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Friday, January 23, 2009

Free Wii 4 Me: Part Two

Part Two: Wii-Wards

Someone ought to tell me to tone down the puns. I’m beginning to really reach……I guess it could be worse. I could have said, “Wii-ly Wii-each.”

So, in Part One I explained how my Father-in-Law got a Wii for Christmas and I got a little jealous. Now, I am going to outline my plan for getting one for free. Honestly, the more I think about this plan, the more I think I should have just did my Wii site instead. It would have been less work. I just didn’t want to have to pimp my site in order to get referrals. It’s a lot harder to convince people that it’s legitimate. By that token, I decided to do this myself. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I realized I could pull it off in earnest. The gist of this concept relies on me utilizing my Debit and Credit Cards. I’ll try to be as clear and to the point as possible explaining this, but I cannot guarantee that I won’t ramble and spin off into a tangent along the way. Ready…?


My bank has a program that offers rewards points for purchases using my check card. For every purchase I make in the store using it as credit instead of debit earns me 2 points per dollar. Every bill I pay online like utilities, mortgage, car payment, etc. using my account earns me a bonus of 25 pts per transaction. Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to do the 2 pts/1 dollar method. If I did, my mortgage alone would get me thousands of points each month. Regardless of how I earned points, I didn’t get caught up in the hype of redeeming them right away. They weren’t set to expire anytime soon and the catalog of prizes was a bit laughable.

At first, I didn’t think much of my rewards card. I joined up four years ago when the program began and figured that I would just accrue points until I had enough for plane tickets and hotel stays. Then, I could take my wife on a real honeymoon. We just went to Niagara Falls for a week and she spent most of it with the flu. A couple of airline tickets would probably run me something like 400,000 points. Since I started earning rewards, I’ve accumulated about 100,000. With that I could get a free putter. You see the ridiculousness of the redemption? It’s like that scene from The Jerk where Steve Martin is explaining what you can actually win from the weight guessing game. “Uh, anything in this general area right in here. Anything below the stereo and on this side of the bicentennial glasses. Anything between the ashtrays and the thimble. Anything in this three inches right in here in this area. That includes the Chiclets, but not the erasers.”

Every so often, I’d check in on my account and see how I was doing and I’d also look at the catalog to see if there was any new items that I would enjoy. I skipped the low end stuff like water bottles and travel bags and went right for the items that were worth over 100,000 points. There it was, a Nintendo Wii, and for only 200,000 points! Well, I was half way there and it only took me four years to do that. Just think, I could get a Wii by the time they introduced the next generation of gaming console. In reality, that means that I would have to spend another $50,000 to get it. Sarcasm aside, I decided to check the low end items to see if I could get something I could tolerate. For 2000 points, I could get $4. Wow. That’s 500 points for a dollar. Well isn’t that crap….wait a minute. 500 points for every dollar. I get two points for every dollar I spend and one dollar for every 500 points I redeem. If I redeem my balance now, I would $200. That’s not too bad. I did some checking throughout the rest of the catalog to see what else there was. Here’s a rundown.

$4 Visa Cash Value Award for every 2000 pts
$15 Visa Cash Value Award for every 7500 pts
$25 gift card to GameStop for every 11500
$40 Visa Cash Value Award for every 20,000 pts
$50 gift card to Best Buy for 22,500 pts
$100 gift card to for 40,000 pts
$100 Visa Cash Value Award for every 50,000 pts

Doing some quick math I determined that Amazon, at 400 points to the dollar, has the best point to dollar redemption ratio giving $250 for my total rewards. The straight Visa reward is 500 pts to a dollar, while Best Buy is 450 and GameStop is 460. Suddenly, I began to formulate a plan. Redeem the points for Amazon gift cards and buy the Wii for an addition $50.


Whether I choose to redeem points now for gift cards or cash or wait until I have 200k to get the Wii outright, I decided that maybe I should step up the process a little. Every little bit helps. I went to my bank’s website and looked at their FAQs. Here’s what I found.

