My buying group experiment: throwing in the towel, for now

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In early July, my wife, my son, and I all applied and were approved for new credit cards (see: 3 Inks approved again. 420K points “in the bag”).  In total, we’ll earn 420,000 bonus points after completing the welcome offers’ minimum spend requirements: $8,000 per card.  I previously reported my intention to meet that spend through buying groups, but due to extremely bad timing on my part, I’ve had to pivot…

a person running away from a cell phone

Buying groups, background

I didn’t previously have much experience with merchandise buying groups.  Stores often have sales with limits of how many can be purchased by each customer.  Buying groups make money by reselling these items.  They can’t directly buy in quantity at advertised sale prices, but they can do so indirectly by buying from people like you and me.  So, we buy as many as we are allowed and can have the items shipped directly to the buying group’s address which is always in a sales-tax-free state.  Then, the buying group pays us back.  Sometimes we even make a small profit.  The point, for us, is primarily to increase credit card spend and to get that money back.

For a more thorough overview of buying groups, including the many risks and cautions to be aware of, please see Tim’s post: Using Buying Groups to Increase Credit Card Spend.

Caution: there are real risks to using buying groups!
  • Risk of non-payment is real, both in merchandise and gift card buying groups. Like all companies, buying groups sometimes go out of business. In those cases, there are often customers left holding the bag. In one of the most notorious cases, a gift card group went out of business and one unfortunate gal was owed over $100K. This is one of the reasons why it's wise to diversify as a general rule.
  • Some retailers like Target, Best Buy, Ebay and Dell will block accounts that they suspect are reselling from ordering through their sites. Dell operates on a hair-trigger. Shutdowns happen. Most folks reading this will probably not be buying from these retailers at a clip that draws their ire (outside of Dell), but go in with eyes open.
  • Amazon.com allows buying 3rd party gift cards with Amazon gift card credit, but Amazon has been known to shut down the accounts of some customers doing this. If you value your Amazon account, proceed with caution.
  • Amazon.com is also one of the easiest retailers from which to drop-ship. Shutdowns do happen, though. It pays to start small, ramp up slowly, and pay as much as you can for buying group products with credit cards instead of Amazon gift cards.

My Buying Group Experiment

In my family we have three new credit cards in which we needed to spend $8,000 each in order to earn our welcome bonuses.  In order to learn firsthand about buying groups, I decided I would meet those spend requirements through buying groups.  Specifically, my intent was to use a different buying group with each card.

In a previous update, in July, I described some early failures I had when dipping my toes into the buying group waters (see: My Buying Group Experiment — Day One Failures). The few orders I had placed so far for BuyForMeRetail had been cancelled.  And my timing was awful: We had received these cards in the mail shortly after Amazon Prime Days had ended.  As a result, I had missed out on a huge number of buying group deals.

After posting my July update, I tried some more BuyForMeRetail deals.  I tried different merchants and I tried shipping to different BuyForMeRetail addresses, but all of my orders were cancelled.

Next I tried a few deals through MaxOut Deals (this is our affiliate link — thank you!).  I started with a very small order from Kohls.  Cancelled.  Next, I placed a small order through Lowe’s, and that shipped!  Amazingly, MaxOut Deals received the items two days later and credited my account that same day for more than I had paid!  Sweet, it seemed I was on to something!  So then I tried a few more Lowe’s deals, but hit a wall.  Most of the items were sold out by the time I got to them, and one didn’t have a free shipping option and so it became a bad deal with the limited supply available.

Next, I went on vacation for most of August.  I didn’t want to deal with this stuff while on vacation and so I didn’t.  I should have thought about this before deciding to do this buying group experiment!

In early September I finally returned to the task.  Nearly two months had passed since we applied for these cards and so I was getting nervous about completing the minimum spend requirements.  To-date I had spent less than $100 on each card!  I sent a secure message to Chase to find out the drop-dead date for meeting spend.  The answer: October 6.  Yikes, I only had a month to do it!

