Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.
Are you still paying regular prices when you shop? My guest this week, Stephen Weyman, explains that with the right strategies, you don’t have to.
Stephen and I discuss ways to stack multiple discounts before, during, and after purchase, so you never have to pay the listed price again. Popular apps like Flipp and Groupon, along with cash rebate sites like eBates and Great Canadian Rebates, make it easier than ever to save money when shopping.
As the face behind the popular credit card comparison site, Credit Card Genius, Stephen knows a thing or two about maximizing credit card rewards, and he shares some of that knowledge with us.
Stephen says that if you’re spending more than $1200/month with your credit card, you should probably be looking at a card with an annual fee. The increased rewards and numerous benefits will outweigh the cost of the annual fee.
You could even opt to carry a second, no fee card, that allows you to target rewards in a specific spending category. For example, some credit cards offer bonus rewards for gas, groceries, or dining out.
This week’s sponsor, Borrowell, provides personalized product recommendations for credit cards, mortgages, and loans, from trusted partners. head over to Borrowell today to get your FREE credit score and more.
- Where to start looking for discounts
- Does stacking coupons actually work?
- Why being a loyal customer isn’t always a good thing
- How companies use big data to get to know what consumers want
- How to use credit card rewards to pile on the savings
- When it’s worth paying an annual fee on a credit card
- The benefits of making purchases with a credit card
- How to use gift cards to maximize your credit card rewards
Are you still paying regular price when you shop? With the right strategies is you don’t need to step up to a till or hit that cart button without getting some kind of discount, rewards, or cash back. Or even better yet get all of that on the same purchase. Steven Weyman, from Credit Card Genius and howtosavemoney.ca stopped by the show to explain how we can stack multiple types of savings before, during, and after purchase so you never need to pay 100 percent of the listed price again.
Welcome to The Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. One of the things we talk about on this episode is credit cards. Our sponsor Borrowell allows us to receive personalized product recommendations for credit cards, mortgages, and loans from trusted partners. Head over to Borrowell to get your free credit score and more at maplemoney.com/borrowell. Now let’s chat with Stephen.
Tom: Stephen, welcome to The Maple Money Show.
Stephen: Thanks for having me Tom. It’s good to be here.
Tom: You’ve got your original site, How to Save Money and now you’ve got Credit Card Genius. Between the two of those I figure there’s a lot of insight. You’ve always really detailed both sides and know what you’re covering. And you’ve always covered how people can save money and now with Credit Card Genius, how they can get the cash back or travel rewards. Either way they’re getting something back for the gains back for their purchases. If someone’s looking to make a purchase… Maybe they’re going grocery shopping or buying a TV on Best Buy. Just starting right from the beginning, how can they save money on multiple layers? How do they find the best price on an item?
Stephen: Well, the first place you want to start whenever you’re looking to save money on a purchase is by finding a sale. Often that will give you the big initial discount and some of the biggest amount of money you can save. If you want to make that process fast you don’t want to look through the old school flyers that you may or may not get at your house, or sift through things online. There are apps out there that make your life easier. They are flyer comparison apps. There’s a few of them. The most popular one is Flip. You can use it on their website or on your phone depending on your preference. There’s also Reebee and by Salewhale. I think those two are still operating as well. So you just load it up and type in the product or item or model number of the thing you’re looking for and it will parse through all the local flyers in your area and show you a clip– basically a cut-out of the item from that flyer all at one screen. You can scroll through them quickly. You can click on it save it to your shopping list and compare them side-by-side. If you’re doing the online search there are price comparison websites like Shopbot is a popular one where you can do the same thing and that will show you an even wider array. Not just out of flyers but also from online stores. And it’s good to check a few of them because they don’t all have partnerships with all the stores. Sometimes they might search through the entire inventory. And, of course, there’s Google as well. But with Google you’re kind of at the mercy of what they decide to show at the top, and Amazon tends to dominate the online space anyway. It’s sort of a more useful thing if you’re if you’re shopping offline to use a tool like Flip.
