The recent Home Improvement Gift Card (HIGC) “deal” makes for a very interesting case study. I’ve written about the secrecy that exists in the points world and even wrote a post called “Is there a ‘Code’ Among Points Bloggers?” The main idea is that there are tons of deals that exist in the points/miles world that are not shared for the simple reason that a blogger sharing the deal would kill the deal. And this last HIGC deal is a perfect example of this.
First, here’s a brief timeline of what happened:
- Blogger Points to Paradise blogs about the deal on 7/29 and tweets it to Frequent Miler
- A FlyerTalk user posts it on FT shortly after reading the blog post on 7/29
- Million Mile Secrets posts the deal early morning on 7/31
- The deal dies the morning/afternoon of 8/1
There were undoubtedly quite a few people/FlyerTalkers that already knew that HIGCs were PIN-enabled before the initial blog post. Many have admitted so on the official FlyerTalk thread on this deal. They chose to keep it secret, or share it with only a few, trusted people in order to preserve the deal for themselves and a small group of others. By not letting the world (i.e. FlyerTalk or bloggers) know, they and a few others get to earn free points for an indefinite amount of time.
But eventually someone else, a relatively new blogger named Points to Paradise, also discovered this trick. She wrote about the deal on her blog because, according to her responses to some negative comments, she wanted to give back to a community that has given her so much. That’s absolutely wonderful, and she should be applauded for wanting to give back to our community.
Unfortunately there were some very unintended consequences to this deal. I learned about this deal from FT as well and wrote two posts about it: one was very vague since I wanted to preserve the deal, and the second was a full post that I made after Million Mile Secrets’ post (when he posts a deal, the cat’s out of the bag). I was sure to post very strong warnings on this deal because these gift cards are not cash equivalents, so there was a lot more risk than with previous deals.
Now the deal is officially dead. These HIGCs are simply just gift cards once again. There is no easy way to liquidate them, though there are a couple of options that I’ll mention later. The problem? There are TONS of people that are stuck with literally thousands and thousands of dollars worth of these gift cards with no easy way to recoup their money. I received several Direct Messages on Twitter from people asking for advice because they needed to liquidate these soon.
So something that was intended to give back to the community actually backfired on a lot of people in a very significant and potentially costly way. I have $2k of these cards left myself, and I know plenty of people that have over $1K just from reading a few tweets.
And that brings me back to the same question I ask every time one of these deals comes along and then dies: should it be blogged or written about? It took all of ONE DAY after Million Mile Secrets’ post to go live before the deal died (he has massive readership). I’m not really blaming him – he posts this type of material all the time so it was only a matter of time.
On the other hand, Frequent Miler, who is the blogging king of manufactured spend, knew about the deal several days earlier and decided not to write about it. I haven’t asked him why he didn’t, but my guess is that he chose not to in order to preserve the deal for others since it’s obvious it would die if he wrote about it. I actually think we all owe him a bit of thanks for exercising restraint, and it’s one reason I choose to use his referral links when I need to.
But now that the deal is dead, and while plenty of people benefited from it for 2 days, now no one can benefit from it. I really feel for the people that knew about this deal for the last several months because their gravy train has come to a sudden halt. No deal lasts forever, but it’s always a bummer when a good deal you were taking advantage of dies. But unlike other deals, this one also leaves a lot of people with gift cards that they don’t know how to liquidate. Everyone that participated in this is an adult and hopefully took stock of the risks involved, but sometimes people make mistakes. Hopefully the below will help.
Options if You’re Stuck with HIGCs
For those people have more than they can reasonably use, there are a couple of options. First of all, realize that the HIGC can be used at hundreds of locations. Home Depot and Lowe’s are only some of them, but these can be used at places like Sears, 1-800-Flowers.com, Radio Shack, and some car rental places. See this post by Thrifty Tourist for more interesting uses. I couldn’t get the HIGC website’s search function to work while writing this post, but I’m assuming it will be back soon.
Another option is to “upgrade”, or use this gift card to buy other gift cards from Lowe’s or Sears. Lowe’s sells gift cards to Amazon, Southwest Airlines, Marriott, and a couple of gas stations among many others. Sears has plenty of gift cards available as well.
The most interesting option is courtesy of FT user jammanxc (also the blogger at Points Summary). He wrote in this FT post that if you own a Home Depot or Sears credit card, you can essentially earn a negative balance on the card and then have the card issuer cut you a check for the amount. I’ve never done this but it sounds reasonable that it would work., and Jamison even tweeted me a link to these instructions online.
Otherwise, hopefully you can float the money for a while. These home improvement stores sell plenty of household items, so hopefully you can chip away at your gift cards while buying products you actually need. Just try not to buy anything you wouldn’t otherwise buy.
I’m curious to know what everyone thinks about this deal. I’m setting up a simple poll below on whether you think deals like this should be shared even though it’s guaranteed to die in days, or whether to not share and allow a small group of people to profit. I’m also curious to hear if you’re stuck with a large amount of gift cards and/or if you have other ideas to liquidate them.
Update: Other Resources
- Miles, Points, and Mai Tais – How to Get Cash Back for HIGCs
- Frequent Miler – Home Improvement gift cards lose their luster. Now what?