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For those who spend significant amounts of money (or really any amount of money, provided the purchases are somewhat predictable) with certain large retailers, one can save anywhere from 2 to 35% off these purchases by a combination of making said purchases via online portals offering cash back and/or buying gift cards at discount to make those purchases. One of the best online cash back portals is TopCashBack.com, which gives a certain percentage cash back (varies based on the website and promotions being run at the time) for purchases at various large retailers. Consumers can sign up for free.

Once signed up for TopCashBack.com, customers can then join and enter Cardpool.com (for free) from the TopCashBack.com portal for 2% cash back. Another nice feature of TopCashBack.com is that your cash back can be redeemed directly in any amount (so no set minimum you have to reach before redeeming, although there can be a time delay). Once customers enter cardpool.com, they can then purchase gift cards to major retailers at sometimes substantial discounts. As an example, Home Depot gift cards can typically be bought at a 10 or 11% discount, meaning savings of 12 – 13% when accessed through the TopCashBack.com portal.

Sometimes even more substantial discounts can be found on eBay, particularly for Starbucks gift cards or free drink coupons. I personally have saved over 50% by buying Starbucks gift cards and free drink coupons on eBay. For those who shop often at Starbucks, there are a variety of options for saving money. First, sign up for a Starbucks card and set up automatic reloads with a credit card giving cash back (Chase Sapphire gives 2 points per dollar on dining purchases, so the equivalent of 2% cash back). Use the Starbucks card for all purchases at Starbucks, and for added convenience, download the Starbucks app to your smartphone and scan it for payment. Periodic deals are also sent to users of the app, and taking advantage of these deals can bring further savings.

Once customers begin using their Starbucks card, “Gold” status is achieved after making 30 purchases within a 12 month period. At this point, customers earn a free drink for every 12 purchases (including the original 30 required to reach gold status), so depending on how much is spent per purchase, the percentage savings will vary. If you purchase multiple items, be sure the cashier rings up each item separately to maximize your free drinks earned – each purchase earns one star regardless of dollar amount, and after earning 12 stars, customers earn a free drink. Additionally, Starbucks card holders receive a free drink during the month of their birthday. Lastly, Starbucks will offer a ten cent discount to customers who bring their own cup / mug.

The most dramatic discounts currently appear to be available via gift cards at Starbucks and Home Depot (up to 50% if done right), but more modest savings (5 – 15%) can usually be found by purchasing gift cards at discount for other major retailers via TopCashBack, Cardpool, eBay, and other online shopping portals.

Logan Hertz works as a business strategy consultant in Atlanta and freelances as a personal finance expert. If you are interested in clever, easy ways to increase your income and reduce your costs, email him.

© 2014 Logan Hertz – permission to reprint is gladly given, provided the author is given credit

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