If it’s too good to be true…

credit: freedigitalphotos.net by digitalart

credit: freedigitalphotos.net by digitalart


When I was a kid, I loved entering contests and trying to win prizes. I remember watching the sweepstakes clearing house commercials and hoping that Ed McMahon would come to our house to present us with the $1,000,000 check. One time, at Great Adventures, I entered a drawing which included prizes such as a car and vacation. I filled out my father’s information because I was too young to collect the prize. Well, I received a letter in the mail saying that I had “won.” There was a catch though…there always is, isn’t there? It said that you had to go to some timeshare presentation before collecting the prize. My dad said that it was a scam, that they will try to sell you something with high pressure sales tactics, and that he wasn’t going. I pleaded with him to go and collect my his prize! He said to me, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” Well, I’m not as naïve as I was when I was younger so I know that there are scams out there. But there are also some things out there seem too good to be true, yet really are true!

Travel Rewards

No I wasn’t able to get that vacation prize because my dad didn’t go to the presentation, but yes free travel does exist! Before I got into the travel rewards game, I thought that it was too good to be true, or that it was reserved for businesspeople who racked up a lot of points by traveling a lot. Well, I never travel for work and I didn’t want to damage my credit so I passed on it. However, I started reading different sites and blogs about the amazing places you can go using these rewards, and I got very excited. My fears of a huge ding to my credit was lessened when I read How Opening and Closing Credit Card Accounts Affects Your Credit Score by Jonathan from My Money Blog. I’ve only opened a few credit cards to get the bonuses, but it’s been pretty successful. I’ve been able to stay at luxurious hotels for free and transferred some rewards to let my parents fly to Toronto for free. They were planning on taking the bus or train from NYC! Now you know where I get my frugality!

Risks: There will be some impact to your credit score, but it is not as big as you may fear. When applying for credit cards to get the bonuses, make sure you know the rules. The cards usually have a spending requirement which you must meet within a certain period of time to get the rewards. And of course, DO NOT SPEND MORE THAN YOU NORMALLY WOULD and make sure to pay your balance in full each month.

For more information, Holly from Club Thrifty often writes about travel rewards. Also, Brad from Richmond Savers offers free travel rewards coaching if you want an expert to help you. Yes, I know what you’re thinking…”Free coaching…that sounds too good to be true!” Don’t worry, Brad is legit and, no you will not have to pay for the coaching.

Staples Freebies and Money-makers

Staples is one of my favorite stores…after Target. I never spend money on copy paper anymore, Staples is always running deals where the paper is free after rebate. Their Staples Easy Rebate program makes it very easy. This is not the rebates of days gone by where you have to cut out a proof of purchase and mail it in with your receipt. It is all done online. I’ve gotten batteries which were free after rewards and other office supplies for free. Even better, there are times that when you combine the deal with a coupon, you can actually make money when you get the rebate check.

Risks: Make sure to submit the rebate immediately so you don’t forget. Don’t spend more than you would have. And, make sure you know the rules.

Rebecca from Stapler Confessions posts weekly picks at Staples and shares her tips on how to get freebies and make money there.

Cash back and Swag Bucks

Many probably don’t take advantage of these, but they are quite easy. Maybe people don’t get excited about it because it’s just a small amount of money, but it adds up. Getting a rebate from things I buy normally is a win in my book. I surf the web anyway, so why not get some freebies out of it. I always use a shopping portal such as Ebates to earn cash back when I shop online. There is really no reason I can think of NOT to use a shopping portal if you’re shopping online. There is no cost to you for using it. With Swagbucks.com, you get paid in swagbucks for searching online and filling out surveys. Don’t worry, you can trade your swagbucks in for gift cards at Amazon, among other stores. For a more in-depth explanation on Swagbucks, check out “Got Gift Cards?” by Dee who blogs at Color Me Frugal.

Is there anything else that is too good to be true, but is indeed true?

35 thoughts on “If it’s too good to be true…

    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      No problem! I haven’t had the chance to take advantage of all the Staples deals but I’m definitely a fan. Four free flights from one credit card bonus is pretty awesome.

      Reply
  1. Kristin @ Brokepedia

    Fun post! I had the same “sounds too good to be true” feeling about credit card rewards. Holly’s travel posts inspired me to dig into the game a little deeper, and Brad is such a helpful resource, too. He walked me through it, and I should be taking a free trip sometime next year!
    I just wrote a review of Ting (as you can probably see in the link below), and I initially thought it was too good to be true, too. I saw a few bloggers write or comment about it, and that was enough for me to check the company out. Glad I did.
    That’s what I love about money blogs. Lots of helpful advice from lots of helpful people :)
    Kristin @ Brokepedia recently posted…The Search for Cheaper Phone Plans: My Switch To TingMy Profile

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks Kristin. Free trip…nice! Where are you going?? Just read your Ting review, I’ll have to look into it!

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I know! I tell people about and they can’t be bothered or think it’s a scam. Oh well…like you said…more for me!

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Great! I did hear some people mention their credit cards going up. Win Win right?

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      It does add up and I got my parents to sign up too! But they don’t buy much online.

      Reply
  2. Brad @ RichmondSavers.com

    Thanks so much for the mention Andrew!!

    I had the same thoughts as everyone else with credit card rewards that it absolutely had to be ‘too good to be true’, but 1,000,000+ miles and a bunch of free trips later, I can absolutely say with assurance that it is as real as can be!