Tom: Yeah, I’m a big fan of Flip not just for the deals but also because it allows you to have multiple users on the Flip account. Me and my wife, either one of us might go shopping for groceries but we both want input on what flyer items we want to get that week so it’s nice that you can both clip things in Flip and either one of us can access the list for that week’s shopping. I’m also a huge fan of Amazon. I’ve got a Prime account now which I still haven’t decided whether it’s fully worth it or not. If you’re ordering enough stuff, getting that 2-day free shipping and all the other perks is great too.
Stephen: Yeah, I think their goal is to make the other perks worth the membership. Then you get the 2-day free shipping on top of it. And, of course, you’re buying all your stuff there because you feel like you have to now because you have a membership.
Tom: They’re who I go to first now when I’m shopping online because if I can get the same price, I’m getting much quicker shipping.
Stephen: You don’t have to create a new account or manage another password or whatever so they’ve really got that locked in.
Tom: And speaking of getting more for your money, that’s a good point because with the Prime account I get music and videos on there. I can’t say it will replace things like Spotify and Netflix but at least they are additional options where you get all this included for one price that’s actually lower than Spotify or Netflix.
Tom: You mentioned shopping around. One other thing I just wanted to bring up was If it’s for certain items or certain experiences. Another thing I like to use online is Groupon. We’ve done this when visiting different cities for vacations. We found little fun things to do. Even locally, if you want to go do mini-golf or to a new restaurant or something, Groupons is just another option I just want to throw in there where you can kind of shop around to find a deal online.
Stephen: There used to be a whole slew of these Groupon coupon sites that ended up being not such a fantastic business model because they were offering these massive discounts and on top of that the store itself was taking an even bigger cut out of what you were actually paying. You’re saving at least 50 percent and they probably weren’t even taking up half of that. Those sites sort of fell apart quickly and Groupon basically remains the only real choice left in the space. And even their site isn’t as reliable as it once was. Another good one though is coupon books if you’re visiting a different place. If you buy the entertainment book at the city you’re going to you can often save up to 50 percent on attractions and restaurants and other things. I did that once for Vancouver and saved a bunch on go-karting that I wanted it to do at the time and a few other things. It adds up easily past the costs of the coupon book.
Tom: Yeah, I’m a fan of City Pass as well if you’re out traveling and looking for a better deal. Let’s look at our next layer of savings which I think is probably coupons. There’s tons of ways to get coupons in the store, by mail and online. Can you take us through how those work? One question I have if you don’t mind me adding more to this question is about stacking coupons. Is this something that actually works? I’ve seen it on extreme couponing TV shows and everything where people pay next to nothing but I wasn’t sure if that works. Does it work in Canada?
Stephen: Well, I’m a massive fan of stacking but the what I call stacking is not coupon stacking. It’s deal stacking which is finding as many different types of deals you can apply to any given purchase to keep lowering the price, sometimes even making money in the process. That’s not as possible as it used to be but going back to what you’re talking about which is manufacturer’s coupon, I’d say the heyday of manufacture coupons has kind of come and gone. And that’s because of the digital age. Now, the hot thing is to use big data, consumer data to get to know you and what you like and deliver you a personalized offer. That’s all well great. You get apps PC Optimum to get their points coupons and discount coupons and other store apps or Air Miles or what have you. You will get offers but before you used to be able to just collect manufacturer coupons. And sometimes you could get the same coupons for the same item or apply it multiple times. Now you’re often limited to one item where before you could buy a whole basement full of them if you wanted to if you could find enough coupons. And now there are also apps like Checkout 51. Receipt Hog is another one. With those ones you just take a picture of the receipt of what you purchased and as long as that item is listed in the app it gets uploaded to the service. Then you’ll get credit through their app and eventually you’ll be able to cash that out as a check, PayPal payments or other options they offer. If you can find a physical coupon and combine it with a store-specific offer (like a points offer) then add your Checkout 51 coupon on top of that. And you’ve also got your flyer sales from Flip that you’ve price-matched against another store that has a lower price then you’ve got yourself a sweetheart of a deal. It’s a lot of work but it can pay off.
Tom: Yeah, one I think I’m missing out on is Checkout 51. I’ve got an account and kind of played around with it a couple times but in general though, I don’t think to go there after purchasing. And really, they want you to look at it before purchasing because it’s still really a coupon. I know it works after the fact but it’s still trying to promote people to go in and buy the item. But it’s one where I still got to remember to actually have a look and see what those items are even if it is after the fact just to see if anything I did buy could apply.
