How we earned $3700 Cash Back and Discounts on our Home Remodel

Back in September of 2017 we decided that we had enough renting a cramped 1 bedroom apartment in downtown Seattle and that it was time to move up and move out. We wanted more room. We didn’t want a shared wall with a neighbor, and we didn’t want to have to take the stairs 8 flights every time the elevator was broken (which happened quite frequently). Luckily we found an awesome house and even more luckily it was remodeled already. The problem? It was, for all intents and purposes, four walls and windows.

We didn’t have any furniture other than some IKEA bookshelves and a couch that, after 4 years, was still remarkably comfortable. We needed furniture, we needed closets, we needed a new washer dryer, water heater, and we also needed a closet… STAT!

Miles, or Cash Back?

Miles? We’ve got miles. We had too many miles in fact. We’ve come to a point where we’re earning more miles than we can spend. #FirstWorldProblems am I right?

We wrote a post back about a year and a half ago detailing how we earned almost 2 million miles and points in a year. Considering we still work full time jobs, it was becoming difficult to find a way to spend them (and to all my friends and family reading this, NO you can’t have them!).

We decided that since we were now house rich and cash poor, that cash back would give us the opportunity to get some much needed green for all of these things that we needed to add.

Discover Card to the Rescue!

I’ve had a Discover card now for years. I never used the thing, mostly because I felt that it kinda became useless. Sure, there are some 5% cash back offers that I take advantage of occasionally, but it was never my go-to card… until I got a new card in the mail in September.

Discover 5% Amazon Target

“Congrats! You’ve been upgraded to the new Discover It Card!”. Truthfully, I didn’t expect to ever have a Discover upgrade, until I started reading about the card. Now that I know how to use it, trust me, it’s our main card for cash back in 2018.

For every $1 of cash back that you earn, you’ll get an additional $1 back on your one year anniversary. Knowing how I like to take advantage of the systems, this could be very lucrative 🙂

Discounts, here we come!

Here we go. Lets start breaking down what we needed and now we could milk every penny out of this!

  • Washer/Dryer, Best Buy
  • Water Heater, Local Company (via Costco)
  • Black Friday purchases (Discover Card) more on this later
  • West Elm Gift Cards
  • Furniture, West Elm
  • West Elm Rewards Program
  • Closet, local company (via Costco)

Washer and Dryer from Best Buy

Well, we needed a washer and dryer for obvious reasons, so we decided to head to Best Buy. Why Best Buy? We’ve always bought from them and they’ve always treated us well… oh yea and there was a really cool promotion going on.

  • Discover offered 5% cash back for shopping online and paying with your Discover Card
    • This would double to 10% cash back because of the double bonus
  • Best Buy offered their own Rewards Program that paid about 2.5% cash back in Best Buy rewards
  • Free Delivery and Free Installation
  • Total Cash Back earned: $170+45 = $215

Active Wash Samsung

Water Heater (Local Company via Costco)

Costco has a great program that will give you a cash card worth 10% of your purchase when you use them for services (such as water heater installations, air conditioning, etc)

  • Costco only accepts Visa, so no Discover here
  • Visa Gift Cards (there are debit cards) earning 5x points with Chase Ink Cash card.
  • Visa cards purchases at a discount (Staples Promotion) for $3.05 profit on each card.
  • Total Cash Back Earned: $480+$76.25 = $556.25
  • Total Points Earned = 25,868

Visa Gift Card

Black Friday Purchases 

Yes, we needed stuff on Black Friday. Didn’t you? We purchased stuff from Apple (5% Discover), Walmart (5% Discover), Groupon (5% Discover), and Gap (5% Discover). I think there were a few more, but I can’t remember right now. 

Remember that all those 5% purchases double to 10% cash back the first year. 

  • Total Cash Back from Black Friday: $320 

West Elm Gift Cards

Why West Elm Gift Cards? Well, two reasons! First, when you redeem your Discover cash back you earn an additional 10% to spend at West Elm. a $50 gift card only costs $45. Second, you can buy them at various websites for upwards of 7-9% off. I used Gift Card Granny and found cards for Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, and West Elm (all the same family) for big discounts, bought them online, and then used that discount to get even more money from West Elm.

  • Total Discounted Amount for Gift Cards Purchased: $94.52
  • Total Saved on Discover West Elm Gift Cards: $40
  • Total: $134.52

West Elm Purchases

We staggered our purchases in order to take advantage of various benefits throughout the season (everywhere from 25-40% off) and managed to finagle our way into some $100 credits and extra discounts from the store for some service recovery issues. For example, when a table arrived damaged, we received an additional 10% off the order and a $100 gift card as an apology.

  • Total Discount on Purchases: $1,789.46
  • Total Service Recovery: $100 GC + $90 = $190

Furniture from West Elm

So, what did we end up getting? Well, we needed a bed, a dresser, nightstand, a bar, a buffet, dining room table and side table, and some chandeliers. You can see in the pics below all the items that we chose! All pictures are from the West Elm website.

West Elm Rewards

To top it ALL off, West Elm offers a 3% rewards program. For everything that you buy at West Elm, you get a 3% rebate to use on future purchases. That’s above and beyond all the other discounts and rewards that you earn.

  • West Elm Rewards: $182.64

Closet Remodel

We didn’t have a closet. We had four walls, and we were using portable garment racks to hang all of our clothes. It was time for an upgrade… a much needed upgrade… Costco to the rescue again!

We used a local company to come by and give us an estimate on what it would take to give us something sleek and custom, with the 10% cash back card, of course!

  • Costco Cash Back Card: $310.50

Total Breakdown

After all the discounts, cash back, rebates, double bonuses, gift cards, and more, we’ve earned a total of:

  • Cash Back: $1,908.91
  • Discounts: $1,789.46
  • Airline miles: 25,868
  • Total: $3,698.37

If you would have just walked into the stores to buy all these things, you probably would have only had 20-30,000 miles and points to account for. But, with a little bit more work and ingenuity, you can still earn those 25,000 miles and ON TOP have an extra $3700 in your pocket.

You can read all about the way that our blogging friends did their remodels via the New York Times article here by Michelle Higgins. If you don’t have your Discover card yet, you can click here or head to the Credit Cards link on the top of the page. 

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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  1. So you get double cash back for a year when Discover changes you to the It card? I just got mine in the mail last week. Now I have a year where it’s doubled up?

    Post a Reply
    • I just called Discover to activate my card and verify the double cash back. The pleasant young lady I spoke with said that the double cash back is only for brand new accounts, not product changes. Given the contradiction with what you posted, you may want to verify this before counting on something that might not arrive.

      Post a Reply
      • Confirmed! Your lovely rep was mistaken. The letter in the mail says that I will be doubled, and the website shows that I’ll be doubled as well. I imagine if you voluntarily upgrade your card, you might not get it. But since they did it automatically, it worked 🙂

        Post a Reply
        • Interesting. My account is just the regular 1.5%. I wonder what the difference is, since I didn’t choose a product change, my card was just sent to me. Well, I’m certainly glad it worked out for you.

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