Small Financial Hacks / Tricks Thread

I do a handful of small financial hacks that don’t justify their own threads, and would have been helpful to have figured out sooner. I’ll start with a few of my own and invite others to do the same!

Prepaid Visa/MC Gift Cards
I very briefly did manufactured spending a few years ago and realized I hated waiting in the poor people line at Walmart’s Money Order counter. But I still love using 5% office supply credit cards to buy VCGs for fee-free during the regular 4 to 6 week sales at Staples and Office Max.

I just use these for groceries, takeout dining orders, or anything else I buy in person and can swipe a card. Effectively turning my 5% Office Card into a 5% anything in-person card.

If there’s not enough money left on a prepaid card to cover a transaction, most point-of-sale terminals lately support partial purchases and splitting payment and do so automatically. Do not mention it to the cashier, they’ll get confused. Swipe your VCG with $2.13 on it, and it will deduct $2.13 from the total and present a new screen with the new total for you to swipe a second card.

If I’m buying something like dental work, I have asked the front desk person to bill me in $200 increments and swiped multiple cards. They don’t care because they waste a ton of time chasing down deadbeats who don’t pay, that they’re more than happy to spend an extra minute splitting your $1150 dental bill into 6 VCG swipes, that you got 5% off on.

Rewards Checking Accounts
I used to struggle with the minimum debit card transactions each month until I realized I could easily split my eBay seller account bill down into 10 to 15 charges of $1 to $1.50 each. I regularly sell small things on ebay and generally have at least $20 due in eBay seller fees each month.

I set up my Debit Card as a payment method and I tell ebay to charge me $1.03, then do another payment of $1.04 or something random in that range. I do this 1 to 3 times a day for the first week of each month and there is my 10 to 15 monthly transactions.


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I use them to pay utility bills at the grocery store Western Union, which I wouldn’t otherwise be able to pay on CC.

So how much do you “earn” and how long does it take? And assuming you don’t make a separate trip to the grocery store.

These are time-vs-value tricks, and IMO the value isn’t always worth the time.


Not sure if you’re replying to me or TripleB, but my utility thing earns 6-7.5%. The grocery store often offers a coupon or bonus gift card that more than covers the fee, so depending on the offer that’s $12-15 on a $200 card. I immediately take them to the customer service counter to pay the utility bill, which takes all of 3 minutes. Of course, it’s not scalable because I only have so many bills. The highest denomination in grocery store now a days is $200, which isn’t worth the hassle for tax payments IMHO.

I used to carry them around like TripleB, but after the hassle of dealing with fraud on a couple of cards I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle unless I could immediately drain them.


I spend around $35k a year on prepaid visa gift cards.I know this because I burn through my $25k chase 5% ink card annual allowance with around 3 months left in the year and then switch to Amex simply cash 5%.

So otherwise I’d only get 2% cash back using a generic CC so I’m making 3% on the $35k which is about $1k

Mainly I do it for the privacy since there’s no record on my cc statements of what I bought. If someone wanted to subpoena or hack the meta bank VCG records and tie them to level 3 data from Staples, then they could see what I bought but that’s a lot more work than just asking Chase to see my CC statements.

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Haha - I also very much dislike waiting in line at WalMart with all the people returning used merchandise. Also, I went in for some surgery that cost like $2300 and split the payment across multiple prepaids.

If I’m trying to conserve kroger fuel points, I have a couple 5 gallon cans with the old style fast pour spouts that can get filled with fuel that is discounted by $1.00/gallon.

We were going through AA and AAA pretty quickly at my household, so I went to Costco and invested in rechargeables that will end up saving money, plus the time it takes to buy new, plus reduce how many used batteries get thrown out across time.

Also installed 2 layers of pipe insulation on hot water pipes in my basement to reduce how much time and water I waste waiting for the shower water to heat up.

Please provide an update after a year or so on whether you think the strategy worked out.

Check into a recirculating pump. You can put them on timers. I won’t own a house without one.

But now you can’t use them to heat up your basement! :smile:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone ever question this strategy. The best rechargeable AA (eneloop) costs like 2.50-$4 depending on package size and can be recharged 2000+ times. An alkaline AA battery costs let’s just say $0.25 and has maybe 25% more capacity than a rechargeable. This isn’t calculus.

So you’re getting ~175 x $200 cards per year. Each card earns you an extra $6. How many can you get in a visit? IIRC the usual limit is 5 per customer. So $30 per visit, 35 visits per year. Buying, activating, and keeping track of the balances is busy work, IMO. Organization and optimization are key.

I’ve never bothered with this, because I usually had something better. For example, right now I have a new Flex card that pays 5% for groceries for a whole year, but even if it didn’t the quarterly category cards like Discover and Freedom have at least one quarter with groceries. I also have the Venture card which, with the signup bonus is =7% on $20k ($1K bonus + 2% CB, and I have 2 of them). I think more money can be made with less work by chasing signup bonuses.