Stephen: Yeah, I find them often too busy myself for that. But if you treat this whole thing as kind of a hobby then it becomes a game to see how many different ones you can apply to what purchase. You have to do what makes sense for you from a time-cost basis.
Tom: Yeah. So another thing I want to cover was if you’re online shopping what you thought about going through different portals? There is Swagbucks, Ebates and Great Canadian Rebates. Do you use those? Does it make sense to go through those? And do you use them all or do you pick a favorite?
Stephen: Well, I’ve always been a fan of doing the comparison and not being loyal because the more loyal you are usually the less rewards or perks you’re going to get. General I use them all. I haven’t really got on the automated one which is Honey. I prefer to sort of manage the process myself and not have somebody jumping in and hijacking my online purchases because I might be trying to get a different offer or whatever so I will compare them. There are sometimes cash back comparison sites but those are more effective in the US where there are more sites. But I do use US sites as well because where there are travel purchases through Priceline or other major sites, as a Canadian you can qualify for those. So the two big ones in Canada are a Great Canadian Rebate’s which is the oldest one and then Ebates which is newer. I always do a quick comparison between the two of them to see which is offering the highest cash back payout. There’s a new one called, Shopper Army actually. They only have a limited number of stores but they’re focused on Canada as well. Then there is Top Cash-back, E-frugal, Fat Wallet… Oh wait, I don’t think it is around anymore. But there are a lot of them. You just look for the best offer, click through, go there and search for the store you’re shopping at, click through and then make your purchase. Usually, you can even do it after you’ve already got your items in the cart.
Tom: Just like you said the Checkout 51. Yes, it’s definitely extra work but it’s also sort of like free money that’s lying around.
Stephen: Yeah, and it does add up. Personally, if you don’t count referrals and things that I’ve gotten through my websites, I’ve probably cleared $2,000 anyway in cash back for just legitimate purchases.
Tom: I like how you mentioned it could be like a hobby and sort of gamifying it. If you really get into this and want to get all these different levels to see if you can get that $100 item for $10 then it sounds pretty interesting.
Stephen: Yeah, it is. It’s kind of a bit of a rush. It’s a high.
Tom: When they’re purchasing, how can they do this best? I know we’re both fans of credit card rewards. Can you kind of take us through what credit cards people could be using and maybe the best way they can find this? At Credit Card Genius I know you have the “Rate Your Wallet” which I think is a great option so, if you can just walk people through that a bit so they can see how it works based on their spending so they can get even more money back.
Stephen: If you go to creditcardgenious.ca and look right at the top there’s a little link that says Rate Your Wallet. This is a really sort of fun-style, personalized quiz where we get to know you through a few questions. You tell us what credit cards are already in your wallet. You tell us how much you spend and on what and we’ll tell you if that credit card is working for you to maximize your rewards and cash back, based on what you care about. It all depends on what you care about because if you care about cash or the travel or you value cash or the travel then you’re going to want that cash back card even if the travel card, theoretically, gives you more points. We’ll show you ways you can redeem your points to maximize the value and that kind of thing. So yes, you’re going to want to have the best credit card for making your purchase. And sometimes combining multiple credit cards together to maximize your rewards can make sense. A few rules of thumb I guess just to keep it simple; if you’re spending more than $1,200 a month you should probably look at getting a credit card with an annual fee because the amount of extra rewards, insurance coverage, perks, and other benefits that come with that card—and just the rewards itself will outweigh the cost of the annual fee. So that’s one thing to keep in mind. Then you might want to look at having a second credit card in there that’s no-fee that can amp up your rewards in a specific category because it’s very popular with credit cards to give you bonus rewards in some specific category like your gas purchases, grocery purchases, drugstore purchases or travel purchases. The Tangerine money-back credit card, for example, lets you pick up to three categories where you earn two percent cash back instead of half a percent cash back which is the normal rate. If you take a card like the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite which is the top cash back credit card in Canada with an annual $99 fee, then you get four percent cash back on gas and groceries, two percent on recurring bills… And help me out here. What’s the other one?
Tom: I’m not sure. I can’t remember. I have the card.