    There’s no downside that I can see as long as you pay your credit card in full and on time every single month.

    The topic can be pretty complex and confusing at the outset, so if anyone wants some completely free (no gimmicks) one-on-one help, just shoot me an email at brad @ richmondsavers.com or sign up for my coaching service through my site:

    http://www.richmondsavers.com/free-travel-rewards-coaching-program/
    Brad @ RichmondSavers.com recently posted…Travel Rewards 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Credit Card RewardsMy Profile

    Reply
  3. Shannon @ Financially Blonde

    Ha! I have this conversation all the time with my clients about being wary of what seems like a great deal. I think for the most part the rule applies, but I agree with the rewards cards as well as Swagbucks because I utilize both and love it. The last time I realized that something was really as good as it’s advertising was TJMaxx. They really do have amazing deals on quality items. I did a comparison a few months back on thrift vs. thrifty shopping and TJMaxx really did prove to be as good as advertised, if not better.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Financial Fitness Steps from My KidMy Profile

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yes, you’re right…that rule generally applies. These are anomalies. I like TJMaxx and similar stores…great clothing at discounted prices!

      Reply
  4. Joshua Rodriguez @ CNAFinance.com

    Great post Andrew. I think we all grew up under the idea that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. However, I’ve gotta agree with you here, there are tons of things that are too good to be true, but really are. Some that are passive as you mentioned like rewards cars, and others that you have to aggressively seek. When I tell people I saved over 5 grand on a car that was already under 20, they think I’ve got one heck of a story…that’s too good to be true. In all reality, I did it through negotiations!
    Joshua Rodriguez @ CNAFinance.com recently posted…Is It Possible To Have A Career In Binary Options Trading?My Profile

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Negotiating and haggling a bit is definitely worth it. Sometimes you get a discount just for asking…and it doesn’t hurt to ask!

      Reply
  5. DC @ Young Adult Money

    I didn’t necessarily think travel rewards were too good to be true, I just had never gotten around to actually looking into them. My wife and I know have about $800 of rewards to spend on any travel we want, and that’s after comping a hotel room already.

    I think a lot of people think certain giveaways are too good to be true. The important thing is to check the fine print. That’s what I did with the Hawaii referral challenge I took part in. I read and re-read the fine print, and even asked a couple questions to get further clarification. With rules fully clarified and understood I made a plan and…it worked! Can’t wait to head to Hawaii in the middle of winter (ideal time for Minnesotans to escape).

    I think oftentimes things that sound too good to be true are things that sound like you get something for little to no effort or risk. It’s like how people pushed real estate investments as the housing market increased. Sure some people were truly making tons of money without much work, but they were taking on massive risk without realizing it.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…4 Big Money Issues For Couples to Settle Before MarriageMy Profile

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea I’ve noticed that you’ve won a couple of giveaways so those can be legit too. Although I know you worked hard to get the most likes/views/tweets etc to win. It wasn’t just a random drawing. I know what you mean about real estate investments…I feel like it’s happening again now. And with the way housing has increased in NYC, I keep hearing everyone and their mothers say that investing in NYC real property has no risk as the prices will continually go up.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, I’ve read about your free trips. Credit card rewards definitely is addicting when you’re able to travel for close to free. And yes, what kid or any person for that matter doesn’t want something for nothing?!

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Hey $100 gift card is pretty awesome too! Definitely look into the other bonuses if you guys want to travel.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I’ve only churned a few myself, but once everything settles down, we will get back into it and get some free travel reward points!

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I’ve heard great things about Southwest and their credit card bonuses/rewards program, but they don’t fly to too many places out of NY that I know about.

      Reply
  6. A Frugal Family's Journey

    Total agree that the reward programs can be a great incentive so as long as you don’t spend or do something you had not set out to do in the first place. Your example of Swagbucks is a great example and most are not even familiar with the site. Our family has used Swagbucks to search online for years. We have made hundreds of dollars (in Amazon gift cards) simply by going through their site for our online searches. We’ve even used their site to search for Google. :)
    A Frugal Family’s Journey recently posted…2-YEAR Collection of Stock Analyses!My Profile

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Wow, I didn’t know Swagbucks existed for that long. And hundreds of dollars in Amazon gift cards is pretty cool…Amazon gift cards are just like cash since you can pretty much buy anything there.

      Reply
  7. Done by Forty

    Good stuff, Andrew! I enjoy the free travel rewards, too — it’s kind of a trip that these things exist.

    Having worked at a credit card company, I can attest to the fact that there really is no such thing as a free lunch, in the aggregate. Many people end up with huge debt loads because of these sign up bonus offers of mileage points. There’s also evidence that you might spend more with a certain payment method, or that the rewards themselves might entice frugal people to spend more than they would have anyway. Even if you’re hacking the system and not paying any more, rewards cards carry higher merchant fees, which get passed on to customers as a whole…
    Done by Forty recently posted…Hotel Soaps and ExternalitiesMy Profile

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks…I know you and your wife got some great travel deals! You’re right that the credit card companies know what they’re doing. I do have a problem with the high merchant fees especially for small mom and pop stores. I’m sure often times those fees are passed on to the customers. And I think there’s a policy which doesn’t allow merchants to charge less for those who pay cash instead.

      Reply

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