My next experiment was to ditch merchandise buying groups and try gift card buying groups instead.  Specifically, I had heard good things about Aligned Incentives and so I gave them a try.  I was almost instantly flooded with deal emails.  Many of the deals didn’t apply to me because they were in-store deals for stores that are not nearby.  And a lot of the deals were money-losers.  I prefer to do buying group deals where I break even, or better.  A few deals came in each day that did work for me, though.  With very little effort I completed a couple of deals and Aligned Incentives paid me by e-check 2 weeks later.  That was encouraging.  The low amount I had spent, though, was discouraging.  Most of the online deals were for things like a $50 gift card that you could buy for $40, limit one, and Aligned Incentives would pay $40 for that gift card.  These deals are easy, but hard to scale.

Giving up, for now

Ultimately, mid-month I realized that I was cutting things too close with this experiment.  I needed to complete $24,000 spend in a short amount of time.  Luckily for me, I had an easy alternative.  I owed a lot in estimated taxes and so I used the Ink cards to pay those taxes (See: Pay Taxes via Credit Card).  We’ve already received the welcome bonuses on 2 of the 3 cards.

Going forward, I’ll keep doing buying group deals when they’re easy.  I liked the experience with the gift card buying group (Aligned Incentives) much more than my experiences with merchandise buying groups.  The latter were just too frustrating when one order after another got cancelled.  If I lived in a sales-tax-free state, I might have a different opinion.  Some merchandise buying groups (including MaxOut Deals) offer free shipping labels for many deals so that you can buy things in-store or to be shipped to your home and then mail them to the buying group.  I think that would be much more straightforward and scalable.

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Logan at Aligned Incentives

I was almost instantly flooded with deal emails. Many of the deals didn’t apply to me because they were in-store deals for stores that are not nearby. And a lot of the deals were money-losers. I prefer to do buying group deals where I break even, or better

This is a valid critique! At the time you reviewed us you had the ability to toggle off alerts by deal source but we have added a new feature that we hope addresses the latter complaint. You’re now able to filter deal emails by profitability. You could, for example, set a minimum profit of 0% and then you’d only get emails for deal that were breakeven or better.

Bryan_sellB

Hey, if anyone of your readers or yourself are interested in alternatives. sellB will eliminate a lot of those problems you or others have to or had to deal with.

It’s a platform which connects consumers and resellers with businesses who are looking to source specific products which adds an extra layer of security.

They are currently looking for more users to join their private beta which is why I thought I share it in case anyone of your readers would like to join the program.

discord.gg/W9j8EguS

[…] this week, in Greg’s post about throwing in the towel on buying groups, he mentioned in passing buying 3rd party gift cards at Amazon using Amazon Gift Card money. A day […]

Eco

Hey mate, have a look at mybuyinggroup.com it might help

Last edited 8 months ago by Eco
bulls_fan

Greg-
given recent IRS rule changes regarding Paypal, Venmo, Ticketmaster, Stubhub, (you get it…) having to issue 1099’s for anything over $600 in year from/to any individual or entity, what do you think the odds are that these re-sales to the buying groups are going to generate 1099’s such that people will need to pay taxes on the profit? (And have to record keep, jump through hoops, risk mis-matched reporting, etc.)

Michael

Ah. This makes me sad, but also happy. I love buying groups. I am on pace to do over $600k this calendar year “working” about 10-12 hours per week at it. Sad because its such easy points flow, but happy because now more people may be discouraged, leaving more capacity (and business class seats) for me and my family.

Andrew

Genuinely curious – what’s the point haul from that much buying group spend and do you break even on the actual buying group purchases with their reimbursements?

I don’t have the time right now to spend that many hours on generating spend but could see that changing in the next year. At 10-12 hours a week that’s a part time job so I’m wondering with other costs what that hourly rate comes out to. At 2 million points a year and 1.5cpp average value that would be in the $55/hr ballpark.