Regular Activity
CheckCard purchases - 2 per $1
credit card purchases - 5 per $1
Home Equity Line of Credit access card spending - 2 per $1
Small Business Line of Credit access card spending - 2 per $1
Checks, online bill payments, PIN purchases at point-of-sale, direct debits from checking - 25 per (up to 500 points monthly)
First time use of the first three items above - 5,000 each

Bonus activity
Open an use a new Home Equity Line of Credit - 5,000
Open an auto loan 5,000
Open and use a new Small Business Line of Credit - 5,000
Add direct deposit to a checking account - 5,000
Open a Personal or Student Savings account with a preauthorized monthly transfer (PAT) or any other type of savings account without a PAT - 5,000
Pay a bill for the first time with Online Bill Payment - 5,000
Open a new mortgage - 50,000

I’ve already been rewarded for most of the 5,000 options and I’m not about to get a loan or mortgage just to get a Wii. I already went through my monthly expenditures and found that I average about 2500 points a month through various purchases and bonuses. That still puts me on track for four years until I rack up another 100k. There has to be a way to get more points without having to spend more money than I already do. That’s when it hit me.


I found this out by accident. This actually serves another purpose which I’ll explain later. When I was working on my Free PS3 account, I frequently add funds to my PayPal account for support. It’s a long story, don’t worry about it. Anyway, I noticed that every transaction earned me 25 points. That got me to thinking. I can transfer money from my checking account to PayPal for free as long as it takes the usual three to five business days. I can also transfer money from my PayPal account back to my checking account for free as well. What if I set up a revolving door of transactions? The only way to be safe about this was to keep the amounts small. I didn’t want to be overdrawn on either side.

  1. I transferred $10 from my PayPal account on a Monday.
  2. On Tuesday, I went in and added $10 back to my PayPal account $1.00 at a time.
  3. After the cycle was over, I had the same amount in both accounts that I had when I started.

I just made 250 points without spending a dollar.

Ok, it’s not a pretty process and according to the rules, you can only earn up to 500 bonus points per month this way. The concept behind this is to maximize my rewards. If I’m only paying five bills online every month, then I’m only getting 125 points. I’m throwing away 375 points a month, that could be building towards my Wii. It seems petty, but here’s another angle. Forget about the Wii. Think of that 500 points as a free dollar. After four months you can redeem 2000 points for $4.00. You can use that $4.00 to pay off a credit card. In this struggling economy, paying the minimum balance on credit cards isn’t going to cut it. Every little bit helps. If you start redeeming your reward points for cash, you can start to work down your debt. Thanks to Me Vs. Debt for this tip.


In looking at the list of gift cards I can redeem for cash I noticed that perhaps the GameStop route is the best method of redemption. While I lose 40 points on the dollar for the gift cards I also found other ways to get cash from this particular outlet. I recently won an eBay auction for a game. It was for my brother’s birthday. He also has a Wii. Apparently, everyone but me has one. I opted for the Buy It Now button and paid $34.95 for a brand new Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures with free shipping. When I got the game in the mail it was the XboX 360 version. After I calmed down, seeing as how I had now missed my brother’s birthday due to this error. I explained my case to the seller. They apologized profusely and overnighted me the correct game and told me to just keep the wrong one. I suspect that this was more than just shipping error since it looked as if they had to go and buy the correct version which had a price tag of $44.95 on it. Not only did I save close to $15 on the game, I have a free Xbox 360 game to barter or sell. I can take that to GameStop and get some store credit towards my Wii. I don’t know what the trade in value is but it’s free money.I could also just take the cash from the points redemption and buy gift cards for GameStop in my local grocery store. For every $50 I spend I get $0.10 off a gallon of gas. For my 200,000 points I could get $0.40 off resulting in about $5.00 saving overall. That $5.00 can go back towards the Wii fund and now I’ve whittled down the cost further.

If all this seems rather silly and overly complex akin to a Rube Goldberg Device (i.e. Mouse Trap Game), that’s because it is. For all the calculating and planning and spending I could easily just go to the store and buy the damn thing. But this is about something more. It’s about getting it for free. Call me cheap, call me lazy, but these are the little challenges I like to on and see if I can make it happen. It may take a few months to acquire enough reward points or free gift cards, but so what. It’s fun to do. Besides, this will give me just enough time to teach my Father-in-Law how not to throw the controller.

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