It’s Back! Get Paid to Buy Miles At Safeway 11/6 to 12/3

Update: I’ve successfully bought multiples under 1 Vons Club account.  Also I’ve had to have manager override to use the coupon on a $11 purchase–but it was accepted with the override.  Push for acceptance, they can do a “general merch” $10 coupon.

I held off posting this yesterday because I wanted to personally test it. I’ve confirmed it live at my Vons, and so I feel comfortable posting about it.

Right now Safeway (and Vons) have a buy $100+ in Mastercard Gift cards, get a coupon for $10 off of your next shopping trip.  The gift card costs $5.95, and the coupon offsets this.  In addition I verified that this works on Variable Load cards by buying a $489.22 Mastercard at my local Vons. I did receive a $10 off coupon for this purchase. This is similar to the deal that was going on in Sept/Oct, but this time you must buy a Mastercard Gift Card (not Visa!).

You can buy a $500 reloadable Mastercard and net 500-1000 UR/SPG/AA/XYZ Miles.  The cost is $5.95 but you get a $10 off coupon good for your next purchase.  That doesn’t mean $3-$4 in real profit for each of these deals. Hidden costs include the cost to liquidate ($.70), the cost to drive there, and your time, taking your T-Rate into consideration. It is possible with a close Safeway, or a Safeway and good Drug store in the same shopping center to make money on this deal.  You could end up with a net negative CPM for this deal.  

Leveraging This Deal Even Further

For another day and a half (or until they sell out) Groupon is offering a $10 Starbucks Card for $5.  Deal is dad, the rest of the info here is still valid for any other groupon purchase so I’ll leave it in.

Groupon employs an address match for determining if an order is a duplicate.  Anyone who’s tried to buy multiple Groupons knows that after one or two your address is flagged and orders are cancelled.

We can get around this address verification and leverage this deal further using the gift cards we buy at Safeway. Register them to multiple addresses on the site:



Sign up for multiple groupon accounts (maybe using 10 minute email accounts), and use each to buy your $10 card.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  You’ve got a mile printing machine–with the $10 for $5 starbucks cards covering almost the full $5.95 purchase fee.

Putting the Numbers Together

  • Buy $500 Gift Card– net 500-1000 Miles (depending on Bonus Grocery Category). With a CB card earn $15-$30.
  • Pay $5.95 for Gift Card Fee
  • $10 coupon off future order
  • $5 in Free Starbucks from Groupon.

Net gain 500-1000 miles + $10 coupon + $10 Starbucks Card for $5.95 + $5 at Groupon, your time, and travel to Safeway store.

Potential issues:

-You Safeway might not allow you to use a credit card.

  • Solution #1:A well known technique is to try a different cashier.  A Milenomic technique is to come up with a random amount for your card.  For some reason $473.22, $389.11 or $492.74 just doesn’t set off alarms as much as $500 exactly does.  As your cashiers get to know you things will get easier. Today a cashier I have never had luck with allowed my purchase via CC–she was happy to see the coupons are back as well.
  • Solution #2: Buy from the store manager. Tell him/her you’re interested in  the promotion and be honest about your plans to buy a ton of gift cards. Finding the right manager can mean you’re set for a very long time.  Since the last few deals I’ve become the “Gift Card Guy” which I’m fine with, so long as they keep selling to me.

-You might go nuts and  end up with AA from your CC issuer.

  • Solution: Never use just one card.  You should space out your spending on multiple cards.  The above tip, to buy varied and odd amounts on each cards also helps.  10 charges of $505.95 will be easy to spot.  10 charges, each for a different value are a little bit more subtle.

-The closest Safeway is far. Too Far.

  • Solution: Remember back to your T-Rate as well as our Mileage Cost tracking primer.  Use the spreadsheet to see if buying these make sense for you.  Try to fit these into a trip you’d already be taking.  When you go and use the coupon, make sure you buy another card, maximizing your purchase, and minimizing your trips.  BE EFFICIENT.

This post is by no means a full MMR primer, but I do I want to cover potential issues before you go out and buy these cards.  Milenomics is about being smart, and never too greedy.  Remember, Bulls make miles, bears make miles, pigs get slaughtered.

Remember the Float Rule

The float rule comes into play with all MMRs. The float rule states that; If tomorrow your ability to cash out [these purchases] went away would you have serious issues with paying your credit card bill? If the answer to that question is yes–you bought too many.

If you’ve had luck finding these, post in the comments.  And remember–take the miles you need, and then switch to cash back.

About the author

- Written by Sam Simon. All ideas are my own, but I encourage you to see my point of view and I promise I'll try to do the same. Connect with me on Twitter @Milenomics.


    1. The wording on the deal has always been “1 per account”. That limit has not been enforced during past deals. I’ve always used just one club card and haven’t had a problem in the past. This time around I’ve only bought one, to make sure the coupon would print. There were no signs anywhere in my store about this deal. I’ll be ramping up my purchases this weekend as I look at my demand schedule and see in which programs I need miles. Otherwise I’ll just keep churning cash back. I’m very confident the 1 per account is not being enforced this time.