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I think my usage may be different from most. I use mine in a wireless headset that gets over 12 hrs a day of use. The stronger the battery, the better the quality and range of the headset.

I went thru a pair of alkaline AAA’s about every 4 - 5 days. When they started to weaken, I got about two additional hours, depending on distance from the source. Eneloops lasted 3 days (for the first 2 or 3 months), depending on distance from the source. Once they started to weaken, I could get an additional 8 hours or so, but it wasn’t worth the hassle of staying in an ever shrinking range. Even worse, as they aged, their charge shrank to only 2 days + the 8 hour (frustration for me) weakened time.

Consequently, I moved the Eneloops into flashlights, and keep an eye out for alkalines on sale, and usually by a hundred at a time, for under .20 each.

So, I didn’t need calculus, but the price difference, if any, wasn’t worth the hassle. Oh, I did buy a proper recharger/discharger to try to help the Eneloops, but that is one more innovation that will either go in the garage sale or the landfill.

Sounds like it. But also Eneloops should not degrade that much that quickly. Their chemistry is not supposed to have hysteresis.

I’ve got AA and AAA eneloops in a bunch of remotes and toys, but the hungriest one is a wireless mouse that takes 1xAA and I rotate it every 2-4 days depending on use. Many of these are a little over 10 years old and they still charge approximately to their stated capacity, but I haven’t done any precise tests.

My flashlights are loaded with 14500s, 16340s, 18350s, and 18650s :smile: .

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You need to be careful about the recent changes with MetaBank cards. You dont want to be holding the bag and have trouble cashing out.

At my peak in 2015, I was buying over 100k in Visa Gift cards per month to take advantage of the 5% cash back which was uncapped (at that time). When Walmart chNged their policy on Vanilla gift card acceptance, I was holding the bag to the tune of 40k in cards that I couldnt cash out. I literally had to rent a car and spend 4 or 5 days driving to a neighboring state to cash out.

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Your headset and recharge process might be causing your problem - the author in this article calls it a depletion, kind of like a memory effect…

Whatever is happening technically with your application, its not worth the time investigating and I agree with the strategy of buying new batteries in bulk (or maybe look for a new headset?). I’ve found those new alkaline Thunderbolt batteries at Harbor Freight are decent batteries and pretty cheap when they have coupons.

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Yeah, I was actually thinking the pipe insulation might help reduce heat flow rate into basement during A/C season. Certainly not enough to be noticeable in the electric/gas bills.

I looked into adding a water pump, timer and all the extra tubing runs and decided it was not a high-value investment for my application.

Depending on the pipe layout in your place and clothes washer settings, one way to speed up getting hot water might be to fire up the clothes washer before showering. For my place, that methods loads up more than half the piping volume with hot water before I start my shower.

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One small way of making money that was on FW that seems nearly forgotten is the credit card debt cancellation thresholds.

When I was having financial problems in 2008-2009, I would go to the gas station and buy 99 cents worth of gas on 15 or so credit cards. The threshold would not be met, so the debt would be forgiven.

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That’s without the electricity cost to recharge those eneloops AA ($2/battery when on sale). It runs me about 1c per battery per recharge IIRC when I did the calculation. So break even point for me is about 10-15 recharges (depending on cost of non-rechargeables) which is 6-12 months depending on usage. It’s nowhere near the service life of these eneloops, even if you went with the 500 recharges only ones.

Utility companies also frequently allow you to make partial payments instead of paying it in full. Just do $5-10 ones spread out through the month.

Also I’d buy amazon gift cards for very low denominations ($1-2, varying the amount slightly each time), then adding these gift cards to my balance. Yes I’d be losing cashback on Amazon purchases for these but when total transactions is $15-20, that’s not much for the convenience of getting it all done in 5 minutes.


Are you overlooking the fact that once you entered the weakened stage, you could swap in new ones and not deal with any of the frustration?

I wouldnt want to do that with regular batteries since it means throwing away power that was paid for. But you dont even need to wait for weakened performance from the rechargable ones; proactively swap them out every other day for nonstop top power levels. Even it it hastens the degredation of the rechargeable battery by not fully draining it, 3 months use (6 months when alternating 2 pairs) is still a clear savings over new batteries every 4-5 days.

My problem with rechargables is that the ones I bought on Amazon are a slightly bigger AA size, and dont even fit in my toothbrush.

It’s not forgotten, we have a thread right here.


Was it some no-brand china-made batteries? The slightly bigger ones are usually bigger because they come with a protection circuit or a charging port. The branded ones, including Amazon (which is a wrapper around various manufacturers, including eneloops, depending on wrapper color and manufacture date) or Panasonic/Eneloop should all be the correct size.