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Deal stacking – also known as savings-stacking – is a strategy that involves using as many money-saving tactics as possible on the same transaction. There’s really no right or wrong way to go about it, just as long as you save the highest amount possible.
A Quick Example
Last week I at Petco I bought cat food that would normally cost $37.53 (with sales tax). I spent just $20.80, a savings of $16.73, or about 45% off retail.
- I had earned $5 from previous purchases using my Petco Pals Rewards card. An email from Petco prompted me to print a certificate or have the credit loaded to my card — I did the latter.
- From there I purchased a $25 Petco gift card from ABC Gift Cards for $21.20 (a 15.2% discount with shipping). I also checked Raise, but they offered only a 12% discount.
- I paid the $21.20 with my Citi Double Cash card, which earns me 2% cash back on every purchase. That was 42 cents in this case, reducing the total cost of my gift card to $20.78.
- I bought a $29.99 bag of Natural Balance cat food plus four $1.19 pouches of Natural Balance wet food. That would normally be $34.75 plus $2.78 sales tax (8%), for a total of $37.53. However, since I waited for the frequent 20%-off sale they have on Natural Balance cat food, it was only $27.80 plus $2.22 sales tax, for a total of $30.02.
- After my Petco Pals card was scanned and the $5 store credit was applied I owed $25.02. The $25 gift card plus two cents covered that. In this case I was lucky. I try to use up the card when I do this, but rarely get that close.
Add that 2 cents to the $20.78 cost of the card and I paid $20.80 for cat food that normally would normally have cost $37.53, a savings of 45%.
How High Can You Stack the Deals?
The example above allowed me to save money in four different ways on one purchase. Double and triple-stacks are more common, but I’ve also done a quintuple-stack quite a few times.
In addition to direct savings from these tactics, you save in another way: The lower the bill, the less you pay in sales tax. At Petco, I saved 56 cents versus what the tax would have been at retail.
How to Do Your Own Deal Stacking
Here’s a simple deal-stack you can do anytime: Buy something on sale using a cash-back credit card. You’ll save a nice chunk of money if it’s a great sale. For example, if you use a Discover credit card, the purchase may fit one of that quarter’s 5% cash-back categories..
Another simple example of savings-stacking: Buy something on sale and use a coupon at the same time. Easy enough, right? Yet we can usually do much better than that.
First learn about the many ways to save. The more of them you understand, the more you’ll start to see opportunities to combine or stack them. Here are a dozen of the most common savings tactics you can stack up.
1. Use Receipt Scanning Apps
Receipt scanning apps pay you take a picture of your receipt to your phone. Since these apps count as giving you cash back and not coupons, they can easily be applied in conjunction with other deal stacking methods.
Ibotta is one of the most popular receipt scanning apps out there. Originally meant only for grocery receipts, they’ve recently expanded to other products such as electronics, prescriptions, restaurants and more.
On the Ibotta app you’ll find a list of available cash back offers at specific stores. Take a picture of your receipt displaying the item and the store name. Within 48 hours Ibotta will give you anywhere from $.25 cents to $5 depending on the offer.
Of course, the more expensive the item, the more cash back you’ll earn. What’s great is that you can claim more than one offer per receipt. Not only that, but you even get a $10 bonus when you sign-up and scan your first receipt.
Unlike Ibotta, Trunow only gives you cash back when you scan your fuel receipts. For each receipt you scan, you get 1% in cash back of your total purchase price. So if you spend $50 on gas, you’d get back $.50 cents.
Earn a $2 bonus when you scan your first receipt and sign-up using promo code TOF19.
The best part is that Trunow also tells you where the closest gas station is at the best price so you don’t have to drive around searching for it.
The great thing about receipt scanning apps is that they can be used on top of one another.
If you’re interested in maximizing your savings even more, check out our list of 11 apps like Ibotta that pay you to scan receipts.
