Thursday, January 15, 2015

The last $1.53

Last November, in preparation for the holidays, I started cashing in a lot of my rewards from my online survey sites for credit that I could put toward holiday presents. For most of them, I chose Amazon.com credit because it's easiest to use; even though I'm boycotting Amazon.com itself on account of its loathsome labor practices, I can still use the credit to buy stuff from third-party sellers on Amazon Marketplace. I ended up buying six gifts this way, shaving $100 off my total holiday budget.

However, because I knew there might be a few gifts that I actually couldn't find on Amazon Marketplace, I decided to hedge my bets by cashing in $25 worth of survey rewards for a prepaid Visa card, which could be used anywhere. Unfortunately, the card ended up not arriving until after we'd finished all our holiday shopping, so I ended up using it to buy a birthday gift for myself instead: two much-needed pairs of SmartWool socks. With shipping, they came to for $23.47. (I know, this sounds like a lot for two pairs of socks, but trust me, in a winter like this one, SmartWool is a totally worthwhile splurge.)

Now, if you've done the math in your head, you'll see that this left me with just $1.53 on the gift card. Originally, I thought that I could just load this surplus onto my new Dunkin Donuts card and be done with it. However, when I went to the DDPerks website, I discovered that you can only load up the card in increments of $10. Great. Now what was I going to do with that extra $1.53?

Fortunately, today I happened across an article on the Wise Bread website that addresses this very problem. The article and the comments below offer several suggestions for using up those last little dribs and drabs left over on a gift card:
  1. Use it to buy gas. A commenter says you can just "Stick the card in and it will pump right up to the last penny before turning off." Unfortunately, this isn't an option here in New Jersey, where pumping your own gas is a criminal act. (Well, a misdemeanor, anyway.)
  2. Launder the extra dollars through Amazon.com. As the site explains it, you can use the exact sum left on the gift card to purchase an Amazon.com gift "card," which is actually a credit code you receive by e-mail. You can then immediately turn around and apply this to your credit balance on the site. The nice thing is, you can do this with as many cards as you like, so if you have $1 here, $5 here, and so on, you can consolidate them all into one nice sum that you can use for anything at Amazon or Amazon Marketplace. (Apparently the site has dropped its requirement that gift cards be at least $5, so there's nothing to stop you from transferring your last $1.53 this way.)
  3. Split a bill at the store. The article mentioned that Walgreens, along with many other stores, will let you pay the first $1.53 of your bill with your gift card, then pay the balance with cash or credit.
This third option looked like the easiest to me, so I thought I'd give it a try. Since the author of the article had used this ploy successfully at Walgreens, I decided to try it at Rite Aid, where I needed to pick up some meds anyway. However, since I'd never done it there before, I was a little uncertain, so I asked the cashier first whether bill splitting was allowed—explaining that I had "about $1.50 left" on my gift card I wanted to use up. The cashier wasn't at all fazed by my request, but unfortunately, she took me at my word about the amount; she just punched in $1.50 to be charged to the gift card, leaving me with 3 cents. I didn't want to hold up the line any longer by explaining that I was a little off, so I just took my $1.50 credit and ran.

So now I have 3 cents left over on this card, and at this point, it's hardly even worth the effort of trying to use it. I'm content to write it off as the cost of a useful lesson; if I ever need to spend a leftover dollar or two, Rite Aid is happy to help. I just need to remember next time to give them the exact amount and not let those last few pennies go to waste.
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