      Most of the time if the coupon fails to print it is because the printer is out of ink or paper. If that happens you can contact catalina (the coupon company) with your receipt information and they will mail you a coupon.

      1. Thanks… Was just about to test this at Safeway on my way to a Walmart/BlueBird run but chickened out due to lack of signage promoting the offer and the fact that this store is sketchy about selling the variable amount cards. Also, I made a small purchase and received five Catalina coupons/notices but none mentioned the deal. Will give it a couple days and pop in again, hopefully signage will roll out soon.

  1. No signs in my store either. I asked several people, no one had heard anything, and someone finally asked the manager. It is a brand new store – opened yesterday – and they are keen on pleasing customers. The manager told the person helping me who to call, and she came to find me a few minutes later to assure me the deal was indeed on and if I did not get the coupon with my receipt, the customer service desk would make good. It printed fine. In fact, it also printed instructions on how to put a pin on the card! I bought $500 on a @20-$500 variable card, using a credit card. No problems at all.

    Thanks for this heads up; I would have never known otherwise. And having done a churn last week, I need to make some spends. I can then use BB to pay our property taxes. Thanks so much!

    1. Elaine,

      My store was similar–no signs. Good job being persistent and tracking down the info on the deal at your local store. 🙂 Glad to help.

  2. How do you take advantage of the deal, do you buy the Mastercard gift card and ask the cashier for the coupon? Or do you have to bring some sort of print-out to the register? Also, sorry if I asked this before, but can you use the $10 off coupon to buy another Mastercard gift card on your next trip to Safeway/Vons?

    1. Brandon: the coupon prints automatically from the catalina machine after purchase. The catalina machine is the one that prints those colorful coupons that the cashier gives you after your purchases. The coupon is not supposed to be for gift cards, but some have had luck using it on gift cards. Make sure to use your club card for the purchase.

  3. Buying random amounts on your VGCs is pointless and a silly thing to recommend – no one looking at your account will be “fooled” into thinking multiple charges for hundreds of dollars at grocery in quick succession is anything but a lame attempt to hide your gc purchase activities. I think doing so is likely to be a bigger red flag to anyone reviewing your account than just buying multiples of $505.95.

    And if you are silly enough to do random purchases, it makes your costs rise and makes cashing out needlessly complicated.

    1. Paul: You might be right about it not helping “fool” anyone on the CC issuer side. However there are two benefits that I’ve experienced: First, the cashier is a little taken aback, and it starts a healthy conversation, “wow that’s a very specific amount” Is usually the ice breaker that cracks the coldest cashier. You’re correct I might forego 10-20 miles by buying a $492.11 GC, but I lose all of them (and costs rise very quickly) if I’m shot down and not sold any cards at all in the first place.

      Secondly–it makes is much easier for me to keep track of my purchases and balance against CC Statements. If every purchase is $505.95 it is easier for one to slip through the cracks–and also harder to keep track of things. A year’s worth of profit could be lost with one lost card. I’d never use whole numbers for that reason alone.

  4. Works at Safeway. If it’s like last month you’ll need to spend $25 to get $10 off, so split your orders up. Also the gift coupons are only good for 2-3 weeks so make sure you can use them all in this time frame.

      1. Elaine,

        thank you for posting this information. I’ve been in the middle of nowhere without Internet and couldn’t respond to Glenn’s comment. Technically the coupon only seems to automatic scan and deduct $10 when you spend more than $25 . however, as Elaine mentioned the coupon itself says good for $10 off $10. As I mentioned in the update, just push for a manager to override and get the $10 off $10.

  5. Just a comment about putting the gift card – a variable load one which I got for $500 – on my BB. For the first time I was asked to sign to do it at the Customer Service desk. I was also not asked for a pin. Neither the clerk nor I had ever seen that before. She commented that they’d changed the machines and maybe that was it. On the drive home I wondered if it was because of the variable load, my first. But either way, it worked fine. I am about to go back to Safeway, with my husband, to use the $10 coupon, buy more GCs, and make more of our required spend! Thanks again!

  6. Is it possible to liquidate these Mastercard variable cards by loading up a Bluebird card? I’m just beginning this journey and I want to start small, but I want to earn big rewards! Better to start small, I know. Thinking of learning how to pay the mortgage using Bluebird, so is this a good strategy?

    I get 2x points on my Citi Expedia card at grocery stores. so if I buy a $500 MC variable card, I’ll get 1000 points, plus a $10 off coupon for groceries, correct? then I have to go to Walmart to load a Bluebird card?