2. Shop Through Online Cash Back Portals
Online shopping portals are websites that have partnered with thousands of retailers across the web and placed all of their links onto one site. When you click on one of their links to a particular store – say Walmart – they earn a commission on that purchase.
Instead of keeping all of these earnings to themselves, they give it to you in the form of cash back. This can be a little confusing at first, so we’re going to break it down by using our favorite cash back portal.
- Register for a new account at our favorite cash back portal account – TopCashback. You get a $10 bonus just for registering as a new user.
- Search for the retailer that you’re interested in shopping at. For example, search for Walmart and we see that that the results show that we can get 5% cash back on all purchases (with a few exceptions).
- Click on the “Cashback” button to be redirected to the Walmart site. Make your purchase like you normally do and TopCashback will use browser cookies to automatically track your purchase.
- Within 10 days, see your 5% cash back appear in your account. Keep in mind that these rates change, and often there are special deals during the holidays to increase the cash back amount.
- When you reach a minimum balance of earned cash back, redeem for deposits to your PayPal or gift cards. When you redeem for gift cards, you get an additional 3% bonus.
There are lots of different portals that all give different rates. We recommend checking out our shopping portal guide to find out how to quickly find the portal with the best rate for any particular store.
3. Use Manufacturer’s Coupons
This used to be the way to save on groceries, especially in the days when many stores had “double coupon” days (some still do). Just be sure that after using your manufacturer coupons you’re not still paying more than you would have for cheaper brands.
Be sure to stack those coupons with other tactics. If you don’t get a Sunday paper or get coupons in the mail, ask friends to save them for you.
4. Use Store Coupons
Many stores give out their own coupons and allow them to be used along with manufacturer coupons on the same item.
Some distribute their coupons in mailed flyers or in the store, and others also have them conveniently available online, either to be printed out or loaded to a store loyalty card account.
For example, Target’s online coupons can be printed out, and their coupon policy states clearly that “Target accepts one (1) manufacturer coupon and one (1) Target store coupon for the same item (unless prohibited by either coupon).
5. Shop Sales
Buying things on sale can be combined with many of the other tactics here. In fact, a 50% off sale will save you more than just about any other tactic here, so try to start your savings-stacking efforts by finding the best sales.
6. Use Discounted Gift Cards
If you pay $20 for a $25 gift card for a store you regularly shop at, you’re $5 further ahead. Now stack that discounted gift card with other tactics and you can really save money.
Important point: Gift cards are a payment method, not a discount or coupon. That means they can be stacked with just about any other savings tactic. Coupons sometimes can’t be combined with sales or other discounts.
Gift cards often go on sale, especially around Christmas. You can also find gift cards on sale on eBay most of the time. Otherwise you can always buy secondary-market unused or partially-used cards at a discount on websites like the following:
A word of warning: When buying these “used” cards I’ve had to get a refund a couple times over the years because a balance “disappeared.” To avoid a loss, buy an amount you can use up within the website’s guarantee period (usually at least 45 days, but check).
7. Use Your Reward Credit Cards
By paying for everything with the right credit cards, you earn cash-back, points, or other rewards. Many offer at least 1% cash back, and some, like the Discover Card, offer 5% back on categories that rotate quarterly.
My American Express Blue Cash Preferred card pays 6% cash back on grocery store purchases.
If those $20 Domino’s Pizza gift cards go on sale for $15 again at Fry’s grocery store, I’ll pay for two of them with my Amex card, bringing the net cost for $40 worth of pizza down to $28.20, a discount of about 30%.
From there I’ll buy only pizza that is on sale for 50%-off (at the moment their large 3-topping pie is $7.99). This triple-stack will save me about 65% off the usual price.
8. Use Credit Card Special Credits
If you have an American Express card check out the “Amex Offers” on your account page online. Just click and they’re loaded to the card.
These offers typically give you a statement credit for using your card at a particular retailer. For example, right now I can get a $10 statement credit if I use my American Express Blue Cash Preferred card to pay for at least $50 in purchases at Basha’s supermarket.
