My new manufactured spending plan

Converting credit card spending into cash is an easy way to accrue points. I’m a fan of such systems. Living in NYC limits some of my opportunities on that front but while doing my grocery shopping yesterday I believe I uncovered a great opportunity. I’m actually surprised it took me this long to realize the potential. Though, after I explain it in full you might understand better why I may have missed it the first few times around.

Beer is good. Getting free points for drinking it is even better.

There’s a store around the corner which sells beer. It is good beer, stuff that I enjoy drinking every time I buy it. And they sell it in growlers. The glass containers require a $5 deposit to be paid and credit cards are accepted for the transaction. When returning the empty growler the $5 is returned in cash. Free points!!

All I need to do is figure out a way to scale this up. Then again, drinking more beer shouldn’t be too much of a problem, right??

UPDATE: Just so y’all understand the math on this, typical deposits in NY are $0.05 per can or bottle. That’s $0.30/6-pack. I’m making 30x that on my beer investment here. Amazeballs!!

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


    1. That’s the name for the jug shown in the photo. The size they sell in at my place is 64 fl oz so drinking a full one is close to a six-pack of cans/bottles. There are other sizes, too.

  1. That’s awesome. Only 23,000 beers to get 115,000 miles and a free business class round trip to Europe! Drink up!

  2. Why not just start a Kickstarter campaign for people to give you miles? That’s even easier since you can just stick your hand out and then kick back and relax!

    I’ll chip in 5 miles…

  3. Seth, this is a brilliant idea, I will be in NYC area in a couple weeks, let have a couple of those.

  4. You should do a kickstarter project to fund the beer cost.

    The DIY store here charges a 70EUR deposit if you lend power tools (at 8-11EUR for 2h), so you could drink and I could drill!

    1. Do they pay back the deposit in cash? That’s the key to the whole thing working.

      Also, I like playing with power tools, too. Probably shouldn’t mix that with the beer though.

  5. This makes me wonder: what about the cash back offer at the grocery store? Will that amount be included in the total for spend on the delta amex?

  6. Seth, I love this blog post and will happily help you get through those growlers faster next time I am in your part of the world.

  7. This is great! As Homer Simpson said, “…beer, the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”!

  8. I always make duplicate payments(pay twice) for Homeowners Insurance, Car Insurance, Water bill and other bills that I can pay with credit card and call up next day saying oops, I made a duplicate payments and the check arrives in less than a weeks time.

    1. Don’t want to hijack the posts but why don’t these companies just refund the credit card that you did the “over payment” on instead of sending you a check?

  9. You sound like an episode of Seinfeld where Cosmo and Newman try to haul bottles or what ever out of state for the higher deposit fee 🙂

    1. That would be Michigan, which has 10 cent deposits. Not uncommon for folks in Ohio and Indiana to cross the border to return cans. Also, you’ll rarely find empty bottles/cans on the side of the road. The homeless folks in Michigan snap those things up FAST. Totally serious. You’ll see guys schlepping around shopping carts and garbage bags filled with hundreds of cans for return.

  10. Don’t forget that the more you scale up this opportunity, the quicker you will begin to see double the return. No doubt all the miles earned will be staggering.

  11. I have scaled this process up before.
    $80 deposit on keg and tap paid with CC returned in cash 🙂

  12. Welcome to the the party!

    This NYCer has been doing a similar play except with returnable milk bottles at Whole a Foods.

    Cash back ($2/bottle) PLUS grocery spend bonus (6%) on total charge.

    No doubt with this constant source of MS, I’ll have enough to be flyin’ in style for years to come! 😉

  13. Love it.
    I could load up the car, have some of son’s friends over and bring back the empties!

  14. I just thought of another way to get free points using similar concept: buy a ton of low-price beverage that requires recycle deposits, then return the bottles for the recycle deposits back, in cash (would work in states that require recycle deposits, such as California).

    For scaling up, I recommend cutting a deal with the hardworking homeless people who go through your neighborhood’s trash for those precious bottles. Cut a deal with them (e.g. ask them to give you half of what your bottles are worth… assuming they have any cash) and arrange a weekly pick-up. You get free points and save time on returning the bottles, homeless people save time on searching for their McD money. It’s a win-win!

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