Perpetual Point Machine… Not!


When I was very young I invented a perpetual motion machine (a machine that runs on its own power, forever).  I drew a picture of a little car with a vertical gear that was driven by heavy bricks.  The idea was that the higher up bricks would be pulled down by gravity, forcing the entire wheel to turn.  Of course, this wouldn’t really work, but I didn’t know that at the time.

a diagram of a circle with red rectangles
The gear that drove my perpetual motion machine

The other day, I thought I had discovered something even better:  a perpetual point machine.  A perpetual point machine is a scheme in which, after a little push, points and/or miles are accrued over and over again, forever, with little or no additional work.

The idea hit me when I was online buying a Sears e-gift card, following my own advice from a previous post showing how to earn 40,000 Aadvantage miles from $2000 Sears spend.  So, I was buying the e-gift card and I saw this:

a close-up of a gift card
Wow, it looked like I could buy a gift card with a gift card!  Why would I care about that?  Well, with the Aadvantage Shopping Mall offering 10 miles per dollar spent at Sears, I figured I could spend real money just once to buy the first gift card, then go through the portal again to buy another gift card, using the first one to pay, and then go through the portal again and buy another gift card, and so on forever.  Ergo, we would have a perpetual point machine!  Let’s say I bought a $500 gift card each time.  Then, each transaction would result in 5000 Aadvantage miles.  200 transactions later I’d have a million miles!

Of course, just like my perpetual motion machine, the point machine doesn’t work either.   After entering my gift card number (yes, I really tried to pull this off!), the website immediately informed me that “Gift Cards can not be used to purchase Gift Cards at this time.”  Rats!  The wording, “at this time,” does make me wonder, though.  Is there a time in which gift cards can be used to purchase gift cards?  If so, what time?

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[…] Perpetual Point Machine… Not! I didn’t actually think much of this one when I wrote it, but reader feedback was quite positive. I discovered that I shared a common goal with many readers:  a perpetual point machine that will award us with points and miles forever and ever. I followed up with more “PPM” posts and quickly discovered that I had found my niche.  You can find all PPM posts by clicking on the Perpetual Point Machine tagon my site. Note that the posts are sorted with the most recent first. […]

[…] tricks worked out, though.  I wrote a story about one of these failures in a post titled “Perpetual Point Machine… Not!” (my son hated that title, by the way).  Since writing that post, I decided that the focus […]


You make a fun game. I have tried 15 candidates today and will report if there is any positive result.


@Sam: I’m glad you’re having fun! Any chance you can post the failed candidates here so that others don’t have to duplicate your effort?


I’d look into cash back sites like Mr. Rebates and Big Crumbs.


B: Thanks for the hint! Readers: who will be first to discover B’s trick?


As much as cash back is great (and often more valuable than miles and points), there are those of us who are true miles-and-points junkies and would rather have those than cash… probably b/c if we had cash we would spend it — and not on buying miles or airfare. Would you mind hinting if your method would allow mileage earning, or just cash back?


I just wanted to add a quick reply that there are a limited number of merchants that allow gift cards to purchase more gift cards. Sorry for the late reply, just saw this post. I can confirm it with screen shots, but will not reveal the merchants it works with. I would send in an email but do not see about me or email addy for the blog.

Just want to give hope to anyone who actually takes the time to use trial and error to find the right combination of merchant and shopping portal.


B: Great info, thanks for sharing! I don’t need proof, I trust you, but I will look into adding a “contact me” option on this site. Thanks for pointing that out as well. Any chance you would share a hint with us? Maybe tell us which online mall you use?


@megerton: Actually, yes, I have tried many different combinations. Unfortunately, many stores have rules when going through shopping portals that disallow rewards on purchases of gift cards and/or purchases using gift cards. The great thing about Sears is that they do not restrict either, so you can double-dip by buying a Sears card through Ultimate Rewards Mall and then buying Sears merchandise through another shopping portal. The other great thing is that the gift cards from Sears are so versatile and can be used at either Sears, Kmart, or Land’s End.

But, please let us know if you find a way to do this! I’ve tried Kohl’s, but haven’t tried Home Depot, that might be worth a look…


I was intrigued by this too. Have you tried other combinations – i.e., buying an e-cert through the Ultimate Reward Mall, then trying at via another another shopping portal? Or buying an actual gift card and then using it to by ae-cert, or vice versa? Or with other merchants, such as Home Depot or Kohl’s?


Welcome to BoardingArea!


Thanks! I’m very glad to be here!


I like the perpetual point machine… wish it would work!


Jenny, I do too! But if it actually worked it would bankrupt Sears since they have to pay for those miles. A better perpetual point machine would be one in which no-one loses. Let me know if you discover one!


Very creative thinking.