Sunday, December 8, 2013

Manufactured Spending: Trimming Costs with the Fuel Rewards Network

Anyone who regularly engages in Manufactured Spending should be fully aware of the actual cost of their spending.  For example, if you buy $1000 in Visa gift cards at Winn-Dixie, you'll pay $11.90 in purchase fees.  If you then liquidate through purchasing money orders, the you'll likely pay another $0.70 in purchase fees.  That brings your actual cost for spending $1,011.90 to $12.60.  So, with a single miles card you're paying 1.26 CPM.  With a 2% cashback card, you're making .74% profit.  With the 2.2% Barclay Arrival card, your profit (in the form of travel credits) goes up to .94%.

Winn-Dixie also participates in the Fuel Rewards Network, a loyalty card system that pays off in cents-off per gallon (CPG) of gasoline purchased at Shell stations.  Normally, Winn-Dixie spending earns 5 CPG per $50 spent.  Unfortunately, only the fee portion of Visa gift card purchases counts.  That means that for roughly every $5,000 in manufactured spend, you'll also earn 5 CPG off your next gas purchase (up to 20 gallons).  Since I drive a truck with a better than 20 gallon tank, I value that 5 CPG at approx. $1.  That return is so minimal that I do not factor it into the "cost" of my spending.

However, for the rest of December, there's a way to juice that return.  Fuel Rewards has partnered with Mastercard and is paying a bonus of 3 CPG for every $100 spent at Winn-Dixie (or any other FRN partner store) when you link your Mastercard to your FRN account.  I didn't expect that it would work, but in the spirit of scientific inquiry I made a test purchase with my Barclay Arrival card (which is a Mastercard) after linking it to my FRN account.  The purchase quickly showed up in my FRN "dashboard", but did not show any fuel rewards earned.  However, to my surprise, my account now shows that I earned 30 CPG for the $1,011.90 purchase:

"MasterCard Grocery Bonus 3 cents on $100     $0.30"

Since I value 10 cents in Fuel Rewards at approx. $2 (10 cents x 20 gal.), that means I earned $6 worth of gas on the purchase.  This should work with any miles or cashback earning Mastercard once you've linked it to your FRN account and is a nice way to reduce the cost of your manufactured spending for the rest of December.

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