Credit, Frugal Living, Shopping 

How Far Do You Go With Cashback?

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Nowadays everyone has a cashback credit card of some kind (if you don’t, you need to get one, you’re leaving money on the table) and a recent article in the Washington Post has been highlighting folks who have airline rewards credit cards and how they’ve found interesting places to use it and rack up insane points. One story is about how someone charged a funeral home bill, another paid for plastic surgery and got a free trip to St. Thomas as a bonus, but the one that takes the cake is Ann Scharpf of Maryland who got 40 friends to help her pump up her American Airlines Citibank card so she could get free tickets to Australia!

After you read the excerpt (found after the jump), I want to know how far do you go with cashback?

Ann Scharpf of Huntingtown, Md., scouted around for about 40 friends, neighbors and co-workers who were willing to help her pump her American Airlines Citibank card. She would use her card to cover their groceries and other necessities if they would reimburse her.

Within two months, Scharpf was paying co-workers’ car insurance. And on Saturday mornings, she would buy grocery-store gift cards on her credit card totaling $100 to $800, then hand them over and collect the money from her friends and co-workers. Next, she would deposit the cash and pay off the balance on her card. Once, a Citibank representative called her to inquire why in one day she had bought $1,500 at a Food Lion and then $3,500 at the Giant Food across the street.

“My husband was rather shellshocked over the whole thing,” Scharpf said. “He’d shake his head as I rattle off the latest statistics and crunch the numbers in my Excel spreadsheet.”

Within a few months, Scharpf racked up $2,700 in free tickets, enough for a trip with her husband to Australia.

“It was definitely worth the effort,” Scharpf said. “All it cost me was some Saturday mornings and a couple hours to write 40 thank-you postcards while I watched the Australian wildlife.”

Tip of the hat to CK for the article link.

{ 6 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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6 Responses to “How Far Do You Go With Cashback?”

  1. Jason says:

    Anytime I have to make a purchase and they allow credit cards I use them. No matter if its one dollar for mailing something at the post office or paying thousands for a major purchase like tuition. Also, whenever I’m out with good friends or family and they are going to use cash for something like groceries, gas, meals, etc, I’ll offer to pay and just get reimbursed. I hadn’t thought of paying other people’s bills though. I think I’d have to be pretty close or good friends to not be too embarrassed to offer.

  2. Amy says:

    I use my Discover anywhere they will take it. It’s usually just 1% but they have promotions every 3 months for different things, so I always sign up for those (5% cash back). We just received a $160 credit on our most recent statement so I think it’s worth it!

  3. Miller says:

    There is a interesting story here with relation to paying for school. My work is willing to pay to send its employees to grad school to get masters and MBAs. Most the youngsters I know take advantage of that. Well, it used to be (the system has changed since) that you had to front the money (approximately 2k a class), and if you recevied a B or better, work would reimburse you the money. Great!!! Cashback baby! At the time, the best I could do is 1% (yes, now Discover has a 5% on education), so this would be ~$40 per class in cashback. However, this would have to be balanced with the interest lost in the bank for having to front this money for about 5 months. In the end (I don’t recall the exact interest rates at the time), it ended up pretty much being a slight advantage to fronting the money yourself (especially with taxes figured in, I think), but around $5 I think. Ther was a semester or two where the students got to choose to either front the money or have work front the money (the current system), but most of us chose to have work do it because $5 isn’t worth having $2k tied up for so long…

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  5. Dus10 says:


    I do this right now, except I do not have to front the cash. My school will defer receiving a payment until two weeks after grades have been issued if you can provide an approval letter from your employer. So, I defer, get the money and stick it in the bank, pay with credit to get points, and then pay the balance off in full. I get a little interest in my savings account while floating the credit for a month, and then get points. It works out great. Now, if I could just pay my credit cards with other credit cards (not balance transfers), that would be great!

  6. Aimee says:

    The only thing that I would be worried about is if the card had two cylce billing. Otherwise, you may as well take advantage of the offers! I just would have to be very disciplined.

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