We do a fair bit of our grocery shopping at Kroger. We like the selection, the prices are reasonable, and it's a union shop, so I don't have to feel guilty about how they treat the people who work there. One of the nice perquisites of shopping there is that they offer a discount on gasoline as a loyalty reward.
When you buy gift cards at Kroger, they give you double credit for the gasoline rewards. (A couple of times a year, they give you quadruple credit.) So, a $25 gift card to The Olive Garden, to pick a place at random, nets you 50 fuel points. Cashing in 100 fuel points gets you 10 cents off per gallon.
One day I was in Kroger and noticed that they offer Southwest Airlines gift cards. I fly a lot, and since moving, or semi-moving, back to Little Rock, I find myself on Southwest fairly often. This morning, I was sitting in Phoenix, booking my flight back to Little Rock for tomorrow, and I had a flash of inspiration: Go buy gift cards at Kroger (they call it "Fry's" in Arizona), and use them to get home...plus get fuel points.
My fare was $541. (My client reimburses me for the flight.) So I bought five $100 gift cards (the largest denomination) and proceeded to buy my ticket online. I was congratulating myself on how clever I was, and thinking about the 1,000 fuel points I'd just scored, when I hit a problem.
Apparently Southwest will only allow you to use up to four methods of payment on one reservation. This is a problem because I needed to use five gift cards and pay the rest with my credit card. Sure enough, when I entered the fourth gift card, Southwest said, "Sorry, you'll have to remove a gift card to pay the balance with a credit card."
Undeterred, I called the reservations line. No dice there, either. "We use the same system you use for payments." (By the way, they answered in 4 seconds, and the agent was as helpful as he could be under the circumstances.)
Now, I'm not one to take no for an answer, so I devised a plan to make it work. Southwest doesn't charge any change or cancellation fees if you need to cancel a ticket. They will store your funds for up to a year for later use. So I looked around for a flight that was just over $300 (Phoenix to Fort Lauderdale worked nicely), and booked it using three gift cards and a credit card. I then immediately canceled it, and Southwest helpfully told me that it was retaining my funds for later use. I then went back to my original trip.
Success! I used the $300 credit, the two remaining gift cards, and my credit card to complete the reservation.
I guess sometimes things just work out. But I was sweating it all the way, and it may be a while before I try that again.