And yes, the credit is in addition to the usual 6% cash-back the card pays. That’s a double-stack from the start, but one that can be expanded on. Buy things on sale with coupons and you’re up to a four-stack deal.
I once earned a $10 statement for buying a $10 Home Depot gift card from an online retailer. In other words, I got the gift card for free (a 100% discount is nice). Oh, and I did it two more times with two of my other American Express cards.
Discover has a similar program called Discover Deals.
9. Use Customer Loyalty Cards
You may not like having to carry and keep track of all those store loyalty cards, but you need them to get the best deals. And the sale prices you get by using them typically do not disqualify you from also using coupons and other savings tactics.
10. Use Store Loyalty Rewards
I mentioned my Petco Pals $5 reward, but many stores offer similar reward programs. These give you rewards in addition to any immediate savings you get from using your loyalty card.
For example, Staples Rewards gives you up to 5% back on purchases in the form of a gift card (once you’ve spent enough).
The nice thing about store rewards gift cards (that’s typically how you get “paid”) is that once you have them they’re not a coupon or a discount but a payment method for a set amount.
Discounts lose value as you stack them. For example, a 10%-off coupon would save you $10 on a $100 item, but only $5 if you buy the item when it’s on sale for 50% off — and that’s if you’re allowed to use the coupon on a sale item.
A gift card – on the other hand -can always be used at full value to pay for your purchase after you’ve used a couple other tactics to knock down the cost.
Sign up for any loyalty rewards program offered by retailers where you regularly shop.
11. Shop Clearances
My wife regularly finds clothing items for a couple bucks on clearance racks, and it’s not difficult to do some deal-stacking on these already-cheap items.
For example, you can buy a Ross gift card for a 15% discount online at several vendors right now.
Pay for that with a 2% cash-back credit card and use the gift card to buy a $4 clearance sweater at ross, and your net cost will be $3.32 (before sales tax), a fraction of the original retail price.
12. Coupon Codes
Before you pay for anything online, open a new browser window and search “coupon codes” plus the name of the retailer. Often this will result in a code you can enter on the checkout page for a discount.
This may invalidate your rewards from a cash back portal, so be sure the coupon discount amount is larger than the cash back you would get.
Of course, you can do some deal stacking here too. A discounted gift card can be used to pay for your purchase (remember that payment methods do not conflict with coupons or other discounts). This means that you would buy that gift card with a cash-back credit card. You get the idea.
One Final Example of Deal Stacking
Here’s one last example – a quintuple-stack I did a few weeks ago…
- Walgreens was having some great sales, so I found discounted gift cards on Raise, but I didn’t buy one yet. First I searched for Raise on Cashback Monitor to see which portals offered cash back for Raise.
- TopCashback was paying 2% back, and I have an account there, so I clicked through to Raise and found a Walgreens gift card with a balance of $48.18 for $42.38, a 12% discount.
- I bought the card using my 2% Citi Double Cash card. By lining up three discounts in this way I had about 15% off any Walgreens purchases (it looks like it adds up to 16%, but 2% cash back on a gift card that costs 88% of face value is only a 1.76% discount from the face value).
- The savings are difficult to analyze from this point. For example, I bought Blue Diamond almonds on a BOGO sale (buy one, get one free), paying $4.99 for the first can. That’s a net savings of 57.5% (the 15% discount on the gift card is being applied to only half of the regular price).
- I got points on my Walgreens Balance Rewards card, which are worth something, so I had stacked five savings tactics. I also used a coupon to buy sale-priced Kleenex, and got points for that, so that part of my purchase was a sextuple-stack.
I rarely go to that much trouble to squeeze out those last pennies in savings, but sometimes it’s fun. In any case, a simple triple-stack, like purchasing a discounted gift card with a rewards credit card and using that to buy things on sale, can often save you 50% or more.
Have you ever done any serious deal stacking? Tell us about it in the comment section below, and happy frugaling!