Post Mortem: The Not So Bright Brightside $10 Cashback Promotion

by | Published Nov 12, 2021 | Edited Feb 19, 2022


  1. Post Mortem: Printing Bitcoin Cashback and Saving the Rainforest with the Mogo Prepaid Card
  2. Post Mortem: The Not So Bright Brightside $10 Cashback Promotion
  3. Post Mortem: Revolut’s Revolving Doors of Remittance

In our second ever ‘Post Mortem’, we’re going to discuss a rather hilarious episode of churning degeneracy made possible by the Brightside Spend card, which we also recently did a card review on.

This method wasn’t a large-scale manufactured spending technique, but instead just a clever way to get a whole lot of free food, drink, and gift cards via a cashback promotion.

The Method: $10 Takeout Top Up 

I have held the Brightside card for some time, for no reason in particular. I usually sign up for all free prepaids I come across on the off chance they have a useful feature or, better yet, a manufactured spending opportunity… 

In May 2021 I received an email from Brightside that intrigued me.

atb brightside takeout top up promotion email

The Brightside Takeout top up promotion was a similar concept to Amex Shop Small, which I’m sure many readers are familiar with. However it’s much better than that. With Amex Shop Small, you must go out of your way to spend $10, and in return you receive $5 back, only once per shop…

With Brightside, I saw no mention of minimum spend or maximum number of transactions at one location. I quickly (and casually) confirmed this was the case with their online chat.

atb brightside twitter top up promotion
It was also again mentioned in a tweet: “no minimums and no limits, just love” 😉

I first tested the promotion by doing a small transaction at a local restaurant. Sure enough, I receive nearly $11 top up on a $6 transaction. This is when it hit me that I was going to get paid to buy shit 🙂 

From here it was time to hit up all my favorite local breweries like Alleykat, Town Square, SYC, and Analog and fill up growlers/howlers (or other orders as close to $10 as possible) with my favorite beers.

brew squared cold brew coffee analog brewing
The Brew Squared Cold Brew Coffee Kolsch from Analog is phenomenal if you like dark coffee flavored beers

But why stop there? I could only store so much beer and it goes bad fairly quickly if not canned. Brightside was also partnered with tons of great restaurants like OEB, Sugar Bowl, Dorinku, Campio, etc. 

So it was time to try ordering $10 gift cards. And sure enough this worked flawlessly. Asking employees to charge $50 to 5 separate gift cards did get some weird looks but who cares. Getting paid $1 per transaction to stock up on gift cards at some great restaurants and breweries can’t be beat.

Let’s take it even further…

The Method Scaled: Online Top Ups

Of course we can spend all day driving around to the different restaurants and breweries harvesting free gift cards. Great return and worth it, but still time intensive.

google maps route of edmonton for brightside top-ups
Indeed one of my churning colleagues even did this, plotting out a Google maps routing to minimize distance.

But what if it were easier? Enter online gift card loads. 

By figuring out which partners 1) sold online gift cards in increments of $10 or less, and 2) coded online purchases in a way that Brightside recognized as a partner – we were able to scale the Brightside promotion even further.

And that is where things got a little out of hand…

atb brightside syc brewing top ups
Pay me $6 to buy a single can of beer over and over? Alright then!

Brightside Strikes Back!!

Of course you can imagine what would happen eventually when a group of degenerate churners is left unchecked with what is effectively a gift card printing machine…

atb brightside account frozen
All of our accounts were soon frozen. Conducting 28 of the exact same online transaction in a single day might have had something to do with it…

After careful review, Brightside decided to let us keep the cashback we had acquired, and give us a mere warning. They promptly unfroze our accounts and modified the terms of their promotion:

Why yes, I am proud of this lol…

So naturally, we continued milking this promotion for the rest of the month (albeit at a slower and less abusive rate).

Actual photo of Brightside catching people abusing their promo.

How Much Money Was Brightside Taken For?

I won’t explicitly implicate myself here by listing exact amounts, but this promotion was very lucrative for those who took advantage. Several of my churning colleagues looted upwards of $1,000 in gift cards and free beer/drink/food. The highest number was in excess of $1500.

atb brightside syc brewing edmonton purchases
Just one haul from SYC Brewing 🙂

The Death of Brightside $10 Top Ups

Alas, the Brightside $10 top up was a limited-time promotion that ended in May 2021, and was likely a deal spurred by the COVID-19 situation and desperation of small business (maybe some government grants involved as well). I’m still hopeful there will be more generous promotions in the future, but I do think Brightside has learned their lesson on offering top ups that are larger than the minimum transaction amounts (i.e. allowing you to make profit on purchases).

It was still nice to know we contributed a stimulus to the small business economy for a short time, all courtesy of Brightside and ATB 🙂

Reed Sutton

Reed Sutton

Founder at Frugal Flyer
Reed is addicted to the science (and art) of earning and redeeming travel points, and frequently pairs his trips with his other hobby: photography. Through Frugal Flyer, Reed aims to distill some of the complex and esoteric points strategies into digestible information. Furthermore, he hopes to use his technical expertise to develop invaluable applications and tools for the travel community.

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