kineticpus


(KineticBaltimore.com, Tom Jones / April 21, 2010)

The Baltimore Sun regales us with tales of the P.L.A.T.Y.P.U.S. (Personal All Terrain Yacht Proven Un-Safe). Even better, the ridiculous contraption is bike-powered.

I now have my race favorite. Way more entertaining than the Kentucky Derby, fo’ sho’.

In other news, I learned of a nice hack to combine multiple Visa gift cards into a single purchase.

You know what I’m talking about — those stupid gift cards that retailers tend to give out as promos. “Sign up now and we’ll give you a free $50 gift card!”

In my opinion, those cards are kinda like trojan horses, or as I call them, platypus eggs. They seem great because they’re almost cash and aren’t tied to a specific vendor, but there are quite a few limitations on them, due to the way that many credit cards are handled.

For instance, you typically can’t use the Visa gift card for pay-at-the-pump refueling, because normally, the pump will pre-authorize your card for say, $75 and then only charge you for what you use. If your card is only $50 in value, you will gnash your teeth.

There also tend to be problems when attempting to use them at restaurants, again due to the pre-authorization. In this case, it is common for restaurants to pre-authorize the card for something like your bill + 25% in case you want to add a tip on your card.

[nb, I’ve noticed that restaurants in foreign countries do not do this pre-auth trick, meaning that you typically can’t tip on your card. So be sure you have cash on hand for a tip or else you’ll be perceived as being an even stupider American than you are. On the other hand, many foreign countries do not practice tipping the way we do in the States, so… America 1, World 1. Call it a draw.]

A third shortcoming of the gift card is if you use it for a purchase that leaves some odd amount on the card. Now you have $3.72 left on the thing that just sits there endlessly and taunts you. Not enough to really care about, but enough to stick in your craw. Of course you can try and give it to a retailer and say, “just run $3.72 on this one and I’ll pay for the rest with this other card.” [or a check if you are either 86 years old or your name is Brett Bovee]

Which leads to the fourth annoyance, namely, that you typically cannot combine multiple gift cards to add up to a single purchase. Perhaps in the brick and mortar world it’s possible, but of course, most people shop online these days. And just about zero online merchants will allow you to use multiple credit cards for a single transaction.

The solution? Purchase vendor gift cards exactly equal to the value of your Visa gift card and send them to yourself.

In other words, if you get a $25 Visa gift card, use it to purchase a $25 Amazon gift code and email it to yourself. Ta da!

Most online vendors will allow you to combine multiple gift cards on an order, just not credit cards. In this fashion, you can aggregate multiple, stupid, small Visa gift cards and use them all for the Sous Vide Supreme that you’ve been eying. [Go ahead and treat yourself! You deserve it!]

Bonus: most vendor gift cards do not expire.

The obvious drawback is that the vendor gift card is only accepted by that vendor, thereby locking you in. To that, I say pshaw! as Amazon is the Universal Vendor, and if you can’t find it there, it literally does not exist on the planet, and that’s a fact.

Happy hack-the-financial-system Friday! Good luck, David Hess!