Michael

Andrew – Honestly the point haul is what you make of it. All new sign-up bonuses are covered, and then I use Cap One Venture X, AmEx Blue Business, Chase Ink Unlimited, or buy tons of Visa and MC GCs with my Ink Cash cards. So yeah I would say 1.5-2mil points is reasonable. Also add in to the cpp and $/hr idea that I always click through portals to make these purchases, so I am earning extra points or (more often) cash back that way too. But it doesn’t feel like work to me. Its fun. I enjoy it. And my family gets to take 3-4 nice vacations per year, where without this, we’d be lucky to do one every-other-year that wasn’t nearly as a nice. VMMY on everything, but to me, its a no-brainer.

bob

What groups have you been using

Greg Snowflake Princess

I’ve done over $200K in buying group deals and its not as easy as Mr Greg Snowflake Princess is making it, but also very easy once you figure it out. Took me 2 weeks to figure out how to get orders to go through. Clearly anyone can start a “blog” and call themselves a points expert these days smh

Last edited 8 months ago by Greg Snowflake Princess
DealGutu

Can you share the trick how to get orders through?

George the Blogger

I really did not learn anything here.

YMMV

And that is exactly what you learned – that doing nothing instead of participating in a BG is the correct approach.

BG

clearly there was a backlash to the previous post … it makes sense to keep BGs more under the radar for only very experienced churners with the appropriate risk tolerance.
of course Greg already knew all the tricks in the book (including BGs) before this “experiment” ever got started. but casual readers are nowhere near equipped for the risk involved with BGs, and experienced readers already know them. not much point to doing a fake series about them

Paul

Amazon business account (without Prime) and Walmart business account (without +) are the ones I’ve been able to use. You need to season the Walmart account with some small purchase first so they know the address is valid. BFMR and CNJ are my preferred as they do ACH and save the hassle of checks.

DealGutu

What’s CNJs website?

Paul

Closeoutnewjersey

PiratePharmD

The busy gift card season is Q4, and will probably start up this coming Sunday/Monday. Not a bad idea to get squared away with new cards for sign-up bonuses if it’s something you’re interested in.

Lochquel

With Aligned Incentives, one can opt out of emails for stores not in your footprint or interest. Look at settings on their website to opt out.

Ken

Yeah, IME Amazon is really the only predictable, repeatable, scalable source. I’ve used Buy For Me Retail a lot, and they’ve always been trustworthy. King’s comment below is appropriate tho: you donno where else these guys are getting their product, and you donno what they’re doing with it. Don’t risk more than you can afford having locked up in an investigation.

Tonei Glavinic

Yeah, Amazon is pretty much the only retailer that works consistently for drop shipping. If you don’t live in a tax free state you can register for a resale permit with the state department of revenue to avoid paying sales tax at some retailers (like Best Buy, Costco, and Walmart) though this typically means you need to file sales tax returns (even though you aren’t collecting or remitting anything).

King

Please warn your readers about the dangers of these buying groups.

They might also buy from shop lifters and gang looters and mix your items and sell it in a marketplace.

There is a law passed where the sellers has to list the source of items.

Ken

“There is a law passed where the sellers has to list the source of items.”
Really. What is that law?

King

The INFORM Consumers Act requires “online marketplaces” – a term defined in the statute – to protect consumers from counterfeit, unsafe, and stolen goods by verifying the identity of high-volume third-party sellers on their platforms and by making it easier for consumers to report suspicious conduct

https://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/blog/2023/06/online-marketplaces-take-note-inform-consumers-act-takes-effect-june-27th

TimR

Amazon Prime Day is where most of the deals are at. In the future, you may consider deals with 1-2% haircut loss. You do this with tax payments for the service fee (1.87% minimum) and many did this with Plastiq at a higher rate for minimum spend

Satellite

Tax payments are zero risk (if you actually owe). Taking the same loss while being exposed to huge risk of not being paid for merchandise doesn’t make sense.

beavis

I overpaid my taxes and the IRS held up my refund for over a year. It eventually worked out but I do not care to repeat the process.

Last edited 8 months ago by beavis
Satellite

If you can float the money, IRS pays 8% on overpayments which is probably the best 100% safe investment right now.

beavis

I got the interest but it was the not knowing when they were going to complete the refund that concerned me. Fortunately, I had the cash to cover the credit card bill but over a year of no communication from the IRS was stressful (I wouldn’t do a five figure spend this way, for sure).

Satellite

If you’re financially secure, just look at it as an investment account. If you need to money to cover mortgage/food, then don’t do it