Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Super Crazy Surprise - I Got a $500 Gift Card

You know those on-line offers, those crazy pop-up ads, that ask you silly questions like "Do you like Best Buy or Circuit City?" and then offer you gift cards or cash for completing offers?

I did one. And it worked.

Yes, I'm serious. I got a $500 gift card to Sears, and it's real. I checked the balance on-line.

So how did I do it & why was I crazy enough to try it?

A few months back, I discovered Carrie over at Money Saving Methods, another popular blogger in the frugality blogging world. She completes on-line offers and claims to have a lot of success doing it. Her site is very detailed & has a lot of information on how to succeed in completing your offer.

What's the gist of an on-line offer, or a "deal", as I call it? With the deal I did, you need to complete 8 different, individual offers. The offers are for all sorts of things: credit reports, free trials on teeth whiteners, Blockbuster on-line or makeup, quotes on auto insurance, etc. Some of them will require a small fee out of pocket; others are true "free trials". Most require you give a credit card number. Yes, I know that's scary. I'm say more about that later.

Anyway, after perusing Carrie's site, I figured I'd try to do a "deal". I followed Carrie's directions carefully and chose offers that I, for the most part, was interested in, like Netflix & eMusic. I also had to pick a few that I wasn't interested in in order to fulfill the requirements. I had to wait about 10 days for all my offers to finalize and be approved. Then, I sent in the paperwork, was officially approved by the company after about 2 weeks, and received my gift card 5 weeks later. The whole process took a little over 2 months.

Here are some things I learned in the process of doing my "offer".

If you take advantage of free trial offers, the longer the trial, the better. I did a deal with I-deal, and I could check their website whenever I wanted to see if my "offers" had been approved. I picked a few offers where the "free" part was not very long, and ended up having to pay for the 1st month of whatever the service was.

Pick free trials where you don't have to send the product back. Read the fine print. Many offers will start your trial by sending you a small sample of their product. If you choose not to continue past the free trial, some require that you return the product; otherwise, you have to pay for the product, the cost of which is often hefty.

Pick offers that are low cost, in case you don't get approved quickly. If the product or offer costs $5/month, it's not as important that you are approved in a timely manner because you're not out a ton of money.

Pick offers that genuinely interest you. We joined Netflix, which after the free trial costs us less than $9/month. I joined Columbia House, picking the lowest purchase requirement, and got several DVD's at a low cost. I got 25 free downloads from eMusic.

Pick reputable companies whose names you recognize, and use a credit card you can check on-line. Since you need to give a credit card number, try & pick companies like Blockbuster & Columbia House. Also, use a credit card that has a good monitoring system and a proven track record of safety.

Check your offer status frequently. The majority of my offers were approved in the first 3-5 days. One offer was a straggler and was approved at 8 days. The last offer was still not approved at 10 days, so I completed a different offer (eMusic) to fill in the gap. eMusic approved immediately, and I met my quota.

If you want to try one of these offers, I'm definitely not an expert on them; I'd head over to Carrie's blog, which is quite detailed, and start reading. She's happy to answer any questions about the process.

The big question: what will I buy with my gift card? We're going to get an additional freezer for about $200 and think about what to do with the rest :)


  1. That's awesome! I've always been skeptical of those "deals" and haven't participated in any of them though some can be pretty enticing. Actually, I read a newspaper article a couple of years back about a guy who thought the same thing (too good to be true) and did a few and got some great 'rewards', but as you said, was very careful about which ones he chose and kept tabs on each etc. Thanks for the info, maybe I'll give it a shot one of these days!

  2. I'm not sure how much I spent. I spent more than I needed to because I did 2 trial offers where I had to send the product back. The next one I do, I will carefully track, but I think you could do one, spending less than $50, pretty easily. $25 might even be doable.