back or miles/points.

JimmyR May 2, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Big Crumbs does NOT give 6.4% back on much of anything actually. Airfare is especially not that great… it’s a flat $3.20. Hotels are 1.6%… Big Crumbs is just not an easy way to get money back IMHO.

tassojunior May 2, 2011 at 9:41 pm

BigCrumbs doesn’t have GiftCards.com any more and AmEx gift cards aren’t mintable are they?

Current hot need-to-know:
Is there a way to take advantage of the huge flower points this week AND use BigCrumbs? I think for CO 50 miles/dollar+ with CO MC you have to go through the CO shopping site?

Mr. Pickles May 3, 2011 at 12:44 am

@tassojunior- My next post will have information on how to turn your Amex gift card into a Visa card.

Some of the florists On BigCrumbs are offering 9% cash back.

JudyJFLA May 3, 2011 at 1:07 am

On the Amex Gift cards on the Personal side, I have been able to order the Gold ones for $2000 and $3000 in the same order for the $5K limit not $500. With Big crumbs it is $80 back in cash plus the miles or points for the purchase on the card. I use the Travelocity Amex card since I am grandfathered in from the MC days so I get 4% back in travel. There are ways online to liquidate them other than the mint, such as up to 2 payments a quarter for estimated taxes, and there are limits on how often you can order the amex cards, as I just had an order canceled for placing it too soon.

Robert May 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Can this be made to work for American Express eCards, so as to get around the shipping?

Thanx.

Mr Pickles May 3, 2011 at 5:20 pm

@Jason- Apparently the news of the death of OBL overshadowed this. This real announcement was that The Points Guy is introducing Guest Blog Posts. The purpose of the Guest Blog Post is to introduce a different perspective the the miles and points earning. We hope that you value the cooperation that we are presenting.

@Sergey- Yes you are right. The nice thing about Expedia on the BigCrumbs portal is that when you buy an airline ticket and use the airlines affinity card the charge posts from the airline on the credit card so you still get the double or triple miles that your airline may offer for using their card.

@JimmyR- I can’t really comment on your situation, but I do know that I have been receiving the 6.4% back on my airline purchases. I have not seen the flat rate that you describe, and I have not read every line of their terms of service. I do know that you will not get any money back without a validated PayPal account. I guess it is always a YMMV situation.

Mr Pickles May 3, 2011 at 5:21 pm

@Robert- I think it can as long as it appears on the site to purchase.

JimmyR May 3, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Well 6.4% would be awesome, I just doubt it’s possible:

http://www.bigcrumbs.com/crumbs/retailerDetails.do?id=379#payoutTiers

It does clearly state that only “Expedia Special Rate Merchant Hotel (includes Unpublished and Sponsered Rates)” receive 6.4% and airfare receives $3.20. Also, wouldn’t the business traveler world be all over this if they could get 6.4% for airfare which they get reimbursed for? I certainly would think so, but maybe this has somehow flown under the radar. If I search FlyerTalk for “bigcrumbs airfare” I get a big nothing.

Jade May 3, 2011 at 11:30 pm

I think we can’t combine the miles (i.e. CO 25 miles/dollar for flower sites) AND use BigCrumbs. We’ll have to choose one, right? Thanks!

Lauren May 4, 2011 at 11:20 am

Great post.

Do you know if Amex giftcards can be used abroad? So basically if you purchased a bunch of them via bigcrumbs before a trip, could you use them overseas instead of a credit card that may have overseas fees?

AZTravelGuy May 5, 2011 at 6:42 am

If you’re still getting 6.4% on airfare through BigCrumbs/Expedia, count your blessings. It switched to a flat rate months ago as did most every other cash back site I know of that previously paid a percentage.

I also have no idea where the limits of $200 / $500 Amex come from. If you pick the correct card you can load it up with $5000. I used to run the Amex gift cards through another site to buy Visa gift cards which paid 5.6% but now that only applies to merchant cards. Visa cards are a flat $2 which won’t cover the shipping/processing.

ntn May 5, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Will Mr. Pickles post the second guest blog post today? Thanks.

The Points Guy May 5, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Hey NTN- I had to change the schedule around a bit, but hope to have his next post soon. Glad you are enjoying them :-)

Mr Pickles May 5, 2011 at 3:43 pm

@AZTravelGuy-
@JimmyR-
You are correct, Expedia did change their cash back tiers as follows:

Cash Back Tiers Product/Category
Air $3.20
Hotel 1.6%
Packages 3.2%
Car Rental 2.4%
Cruises 1.6%
Activities 4%
Expedia Special Rate Merchant Hotel (includes Unpublished and Sponsered Rates) 6.4%

While the percent of cash back does go up to 6.4% doubt many FF’s would be taking advantage of that category. The point still hold true that you can meet your minimum spend requirement and still add to it by using the Gift Card again at Big Crumbs. I have updated the blog to reflect the increased dollar amounts for the gift cards.

Mr Pickles May 5, 2011 at 3:45 pm

@Lauren-
My understanding is that there would still be foreign transaction fees calculated when you use the gift card, if it even worked.

ntn May 5, 2011 at 4:21 pm

@TPG — Thanks for the answer. I did apply for the Chase BA through your link. Will also apply for my wife soon :-) Looking forward to Mr. Pickles’ second post.

Roger May 5, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Change in the schedule? You said you hope to have this “soon.” Mr Pickles, I have been anxiously waiting for this post since Tuesday. I am ready to start knocking off those minimum spend requirements and you were going to give us some more info on how to do that. I want to get after it. I’ve got 3 BA Visa cards that I need to spend $2500 on in the next 90 days. Help!! What exactly is soon? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month?

