Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Freebie Roundup 2018
2018 turned out to be the best year yet for cashing in on points plans, freebies and coupons. Freebie Management is what I call it - I used to save some freebies for December to reduce spending that month but this year decided to maximize savings on a month by month basis. This is one of the reasons that I will come very close to staying on my grocery budget this year.
Keep in mind, we own our own company. Hubby has 2 ccs, one for personal and one for the company and both are RBC Avion cards. I do think that is the very best travel credit card in Canada in my opinion. So much freedom when it comes to booking travel. I have an BMO Air Miles Mastercard that I've had for 30 years. Not as good but allows us to charge things at places like Costco which don't take Visa in Canada. I always pay for our home, car and even health insurance on cc. Hubby travels a fair amount with our business, is usually gone around 5 days a month with 90% of those travel expenses being reimbursed by clients. We both try and charge as much as possible to our credit cards and then immediately transfer funds over. In this way we pay zero interest and the only cost to us is the credit card fees. This year those credit card fees cost $85 for the visa (we only pay one one as they waive the fee on the second visa as we do our business banking at RBC) and $99 for the Mastercard so a grand total of $184 a year. For some those credit card fees would be too much. For us, we charge so much (likely around 70% of our income) we end up earning 1-2 flights to Europe plus several domestic flights a year. Later in life when the love of travel is less perhaps we will look at a different cc, maybe one that gives us grocery points instead but for now these work best for us.
In addition to credit card points we are members of all the hotel, airline and car rental company loyalty clubs. We try and stick with 2 specific hotels to earn points although sometimes hubby has to travel where neither of these chains are. Some of these points allow you to buy extra points if you need to to get another night, some allow part cash part points usage. I used to be a lot more loyal to one specific car rental company but they often end up being more expensive than the others, even when we are spending our clients dollars and being reimbursed. Car rental companies generally don't have great loyalty plans. When I book travel (I do it all, I used to manage a travel agency so have no problem doing this for our company) I make sure to go through ebates, swagbucks or airmiles in order to get additional points/rebates once the travel is completed. Sometimes I can go through ebates and then sign in to my Expedia account to book car rentals for hubby - I then get a rebate on the rental through ebates and get points through expedia which over time add up towards free hotel bookings. Most of my online shopping ends up being travel so that is most of the ebates refund.
Even though freebies are important - always foremost in my mind is what is best for our client and hubby. When you travel a lot things like having a minifridge in your hotel room becomes mandatory. Also proximity to our client. No, hubby does not drive an extra half hour across a busy city just so we can ensure he stays somewhere he gets points.
In addition to travelling I try and maximize our grocery spending to get both cost savings and points for future free groceries. All of the figures below are actual savings based on what the hotel/air/product would have cost. I have a spreadsheet and a freebie is only recorded after being used. If you let all those points sit around forever they have a tendency to magically disappear or lose value through rule changes. Of course, taxes were paid on all of the free air tickets and those come out of the travel fund. In some cases points paid for only part of the hotel/airfare.
This is what we managed to use this year:
$480.90 Airmiles airfare (2 tickets Comox to Edmonton) $480.90
$1700.99 Avion airfare(1 ticket Edmonton-Comox-kid#4, 2 tickets Comox-Ixtapa)
$100 Westjet credit for luggage screw up on Europe trip
$534 Holiday Inn night (4 free, had to pay $17.50 USD as 1000 pts shy on 1 nt)
$66.69 Hilton Points (part of booking)
$68.97 Expedia points used for part of a hotel booking
$50 Aeroplan points for GC to Home Hardware (we don't often book Air Canada)
$100.59 Ebates refunds (we both have accounts, paid quarterly with min $10 rebate)
$56.14 CO-OP gas rebate (we are members - all gas bought gas there)
$50 Loblaws GCs(bread price fixing scandal)
$25 Save on Foods (sympathy to those burned by bread price fixing scandal)
$16.39 Home Depot Paint rebate
$170 PC Optimum Points = free groceries
$16.47 Quality foods - 12 litres of free milk
$170 Swagbucks amazon.ca GCs
$21.05 Checkout 51 Grocery App Rebate
$5 London Drugs Loyalty program (birthday freebie)
$21.99 Dog food (buy 9 bags of dog food, 10th free)
$15 - Voucher from Sofina foods due to complaint about a product purchased
$41.48 Grocery Coupons
Grand total $3710.66 - Woohoo!
Yes, it was the best freebie year ever. What is not recorded above is that we already have enough air points for 2 tickets to Edmonton next December through Air Miles and 1 ticket to Europe through Avion (to be used in 2020). We ended up with $75 in free groceries due to a bread price fixing scandal years ago. At the time of that scandal (before we were married) we lived in two separate households so I legitimately collected two GCs from Loblaws over that. Save on Foods was not involved in the bread price fixing scandal but as a good will gesture gave their loyalty members $25 as well (only 1 card for that). Some people gave those cards to foodbanks. Instead, I used the GCs and made cash donations to our chosen charities which generates a tax receipt since you cannot get a tax receipt for donations in kind in Canada (something that needs to change!). Most of the Swagbucks GCs were earned through Holiday Inn bookings since I couldn't get an ebate refund on those - and we still collected Holiday Inn points - a double dip. We use Air Canada on rare occasions when forced to as it is not our favorite airline due to poor customer service - and they have a terrible loyalty program for an airline, others are more generous. Some programs we only collect a little but it adds up over time. I've said it before but couponing in Canada is not great. I only use coupons for items that I would already be buying so rarely use them. Still, it pays to use them when possible.
All freebies are recorded on the same excel document that holds our membership numbers, passwords and dates of expirations as some points never expire and a lot expire there is no account use within a year. I have some Air Canada points expiring the end of this month so I need to figure out a way to keep those alive. Freebies are wonderful but it does take some work to manage it all.
May 2019 be just as fruitful. As Mom always says, every little bit helps. How did you with freebies this year?