Stephen: We’ll remember later on but there is two percent on two other things and one percent on everything else. You could use that for your gas and groceries and then you could have the Tangerine card as a backup card where you can do things like home improvement stores, drugstores and entertainment where you may be spending a lot of money. Now you’re earning four percent on two major categories, two percent on three other major categories and then you use your Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite for all your other purchases and you’re getting one percent there. So you’re really raising your return on spending by doing that. If you’re willing to play the rewards game and the Air Miles game you can amp up your spending. The average return on spending for a typical person with the Scotia card is about two percent. Once you factor in some at four percent, some at one percent, you’re going to get about two percent return. With the top travel rewards credit cards, if you redeem them for airline miles in a smart way you’re going to average closer to three to four percent return on spending. And if you’re really good at playing the game and you love business-class or first-class flights and you know how to get that $10,000 flight for not that many points, you can get your return on spending to six percent—maybe even 10 percent if you’re really good at playing the game and you like that sort of luxury. Credit cards are a great way. And they’re the best way to pay too because you’ve got that zero liability protection which you don’t always have with debit and Interac. I think they’ve kind of brought that in. But the benefit with credit cards is if somebody commits fraud against you, the money never leaves your account. There is no waiting period to get it back. You’re not out money or figuring out how to pay your bills in the meantime. You just call the credit card company up and tell them somebody fraudulently used my card and explain the situation. This just happened to me, actually, with my business card. Somebody charged up $7,000 in purchases the other day. I just said, “I don’t even use this card. It’s in my safe,” and they said, “No problem. We’ll reverse all those charges.”
Tom: It felt like you’re looking right in my wallet because I use the Scotia Bank Momentum Visa Infinite strictly for groceries. So for me it truly is a four percent card. We just use it when we’re doing grocery shopping. And then my normal card is the BMO World Elite—the two percent back. We used cost because we shop at Costco a lot.
Stephen: Yes, it’s a great card for Costco’s flexible travel. You can get basically any travel you want. You don’t you’re not stuck with one airline, blackout dates or anything like that so it’s a good card for that. You get the lounge passes with that too, and a bunch of other perks.
Tom: I do like the lounge passes.
Stephen: One of my favorite tips though for credit cards, especially when it comes to spending categories and the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite—I don’t know if you do this, but you can buy gift cards at the grocery store for places like Home Depot, Sport-Check or whatever store you want and you’ll get your four percent cash back on those gift cards. Then you can use that to buy whatever you want. So if you’re doing a major home renovation you can pay for that at Home Depot with gift cards that you bought it at Superstore or Sobeys and you get a four percent discount on your home renovation.
Tom: I like the idea. I never really thought of that. You can make that four percent on just about anything if you’re buying those cards.
Stephen: Just be careful not to lose the gift card.
Tom: Yeah, exactly. And obviously, the grocery stores have those entire walls of gift cards nowadays so there are all sorts of stores. I’m going to look into that more because I never really thought of that too much. I’ve bought gift cards there and I’m sure I probably got the four percent on them. I just never really thought of it as a planned idea like you said, to go to Home Depot and with all these gift cards.
Stephen: Yep, for sure. It’s a great way to pad the cash back.
Tom: Nice. I really like that. Is there anything else people should know about credit cards? I guess one thing we could bring up is you mentioned the annual fee and I have conversations with readers every week about not wanting to pay an annual fee. You’re right—they should just do that math, right? And look at their spending.
Stephen: Well, we’ll do the math for you. I mean, even without Rate Your Wallet, you can just go to Credit Card Genius to the, Compare Credit Cards page. There’s a dropdown there where you enter your spending and it’ll show you exactly how much in dollars that card will earn you no matter if it’s rewards or what. And we’ve published a whole series of blog articles for every reward program saying exactly how we value the points. So you could see the annual fee you’re paying, how much you’re earning in rewards and what your net rewards are going to be after the annual fee. Then you can do the same thing with your no-fee card and see where you’re better off. We’ve determined that line is around $1,200 in spending but it really does depend on your personal spending profile and what cards you have.
Tom: If you’re a family that’s practically just buying groceries and gas and stuff it’s obviously going to be different than someone that’s spending on—
Stephen: Everything at Costco because Costco doesn’t qualify for a bonus in any category, right?