Ann May 5, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Haha! I have been checking this blog every hour today dying to know how to convert the cards into a bank deposit… I feel exactly as anxious as Roger sounds above :)

The Points Guy May 5, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Hey everyone- instead of guest posting here, its up on his site, so check out the whole scoop on buying coins:
http://www.themrpickles.com/

Mr Pickles May 5, 2011 at 6:54 pm

@ntn-
@Roger-
@Ann-

Check here http://bit.ly/hFB4GT hopefully you will find what you are looking for!

Roger May 5, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Thank you, I got it.

Dov May 6, 2011 at 11:26 am

My next post will have information on how to turn your Amex gift card into a Visa card.

How do you do this Mr Pickles

Jane May 6, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Thanks MrPickles – I was wondering, does Chase categorize gift card purchases as “cash-like” charges? Because in that case then miles will not be credited to my account… Just received my card and gearing up to hit my $2500 spend as soon as possible :)

newdeltaSM May 10, 2011 at 8:48 am

Warning to all thinking of buying Amex gift cards via BigCrumbs on their Citi cards. Recent purchase by friend on his Citi AA card account treated as a cash advance not a purchase. Don’t do this on a Citi card.
I suggest this post be edited to reflect this to save blog readers the negative surprise.

The Points Guy May 10, 2011 at 9:32 am

@Newdelta- thanks for the heads up- I added a disclaimer to the beginning of the post

Mr. Pickles May 11, 2011 at 5:11 am

@Jane- you would be better off buying coins from the mint, see my blog http://www.themrpickles.com and look for the Chase/coins post.

newdeltaSM May 12, 2011 at 11:30 am

Follow up re Citi treatment of Amex gift cards. WAS labeled a cash advance, my friend was hit with $50+ cash advance fee and $4+ in interest when statement hit. Citi CSR would do nothing to reverse charges. Expensive lesson. DO NOT DO THIS ON CITI cards. at a minimum.

littletail May 15, 2011 at 10:38 am

just wondering, if i prepay $500 to my credit card account so that it has a $500 credit balance, then use the credit card to buy gift cards/so a cash advance, will it still be considered a cash advance and charged the fee since there is actually credit in the account?

The Points Guy May 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm

@Littletail- prepaying won’t make a difference. Either your credit card will bill as a cash advance or not. I’d recommend trying it out with a small denomination and then buying bigger ones once you know how the charge posts.

TennisPlayerInLR May 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm

I just purchased a $25 business giftcard with my Citi AA Business card as a test before buying a $1000 card, which I was then going to use to buy some coins. I will post after I found out if how the classify the purchase. Maybe the business card will be looked at differently. Just have to try and see.

mrpickles May 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm

@ TennisPlayerInLR – You can’t use Amex gift cards to buy coins. The mint has blocked Amex gift cards You must first convert the Amex gift card to a Visa gift card by buying one online or a store like CVS or Walgreens. The cash back needs to be enough to cover the service fees on the Visa gift.
Card.

TennisPlayerInLR May 18, 2011 at 6:05 am

@mrpickles – Good to know. I only bought the $25 card, and it was classified as a regular purchase, not a cash advance. But if I cannot use them on the mint website, not sure if it is worth buying the cards since I really had not plan to use them outside of getting the cash back / points of the gift card, and then turning around and buying the coins, and then finally paying back the gift card purchase with the coin deposit. Have to rethink my strategy a little bit.

abitskeptical May 19, 2011 at 8:23 pm

I believe that Mr. P replied to an early post that, yes, you can purchase Amex GCs with an amex SPG card. In this thread it sounds like some are having problems with that, included some people get a financial review because of these purchases. also sounds like some are having problems with the BA Chase. I’ve know you’ve got the disclaimer up, but still thought this was worth noting.

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/milesbuzz/1214936-have-been-denied-amex-gift-card-purchase-months-any-suggestion.html

Asian Tv May 21, 2011 at 1:30 am

Very nice write up on BigCrumbs! I have been using BigCrumbs for over 2 years and the 4% here and 6.5% there have added up. The best part of it all is that they offer a paypal payment option that automatically deposits your savings to your account. BigCrumbs does offer some of the highest rates across the multitude of cash back sites. I have found this new resourse, cashreporter.com, that allows you to compare most big name cash back sites and BigCrumbs is usually at the top.

Kevin May 22, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Is it me or is buying gift cards is a way of tying your money up elsewhere unless you cash them out using plastic jungle or squareup, seems like a waste. Essentially what you’re doing is meeting the spend, but now you are still forced to pay say $2,500 back to your British Airways card. I’m in a great position of course but some people can’t afford to do that so this method is icky! While I do appreciate the methodology behind it and gaining $ back through big crumbs it doesn’t work for lots of peeps.

The Points Guy May 22, 2011 at 7:42 pm

@Kevin- you are right- this method isn’t for everyone and it’s not a “free” way to hit spend requirement- but it works like a charm if you need to hit a spend requirement quickly

maksimk June 20, 2011 at 12:16 am

Question to TPG or Mr. Pickles – will buying the AMEX GCs work for the recent Chase Sapphire card promotion? Has anyone tried that? I need to meet the $3000 req in the next 2.5 months.

Mr Pickles June 21, 2011 at 11:10 pm

@maksimk – I have been told that you can do that, but I do not have that credit card.

milecard June 24, 2011 at 10:07 am

Looks like Chase is paying for half of my vacation. This Saphire deal is the best I’ve found this year. I usually do one new card a year for the sign up bonus, but this year I’ve already done two and may do another after this one.

Troy July 29, 2011 at 12:30 am

This is a brilliant plan! No comments? I’m amazed! Now I just need to get that card.

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