One of the most lucrative, most annoying grocery store promotions returns this week, just in time for folks who have been waiting to max out their Freedom second quarter bonus spend: receive $15 off $15 or more in groceries when you buy $250 or more in Visa gift cards at Giant, Stop & Shop, or Martin’s grocery stores.
Here’s how it works.
Load the digital coupon to each of your accounts right away
This promotion has taken a few different forms over the years, but the current version is a single-use digital coupon that has to be activated online before you can use it. The digital coupon expires July 6, 2019, but this is slightly misleading, and has tripped me up in the past.
Once you’ve loaded the coupon, you have until July 6 to use it, but the coupon will not be available to load that long. In past versions it’s only been available during the period covered by the current week’s circular, so I suspect it will disappear on June 27 if you haven’t loaded it by then.
Here’s the digital coupon you’re looking for:
You can have an unlimited number of loyalty accounts, but they do need to be created with unique e-mail addresses (for login and coupon loading) and phone numbers (for in-store lookup). There’s no verification of either, so you can be creative, but I recommend using a password manager like 1Password or LastPass so you can easily reuse your duplicate accounts during future promotions.
Select $15 in groceries before taxes and after coupons are applied
The terms of the offer state that it “will be applied to your grocery order before taxes and after all other coupons and savings are applied.” I’m not sure if this was made deliberately confusing in order to encourage people to buy more “just in case” their order doesn’t reach $15, but in practice it has not mattered for me. I simply keep a running mental total of the display prices of my groceries until I get to a little over $15, and if I end up a little short due to a coupon or unadvertised discount I just grab a box of Altoids off the candy rack to get me over the top.
I’ve had trouble replicating it but it seems that certain coupons or discounts can even reduce your grocery total below $15 while still triggering the credit, meaning you may be able to buy groceries at a negative cost (or get a discount on your gift card activation fee).
Add a $500 Visa gift card
Note that unlike in earlier versions of this promotion where you received a paper coupon you could use for later grocery purchases, the Visa gift card has to be purchased in the same transaction as your groceries. That means having to deal with ordinary cashiers who may not be familiar with the procedure, which requires a supervisor’s “key turn.” Hopefully over the course of the next two weeks you’ll give them enough practice to get comfortable.
So far so good.
But what do you buy?
I do a lot of grocery store manufactured spend already, and I love free groceries, so naturally I love it when this promotion comes around. The flip side of that is it turns grocery shopping into a part-time job two weeks at a time. I’m well aware that most travel hackers enjoy considerably more residential storage space than I do, but the fact is still that I live in a one-bedroom apartment and there’s only so much room to stockpile groceries. Even things that I use a comparatively large amount of I don’t buy months of in advance because there’s nowhere to put it.
That being said, here are my friendly suggestions for what to think about loading up on during the promotion. I typically devote a day to a single item or category so I don’t have to think about mixing and matching each day.
Paper goods. Paper towels and toilet paper. You know you’ll use them eventually, and they never go bad, so load up and stuff them in the back of the closet if you have to. Just don’t forget they’re there!
Toothpaste. This is a favorite of mine since it also lasts forever (I hope?), is relatively expensive, and takes up relatively little room. This also goes for things like electric toothbrush heads which take up almost no space and are almost as expensive as printer cartridges.
Feminine hygiene products. Expensive and non-perishable: not everybody needs them, but if you do, you know you’ll use them eventually so this is a good chance to stock up.
Dried, canned, and non-perishable groceries. The problem with actual groceries is they’re not very expensive so $15 represents 7 or 8 boxes of pasta, 4 or 5 jars of pasta sauce, etc. But I usually devote a day or two to each, since I know I’ll get through it eventually. If you’re a bean guy, buy 15 cans of beans. If you’re a soup gal, but 15 cans of soup. Canning is miraculous technology.
Think about stuff you can give away
I always throw this option in because travel hacking in many respects is a case of what my mom always calls “the rich getting richer.” Virtually every midsize or larger city will have a resource center that can put you in touch with local diaper banks, homeless and domestic violence shelters, transitional housing, etc. and they’ll typically have a long list of things their clients need. You shouldn’t claim a tax deduction for donating stuff you got for free, but Giant’s corporate shareholders will no doubt receive some leniency in heaven for their generosity towards the needy.