Tom: Exactly. Since we’re talking about getting the most value out of your purchases, I would also think things like whether certain cards have double the extended warranty or travel insurance, these are all those extra perks on an on an “annual fee” card that some people don’t consider. To me, just getting that travel insurance or maybe free checked bags, more than pays for an annual fee.
Stephen: At Credit Card Genius we’re the only site where we track more than 50 features of every credit card on the market. We don’t just look at the rewards. There are more than 16 different types of credit card insurance that come for free with the card. Mostly, they’re cards with annual fees but no-fee cards have it too. Most popular cards at least have extended warranty usually for an additional one year on top of the first year manufacturer’s warranty and purchase protection for 90 days, which means if you lose, half stolen or break an item within 90 days of purchasing on your card, the cost of that will be refunded to you. There are other things like lost bag insurance, personal effects insurance—which is a real popular one you have with BMO. They’re the only issuer that has it. It covers you for anything you lose or have stolen for the entire duration of your trip not just when you’re on the common carrier which is the airline or in transit (which most cards have). BMO actually covers you from end-to-end for the entire trip if you lose something or have it stolen which is very rare. Those types of perks are plentiful. We combined all of those 50 features including the 16 insurance’s into our Genius Rating and that rating will be personalized, changed and adjusted depending on what you tell us you care about using our sliders. So, if you say you care about insurance then the rating will be much more made up of insurance. But if you say you care about rewards or travel then the ratings will be much more made up of that. You’ll be able to see (for every credit card in Canada) which card is rated the highest for you based on what you care about.
Tom: Great. So the last thing I want to mention is Milo. It’s an app where you can round up your purchases. Part of me is concerned that maybe this might entice people to purchase when they shouldn’t because they feel like they’re saving, but I do like the general idea that someone can install this app and maybe start saving without realizing their saving. It’s not a way to save on your purchase but it’s something positive where if you’re making purchases already, they might be able to start actually putting some money away as well.
Stephen: I didn’t used to understand this concept because I’m a logical thinker and tend to be a little less emotional than the average person but people in general are emotional people and what this really is, is a brain hack for saving. It’s like hacking yourself to force you into saving which people just can’t logically get behind. I mean, you could even say with credit cards that it’s proven you spend more with credit cards because of the rewards and ease of use. You don’t see the money leaving your account right away and you’re not feeling the cash in your hand. You tend to spend a little bit more. And that’s true. But as long as you’re budgeting and staying in control of your spending then I’d say other methods are going to get you further ahead. But if you’re the kind of person that has real trouble saving then I think an app like Milo that just sort of automates it and does it without thinking is good. If you are the kind of person who would break $5 at the store then put whatever change you had in a jar, then do something with all that change, then Milo’s the kind of app for you.
Tom: You and I are money nerds so if we want to save money we calculate how much money we need to save and we save it. But, if it gets someone started though… if it’s a case where they’re not saving at all them maybe it’s a way to make sure all that money gets funneled away. Kind of a pay-yourself-first in connection with your shopping.
Stephen: Yes, exactly, pay yourself as you shop.
Tom: We talked about Credit Card Genius and a bit of how to save money but can you let people know again where they can find you online and on social media?
Stephen: Twitter tends to be where I’m most active. I’m @howtosavethere. It’s creditcardgenius.ca for that website and howtosavemoney.ca for the other. We’re also on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest. And I think our Twitter handle for Credit Card Genius is @creditcardgenius. You can find us all over the place and the links are obviously on our website too if want to follow some social.
Tom: Great. Thanks for being on the show.
Stephen: Thanks for having me, Tom. It’s been a pleasure.
Thanks to Stephen for helping us make the most of our spending dollar. You can find the show notes for this episode at maplemoney.com/stephenweyman or check out all the episodes at maplemoney.com/shows. Are you on Facebook? Then you should join The Maple Money Show community where Canadians can ask questions and share their own money saving tips or simply hang out with other people interested in improving their personal finances as you and I are. You can search for Maple Money Community on Facebook or head to maplemoney.com/community. Thanks for tuning in. I look forward to seeing you back here next week.