    1. Terri,

      It is possible to load them to Bluebird at WM. These Mastercard gift cards are tougher than Visas–you need to swipe them, then on screen hit cancel, then change payment, then debit and enter the pin. The cashier will want to hit a process button on their screen after you swipe–you’ll need them to give you the time to press cancel/change payment/debit before they press anything. If they’re too fast the load will fail and you’ll have to start all over. It also draws unnecessary attention to you, so be ready for that. On the older black and green POS these MC cards seem to “just work” Look for those–they may work better than the color screen machines.

      Limits are $1k per day. Remember if you’re going to drive to Safeway, and then to WM keep track of those two trips as part of your costs. You’ve also got a monthly limit of $5k per BB card. You can pay the mortgage either with a BB check (I recommend this) or via BB Billpay. I don’t trust the billpay–I’ve had it not send a payment and have heard others have that problem as well. Bluebird is a great tool to have in your toolkit.

      1. I want to be sure I understand. Which load limit is $1K per day, BB? Is there any way to load these MC GCs to BB online rather than driving to WM?

        Above in your blog post, you said cost to liquidate is $0.70, where did you get that figure?

        1. Yes the limit is $1k per day to load to BB. You cannot load these online, only in store. Another option is a $999.30 money order paid for with 2 of these. The fee is $.70 which would push your total to $1000.00 even. Or a bill pay of $1998.50 or $1998.22 paid with 4 cards.

          As you said, you’re new to this, so go slowly. Your Walmart might not accept any gift cards for any of these options. Beware the float rule.

          1. I’m sorry to keep making the reply thread longer, but I had another idea. I am reading like crazy and I plan to use your spreadsheet to track my CPM, but I think right now I’m in the sweetest of sweet spots. Safeways in our area are having the 4X points promotion for fuel savings. I get 2X Thank You points at grocery stores. So far, I’ve gotten 2X points on buying gift cards at Safeway. If that continues, I’ve got costs of $5.95 per $500 GC, giving me 2X TY pts and 4X gas points. My car takes 17 gallons to fill up and husband’s takes 21 gallons. Maximum fuel savings in one transaction is $1/gallon. A purchase of $500 GC results in $2 off per gallon. The fuel rewards roll over into the following month. So every $500 GC we purchase actually results in *up to* $38 savings at the pump. Assuming we drive enough to use up all our fuel rewards before they expire. 😉

            Oh, and another trick I learned: buying a Safeway Fuel gift card inside the store gives me 2X TY points on my Citi card (but they don’t give you 4X fuel rewards on Safeway GCs). What buying the Fuel GC does is it makes the pump outside use the CASH price instead of the Credit price, saving another $.10/gallon.

            1. No problem Terri. Unfortunately, you will not get fuel points on the purchase of Visa/MC Gift cards. I do have a post up today about Amex GC’s giving out 4x fuel points, see it here:

              I use that same trick–buying the gift cards at the fuel station and then using them at the pump to save the $.10. Even the manager of my store has said the idea of charging more for credit is dumb.

          2. Yep, I discovered that today! What?! no 20 Fuel points???! 🙁

            So once the $10 off next grocery order promotion is finished, what’s the most rewarding way to purchase GCs for purposes of loading onto BB?

            Why does everyone keep talking about CVS and VR cards?

            1. Terri: CVS allows $5k per day of VR purchases. VR can be loaded to your BB without leaving the comfort of your home–so for some this is the route they take for their miles. VR are also $3.95 for $500. In addition you can find cards that give up to 5% back at drug stores–the combination which can be a huge money maker. $5k per day @ 5% is $250 (minus fees, time, travel).

              You’ve hit on the basics of this game: How to feed our demand for miles with the lowest cost. There isn’t just one best way to do it. The cards you hold (bonus categories they have), what stores you are near, your stores’ access to inventory, all play into what your “path” down this road will be. The initial reaction is to be like a kid in a candy store–“this is free money/miles!” I’ll urge caution against that (it sounds like you’re already being cautious).

              You’ll learn a lot in the next month, and the Safeway deal is a great way to dip your toes into the game, and see what works and what doesn’t for you. I don’t post much on what other blogs already do a good job of covering, it just is too much noise, not enough signal. A good resource is also

      2. In the last few days I have so far done this – that is, bought GCs at Safeway and loaded them onto BB at Walmart – with $1500 worth of Mastercard GCs. The first time I did it with just one GC, at the customer service desk of my Walmart. It is a small Walmart – basically just grocery store items – and there are no self service machines. It worked just fine. Then I returned a few days later with 2 $500 GCs. I am waiting to receive another new credit card and will do another $500 on that one. Today I used two of the $10 coupons, breaking my grocery order at Safeway into two and having the same clerk ring them up one after the other. Again, it worked just fine.

        I plan to get enough money in BB to pay our property taxes by Nov. 15.

  7. Hey, Sam, this offer is back at Safeway. Buy $100 in Mastercard GCs and get $10 off your next grocery bill. It started yesterday 3/26 and goes through early or mid April; I forgot to write it down and don’t remember exactly, but there is time to hustle over to a Safeway and buy some!

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