I’ve previously written about many different ways to save money going to the movies, but this time I thought I’d dive into a specific example that lines up nicely with the latest 5% back category on the Chase Freedom. This plan closely follows our own strategy for saving money on movie tickets, as the local Regal theater is our favorite. While the savings calculation will be specific to Regal (and more specifically to our local ticket prices), the strategy should be possible for any of the major movie theater chains with similar results and the savings can be substantial.
Let’s dive right into it.
First, we’ll be buying tickets from Regal in bulk. These type of tickets are normally targeted at businesses, but regular consumers like you and me can also buy them. The only catch is that you have to buy at least 50 at a time, but the savings can make that kind of up-front cost worth it. The tickets never expire, so this is also an obscure way to hedge against inflation!
As we’re two people and we average about one visit to the movies per month, we’ll end up going through them all in about 2 years. If your family is bigger or you go to the movies more often, you’ll use them up even faster. Another option is to split the bulk purchase with friends or family so you don’t have 50 to use just for yourself. Or if you’re feeling entrepreneurial, sell off the excess ones you don’t need and maybe make a small profit while doing it!
Next, we’ll make that bulk ticket purchase with our Chase Freedom card which currently has movie theaters as their 5% bonus category from July-September.
Full Disclosure: I haven’t actually used the Freedom card to purchase these tickets before, but when I did make a bulk purchase last year with my Sapphire Reserve (also Chase), the merchant category matched exactly to tickets I previously purchased directly at the box office. This makes me fairly confident it will categorize correctly under the 5% category. If you’ve tried this yourself or have data that says otherwise, please let me know in the comments.
Finally, we’ll be sure to scan our Regal Crown Club loyalty card each time we redeem these tickets for the actual movie and showtimes that we want to see. Even though we won’t be breaking out cash when we redeem the tickets (unless you want to upgrade to 3D), you will still earn loyalty points at the bulk ticket price AND the bonus points just for each visit. If you’re not a member yet, it’s completely free to join and I’d recommend it if you go to movies with any kind of frequency.
How It Stacks
The bulk purchase price is $8.50 per ticket with a required $8 shipping charge. For the minimum order of 50 tickets, this works out to $433 total, or $8.66 per ticket.
By paying with the Chase Freedom, while movie theaters are in the 5% category, we will earn 2,165 Ultimate Rewards points which are worth a minimum of $21.65. If transferred to a premium card like the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, they can be redeemed for much more, but we’ll use the conservative estimate here.
Finally, by scanning our Regal Crown Club card when redeeming them, we will earn 850 “credits” per ticket plus an additional 250-1,000 credits if you’ve achieved status (which depends on how many times you’ve visited in the past year). I’m entirely unsure how they determine a “year” and count the credits, but we’ll use the middle of the road “Ruby” status that is achieved after 10 visits per year and yields a bonus of 500 credits for each visit.
This means for the two of us going to a movie (and redeeming 2 of those “Premiere Tickets” we purchased in bulk), we’ll get 2,200 credits (1,700 for the tickets + 500 bonus).
Since we care mostly about getting into the movies as cheaply as possible, we’ll assume that you redeem all those credits earned towards additional movie tickets. A standard 2D movie ticket costs 15,000 credits.
Note: If you’re someone who buys popcorn from the theater, the small popcorn may be a higher value use of the Regal credits. The Drink Upsize and Popcorn Upsize are terrible redemptions, while the Small Soft Drink also comes in below the free movie ticket. This will of course vary depending on your local location’s prices for popcorn, drinks, and tickets. Don’t forget, if you redeem for a small popcorn or soda, they should let you “upsize” it with cash. It’s usually ~$1 to go from the smallest size to the largest in my experience. Also, you can instead redeem the credits for some cool movie swag if you’re into that, they have t-shirts, movie posters, and more (costs vary).
The Savings Calculation
Now that we have all the numbers, we can break down exactly how much we’re paying per ticket.
- Cost for 50 movie tickets – $433
- UR Points Earned (2,165) – $21.65
- Total Cost – $411.35
- Tickets Purchased – 50
- Regal Credits Earned – 55,000 (assuming 25 visits using 2 tickets each time, with Ruby status = 2,200 x 25)
- Free Movie Tickets from Regal Credits – 3.67 (at 15,000 credits each)
- Total Tickets – 53.67
- Final Cost Per Ticket – $7.66 ($411.35 / 53.67)
- Normal Cost Per Ticket – $13.32 (this is the after tax price at our local theater)
- Total Savings – 42.5%
Your own savings % will vary depending on local ticket prices. The higher cost of living area you live in, the better this deal is going to be. If you’re in a particularly low cost of living area and this strategy doesn’t save you much against the regular ticket price, you may be better off just using discount gift cards.
I know a lot of people don’t end up maxing out the restaurant/movie quarter on their Freedom cards (especially if you have multiple), so this may be a good opportunity to save money while earning some extra UR if you’re a regular movie goer.
Using This For Other Theaters
While this post was specifically about Regal, I detail in my Ultimate Movie Theater Discount Hacking Guide that other big chains also offer bulk ticket sales and loyalty programs. Just be careful with the restrictions on the different kinds of tickets. Regal’s are pretty much unrestricted and work on any standard movie, but AMC’s in particular can’t be used for certain movies.