How I earned 5x points and saved a little money stocking up on Disney gift cards
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It feels like we're on the cusp of a return to travel in a pretty major way. After a very light to non-existent travel schedule over the last few months, my family now has a comparatively full agenda in the spring and summer. On that travel to-do list is our happy place, Disney World.
To save money on that upcoming trip to Disney, and start racking up more points for the trips that will follow, I decided to utilize this quarter's Chase Freedom Flex 5% cash back (5x) bonus category at wholesale clubs by purchasing some discounted Disney gift cards at Sam's Club. There is a $1,500 quarterly max for the 5% cash back (5x bonus points), and you must have registered for the quarter's bonus by March 14. But while I had registered in time, I hadn't really charged any expenses to this card in the 5x bonus categories of wholesale clubs, internet, cable, phone services and streaming.
Because of that, I had a lot of spending I could do (before the quarter ends on March 31) to earn 5x on theme park expenses I know I'll have a few weeks down the road.
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Warehouse clubs have discounted gift cards
If you don't frequently shop in-store or online with warehouse clubs such as Costco or Sam's Club, you may not yet know that in addition to industrial-sized boxes of mac and cheese and jumbo packs of granola bars they have discounted gift cards to a variety of retailers and attractions. This can include travel brands such as Southwest Airlines, Amtrak, Hotels.com, Airbnb, Alaska Airlines and ... Disney.
The percentage of the discount varies depending on the gift card, but when it comes to Disney, saving some money is better than no money. To put exact numbers to it, currently, a $500 Disney gift card at Sam's Club is going for $484.98. Saving $15 on $500 I know I'll spend on Disney resort hotels, food, tickets, etc. is nice, but that amount by itself may not be enough to make me jump through the extra hoops of ordering and keeping up with gift cards.
However, saving $15 per $500 and taking on earning 5x points that I value at 2 cents each is enough for a little extra hoop-jumping.
Related: How to use points to pay for Disney tickets
Use Freedom points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Reserve
By themselves, points earned with the Chase Freedom Flex are worth 1 cent each when redeemed towards gift cards, etc. If you only have the Freedom Flex they can't be transferred to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline partners.
However, if you have the Freedom Flex and a card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can transfer the points you earn with the Freedom Flex to your Sapphire Preferred or Reserve account to make them more valuable.
For example, you could then redeem them at 1.5 cents each towards travel booked in the Chase Travel site. Or, you can do what I'm most likely to do, and transfer the points to Chase partners such as Hyatt, United, etc. when there's an award redemption I want to maximize via one of those programs. A perfect example of this is when I recently transferred Chase points to Hyatt to book the ski-out Park Hyatt Beaver Creek hotel when cash rates were $1,000+ per night.
Assuming I redeem these points for at least 2 cents each in value (which I usually do), then that means by purchasing Disney gift cards in this way I not only saved some money but earned 10% back in travel rewards for a future trip at the same time.
Related: These are the best credit cards to use for theme parks
Even if I maxed out $1,500 in 5x spending this quarter in this manner, that still 'just' results in earning 7,500 points. Even factoring in saving some money along the way, that's not likely to be a life-changing event. However it's small tweaks in how you spend your money, such as this, that can really ramp up your points strategy over time.
A final piece of advice if you do something similar is that paying for goods or services with a gift card obviously means you have fewer protections and less flexibility than if you just paid with a credit card.
In this case, even if my upcoming Disney trip falls apart, I know I can use the gift cards at a later date. I also don't need the valuable built-in travel protections a credit card can offer on an airfare purchase for Disney churros, t-shirts or to pay off a Disney hotel room balance so I felt OK stocking up a bit of Disney gift cards knowing my own personal travel patterns.