Hacking the Cost of an Engagement Ring

Introduction

With good timing and a little bit of planning, I was able to stack multiple deals to get 33% in savings off retail for the custom engagement ring of my fiance’s dreams. Keep reading if you want to learn how!

Background

In late 2016, I started shopping for an engagement ring. It took a few months, but I finally found the ring that I thought would make her happy and was within my budget. However, it was from an online retailer that requires the purchase of a diamond, sight unseen, with any setting. After working hard to learn the 4-Cs of diamonds (carat, cut, clarity, color), I wasn’t about to purchase one without getting to look at it first! I printed out a few photos of the ring and visited a handful of vendors to see who could make one like it for the lowest cost.

AMEX Offers

In mid-January 2017, an AMEX offer for 20% off $100+ spent at Sam’s Club appeared on both my AMEX Business Rewards Gold and AMEX Business Platinum cards. The maximum rebate for each offer was $250, meaning I had to spend $1250 “in a single transaction” on each card to maximize the offer. While AMEX offers are supposed to be applied to only one account, I used the multi-tab trick to save this offer to both AMEX accounts.

 

Sam’s Club sells a variety of merchant and Visa or MasterCard (VGC/MCGC) gift cards, though the ability to purchase variable load $20-$500 VGC or MCGC with a credit card is location dependent. Luckily, the closest Sam’s Club to me allows the purchase of $500 MCGCs with a credit card. Although the AMEX offer explicitly states that the 20% rebate would only be applied to one transaction, data points showed the rebate was applying to the sum total amount of multiple transactions made in succession as opposed to just the first transaction. This is huge because Sam’s Club cashiers can only process one variable load gift card per transaction.

Each MCGC comes with a $4.94 fee. To maximize the deal, I needed to buy 3 MCGC on each AMEX card ($500, $500, and $250), which along with the $14.82 in fees (3 x $4.94) would eclipse $1250. My initial goal was to purchase a total of five $500 MCGC and split one of the transactions across each AMEX card (so $250+fees on each AMEX), but the cashier was new and I decided not to over complicate things. Alternatively, I could have purchased one $235 MCGC on each AMEX instead of the $250 (which along with the fees would have come to around $1250), but I didn’t think quickly enough to do that.

Within minutes of completing the transactions, I received a “You Just Used Your AMEX Offer!” email for each AMEX account. The next day, a $250 statement credit posted on each account. Success!

My AMEX Business Platinum statement:

My AMEX Business Rewards Gold statement:

The total out of pocket cost for 6 MCGC valued at $2500 was $29.64, or 1.2%, giving a return on investment of 18.8%. Additionally, I received 2,530 AMEX Membership Rewards (MR) for the purchase. Since I have the AMEX Platinum for Charles Schwab card, which allows for cashing out MR at a rate of 1.25 cents per point, those 2,530 MR are worth a minimum of $31.63. This effectively negates the MCGC fees, leading to a net return of approximately 20%.

Merchant Gift Card Deals

After receiving a handful of cost-estimates to custom make the engagement ring, I decided to have it made at a national box-retailer due to their larger geographic footprint and warranty. During this process, my mom also gifted me the diamond from her mother’s engagement ring, which meant I now only needed to pay for the custom band (thanks Mom!).

After deciding on a vendor, I checked out GiftCardWiki to see if any discount gift cards were available. Not only was there enough gift card value available between eBay and ABC Gift Cards to cover the entire cost of the ring, but they were selling at a 10% to 15% discount. And I could use the MCGC acquired at a 20% discount to make the purchases!

GiftCardWiki screenshot for Jared the Galleria of Jewelers.

I called the vendor to confirm they would accept gift cards for the purchase of a custom item (always be aware of exclusions!). After confirming, I then used the MCGC to purchase a total of $1125 in gift card value for $992 from a known eBay seller – an 11.8% savings, and $1200 in gift card value for $1,032 from ABC Gift Cards – a 14% savings. This leads to an effective discount of 12.9% for the merchant gift cards!

Stacking Deals

By using the MCGC acquired at an effective discount of 20% to purchase $2325 in merchant gift cards at an effective discount of 12.9%, combined I was able to save almost 33% on one of the largest single purchases I’ll (hopefully) have this year! Additionally, if you aren’t purchasing a custom item that requires payment in-store, you can shop online and go through the cashback portal with the highest cashback rate on Cashback Monitor for extra savings!

Have you used AMEX offers and credit card rewards to save big bucks on big purchases? Let me know how in the comments!


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