A while back, I wrote a post about the different paid survey sites I use and why. I have tried a large number of sites and I have kept the ones that for me, give the most reward for the amount of effort. One of the sites I wrote about I noted wasn’t a survey site at all, but instead a reward program called MyPoints. It is one of the very few sites I use that does not pay cash rewards, instead they pay in gift cards. However, there is a huge selection of gift cards you can choose from and a number of stores I use regularly are among them, which to me, makes it similar to getting cash.
The program is pretty simple. there are a few ways to earn “points” – one, you can click through the emails they send you (the emails all come from MyPoints, but the clickthroughs are to third-party sites, usually nationally-recognized chains) and you get 5 points per email clickthrough. You can buy merchandise through their portal, and you get points for that as well. They also occasionally have surveys you can take for points. Generally, I set up my email program to automatically filter their emails to a folder, and every few days I go through a clickthrough frenzy and catch up completely. I have earned the majority of my points with simply email clickthroughs, and have already earned a $10 Target gift card and have enough points now for another $25 gift card.
I realized when deciding what to redeem my points for this time that I wasn’t really maximizing the usefulness of the points I was using. There is a huge list of vendors you can get gift cards for, and different vendors have cards for varying amounts of points – it isn’t a flat point rate across the board. So I developed a few guidelines I am going to use in the future to maximize the effectiveness of my points and get the most value for them.
1. List what you currently use as far as stores, not what you “want” to use.
As I stated earlier, there are a ton of different vendors, from amazon.com to Target to Walmart to specialty stores like Bath and Body Works and The Gap… way too many to list here. Go through the entire list, and make your own list of what you actually currently use. These are the stores that have the most value to you – getting MyPoints to pay for expenses you already have is much better than adding “prizes” to your life with the points. I have this problem myself – I found myself getting a Target gift card even though I don’t need to shop at Target, I just want to. The first time, I actually had something I needed to get there, but with my current redemption, I was just getting it because I like Target. This made me re-examine my thinking on that and I generated a list of stores that I actually shop at even if I don’t have “free money” there.
2. Do you typically give gift cards as gifts or shop for holidays at stores outside your normal routine?
If you generally give gift cards as gifts, this can be an excellent way to get those gift cards. Alternatively, if you shop at different stores for the holidays than you usually shop at, add those to your list if they appear here. A complete list of what is useful to you is needed before we can compare point values. For example, I shop at LL Bean only at Christmas for my father-in-law. My Points has LL Bean gift cards, which I could use to get his gifts, so I added that to the list for comparison.
3. Compare different redemption amounts within a single vendor.
Now that you have a comprehensive list of what you use, look at each vendor and figure out which point redemption amount is the best value. To do this, look at the lowest redemption amount, usually $10, and compare it to the higher dollar redemptions to see what the value of each point is. I am going to use two examples, Target and CVS. Target costs 1500 points for $10, 3750 points for $25, and 7500 points for $50. If we take $10.00 and divide by 1500 points, we get a value approximately $0.00667 per point. The HIGHER that number is, the better the deal, because the higher that number is, the more each individual point is worth. I’d rather my points be worth half a cent each rather than a tenth of a cent. Doing that same math for the $25 and $50 values, you get the same value per point of $0.00667. So, in Target’s case, the $10 card, $25 card and $50 card have the same value per point, and there’s no reason to wait to earn enough for the $50 card, unless you want to.
Now let’s look at CVS. CVS has 1450 for $10, 3500 for $25, and 6750 for $50. If we do the same math (divide the dollar amount by number of points it costs) we find that the approximate value of each point is $0.00690 for the $10 card, $0.00714 for the $25 card, and $0.00741 for the $50 card. In this case, the points are not equal and there is clear value in waiting until you have enough points for the $50 card. If you want to get really math-geeky, you can take the value per point of the $50 card and subtract the value per point of the $10 card to get the difference between them, or in other words, how much more in fractions of a penny the points are worth in the $50 card vs the $10 (about $0.000511) and multiply that by the number of points you use to redeem a $50 card (6750) and get a total “bonus” for waiting until the $50 card of $3.44. Basically, you got $3.44 more by getting a $50 card for the number of points you have to use to get it than you would have by redeeming points for $10 cards all along.
Take home lesson – find the best value for each of the vendors you are interested in. If you need more help with the math, I am more than happy to assist. Oh and take home lesson #2 – small savings add up! We’re talking fractions of pennies adding up to dollars! I love it.
4. Look for “point bargains” by comparing the point redemption value across vendors.
As the last example illustrated, not all vendors “sell” their cards for the same amount of points. So now that you know which point value for each vendor is the best value, you need to compare your chosen vendors to get the ultimate deal. There are some hugely discounted items in the list, but do not fall for them unless they are part of your normal spending! But if they are – great! Snap them up.
In my above example, if Target and CVS are both on my list, CVS is the better deal as far as value per point, and the CVS $50 card is the best deal within that. You can compare your list in pairs – if you have 4 vendors, compare #1 and #2. Say #2 is the best value. then compare #2 to #3. Say here, again, #2 is the best value. Compare #2 to #4. Here. we’ll say #4 is the best value. You now know #4 is the best value overall, because #2 was better than #1 and #3 so if #4 is better than #2, it has to be better than #1 and #3 too.
If that makes no sense you can compare each individually as well. It just takes a little longer.
For me, once I did all the calculations, it ended up that an LL Bean gift card was the best value for my points. You can actually get a $100 gift card that each point is worth $0.00833. But I don’t spend $100 at LL Bean a year, I generally spend ~$50. the $50 card is still a great value at $0.008 per point, though, better than the rest of my list (Amazon, Walmart, and CVS). I am trying to decide if it is worth the $3.99 extra I would make for my points (compared to the $50 card) to redeem for a $100 gift card and use it for Christmas presents two years in a row. It’ll be a while until I earn that many points though, so I have time to consider it.
It is a little math-intensive but really, not that bad! The magic formula is $$ of card divided by # of points card costs – and you want that result to be as LARGE as possible. But remember – pick things you actually use! Sure a $5 NetZero card is a GREAT deal with a point value of $0.01 per point, but I do not useNetZero, so what is that doing for me?
Good luck and post your favorite deals in the comments! I’ve included a table of common card costs and what that translates into for value per point.
$10 gift cards: (cost of card in points: $ value of each point, the higher the better!)
- 1400 points: $0.00714
- 1450 points: $0.00690
- 1500 points: $0.00667
$25 gift cards:
- 3250 points: $0.00769
- 3500 points: $0.00714
- 3750 points: $0.00667
$50 gift cards:
- 6250 points: $0.008
- 6750 points: $0.00741
- 7250 points: $0.00690
- 7500 points: $0.00667
$100 gift cards:
- 12000 points: $0.00833