The Erosion of Deals & Staying Ahead of the Game

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deal erosion

The Erosion of Deals

If you read this blog then you no doubt like to maximize everything and get a good deal. I certainly do my best to seek out good deals and to even show you how they can benefit you. Sometimes these deals last a long time and sometimes they go away in an instant. Other times they simply erode slowly away as the market corrects itself.

The truth is that the market will correct itself eventually. Either the deal will be too good and cost a company too much money and it will die or it will be too good and a company will realize they can make more money by charging more. My true goal is to personally stay ahead of these trends and to help you do the same. Today I noticed a deal that has eroded and thought it might be interesting to break it down.

$100 Gas Gift Cards for $90

Last year SVM Gift Cards began selling $100 gas gift cards for $90 on eBay. Depending on the brand, you could often profit a few bucks plus earn credit card rewards. Here is the math of a deal I wrote about last June for $100 BP gift cards.

  • Cost of 3 gift cards: $270
  • Sale Price (91.5% of face value): $274.50
  • eBay Bucks earned: +$5.40
  • Portal cashback: +$2.97
  • Cost of postage: -$3
  • Profit: $9.87 + credit card rewards

At the time, you could buy the gift cards at 90% of face value and sell them at 91.5% of face value while keeping eBay Bucks and portal rewards! Very nice. Unfortunately, the first bit of erosion came with the resale value of these cards. As more people began buying gas cards for 90% of face value, gift card resellers started paying less. As of today the best rate you can get from a reputable reseller is 89% and most are at 86%.

deal erosion
BP resell rates from Gift Card Wiki.

The Deal Didn’t Die Immediately

The resale rate erosion didn’t kill the deal immediately. After all, some people were just happy with no cost manufactured spend. If you could sell the card at a 1% loss, but you could earn 2% in eBay Bucks and 1%+ from a portal then you could still come out ahead. SVM figured this out and then guess what happened? They raised the price to $92!

That price rise made the economics even worse in most cases. Thankfully eBay Bucks deals and other promotions made the occasional purchase still make sense. Apparently that (along with other economic factors) meant that SVM felt they could still make more money and now we have this:

deal erosion

That is right. Welcome to the world of the $94 gas gift card. Now, I do acknowledge that manufactured spenders and gift card resellers are not the only market for these cards and in fact are probably not the primary market. SVM is probably trying to figure out at which discount level they sell the optimal level of cards at the right price. Either way, the economics of this deal are going to be tough, even with eBay Bucks promotions.

The New Math

Now let’s assume eBay sends out a 4X (8%) eBay Bucks promotion. Will it make sense to purchase these cards in order to manufacture spend?

  • Cost of 3 gift cards: $282
  • Sale Price (89% of face value): $267
  • eBay Bucks earned: +$22.56
  • Portal cashback: +$3.53
  • Cost of postage: -$3
  • Profit: $8.09 + credit card rewards

The answer is yes, but the deal is significantly worse. Even with a 4X promotion, you make less profit than you did before without a promotion! This is the market evening itself out. The deal has eroded. Time to move on for the most part.

One Thing to Consider

There may be one interesting side effect of this higher price. Theoretically since these cards are now discounted less, resellers may have more demand and thus the rate they are willing to pay could increase. Of course, even then you would probably still need a promotion to make a deal like this worthwhile and I doubt the purchase price would increase drastically.

Finally, Is It A Deal?

Will I cover these deals on Miles to Memories still? The answer is yes as long as you can sell the cards at zero or negative cost when combined with eBay Bucks and portals. That clearly isn’t the case now, so this is not a buy nor would I mention this sale if not within the scope of this post. But beware, a lot of deal sites still say it is a deal!

Conclusion

Deals like this one come and go. I did quite well buying and reselling gift cards in 2015 and still do it occasionally, although the entire gift card reselling “gig” has eroded similar to above. Now I am on to other things for the most part and hopefully I am helping you to move on too. Perhaps this post was meaningless to you, but to me it shows that deals come and go and that the market works to correct inefficiencies. (And I love inefficiencies.)


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7 COMMENTS

  1. Yup. The gas cards were a reliable way to hit minimum spend for a while there while making a small profit. Now they’re often/mostly a money loser. And its not just SVM Gift Cards either. The deals at Safeway for Old Navy branded cards at 20% off an unlimited number of times? Haven’t seen those in a while and even if they came back the resale prices are all below that now. Ditto that shoe brand. And that computer manufacturer (well that one still works sometimes). Etc etc etc. Most of these are dead now.

  2. I think it takes more work than most people want to put into it, but good deals pop up here and there. Sometimes you’ll make a good profit and sometimes you’ll buy points at 0.45 c/m and even out the spending. Last month I did 27K for an average of 0.02 c/m but this month I’m at like 22K for 0.47 c/m on average.

  3. I don’t know if the price will come back down to $90 but hopefully, after the summer vacation season, the prices from SVM will come back down on eBay. I just don’t see them selling that volume at $94-96 for $100 gc

  4. My Amex card pays 5% cash on supermarket purchases. So, buying eBay gift cards there still makes these deals pretty attractive. I have never resold a gift card but I love giving my kids a $100 gas card that I bought for net $86 or less.

  5. I do believe either SVM/others will give better discounts or the third party resellers will have to up their prices they are purchasing for in the future. There is going to be a period where neither will happen which will leave the resellers with a smaller inventory and SVM/others with lower sales. You can see it on the other gas cards they are trying to sell right now that have barely sold.
    I’m hoping cashcard stops selling on eBay. I hate getting excited about seeing new gift cards only to realized they are ‘preowned’ cards. I don’t like to buy from resellers and then sell back. I have seen many bad stories about that and I have had plenty of cards I have bought for personal use go bad after a month or two which can lead to banned from resellers if your aren’t careful.

    I’m hoping the market will correct itself (for the gift card flippers benefit) sooner rather than later.

  6. I think deals are eroding and dying faster.

    But everything may just be moving faster and becoming more complex. I hope new opportunities appear at a faster rate too.

    We might need to reorganize ourselves as a community to move and share faster.

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