Triple dip anywhere

I’ve written before about how you can use the Chase Ink card to get 9 points per dollar when buying gift cards.  The idea is to “double dip” by starting in the Ultimate Rewards Mall and then using your Chase Ink to buy gift cards at Staples.com.  The Ultimate Rewards Mall will give you 4 points per dollar, and the Ink will give you 5 points per dollar (because the new Ink cards give 5X for office supply store purchases).  This is a really great return for merchant gift cards since you can buy them through Staples without any shipping, handling, or service fees.  You can read more about this approach here and here.

Basic Triple Dip

You can turn the approach described above into a triple dip, by going through the Ultimate Rewards Mall a second time to use your gift cards.  For example, you could use the above trick to buy Lands End gift cards for 9X, and then go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to Sears to get another 5X when using the gift cards.  Some merchants, though, will not award points on purchases made with gift cards.  Barnes & Noble, for example, will give you points for buying gift cards, but not for using them.  Make sure to read the merchant’s Terms & Conditions in the Ultimate Rewards Mall to get an idea of whether or not purchases made with gift cards are allowed.  Another “gotcha” to watch out for is that some merchants don’t allow their gift cards to be used online at all.  Coincidentally, Staples is like that.  Staples gift cards can only be used in-store.

Visa Gift Cards

One of the gift cards that you can buy at Staples.com is a $100 Visa gift card.  Unlike merchant gift cards, Staples does charge a fee for purchasing visa cards. The $100 Visa card costs a total of $105.95.  For this $5.95 fee, you get 954 points (9 X 106).  At the Fair Trading Price of 1.31 cents per point, this is like a $12.50 rebate.  Pretty good!  Another way to think of this is that the $5.95 fee is worth 454 points, so the remaining 500 points is your rate of return.  In other words, your 9X for buying a $100 card with a $5.95 fee is equivalent to a 5X return on a $100 card without a fee.  So, let’s agree to think of this trick as giving a 5X return.

Triple Dip Anywhere

If you use the above trick to buy visa gift cards at 5X, then you can triple dip by going to any merchant in the Ultimate Rewards Mall (or in any other portal for that matter) in order to spend the gift card.  Once you’ve registered the visa gift card to your home address, it will work like any other credit card for making online purchases.  So, if we take the Barnes & Noble example, we can now go through the Ultimate Rewards mall to buy up to $100 worth of merchandise (or gift cards) to get another 10X (which is the current rate for B&N).  You’ll end up with the equivalent of a 15X return in this example!

Triple Dip Difficulties

Here’s the problem with the triple dip:  Suppose you want to buy something that costs $100.99.  Online merchants usually will not let you split your payments between two credit cards.  Since your visa gift card only contains $100, you won’t be able to make that $100.99 purchase.  With some merchants you can get around this by buying a gift card for $1 and then applying that to the total.  Or, better yet, use the visa gift card to buy merchant gift cards for exactly $100.  At merchants that award points for gift card purchases (B&N, Sears, Beauty.com, etc.), you should be able to buy multiple $100 gift cards, get your triple dip points and apply multiple gift cards to your actual purchases.

Is it worth it?

Visa gift cards can be a hassle.  For every gift card you buy, you’ll have to register it if you want to use it with an online vendor.  Then, as I described above, you won’t be able to use the card online for purchases above the amount on the card (in person, though, the vendor should be able to split the bill between multiple cards).  Even in person, these cards can be a hassle if you try to use them at a place that places a hold on your funds beforehand.  Gas stations and hotels tend to do this.  Finally, if you don’t spend all of the card right away, you are left trying to remember how much money is left on each card.

To me, the triple dip is only worth doing if I know I can cash out the gift card cleanly in one shot.  For example, if I plan to make a bunch of purchases at Barnes & Noble, then I’d be happy to get 15X (equivalent) by buying a $100 visa gift card as described above and then using it to buy a $100 B&N e-gift card.

How about you?  Is the hassle worth it?  In what circumstances would you do this?


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About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. What about keeping a running list of sites that award points for gift cards on your site? As users report success/failure the site can be updated. Because reading the T&Cs isn’t always clear. “not valid on gift cards”, does this mean not valid on purchase, redemption or both.

    The only problem I see with this, is it may allows retailers to fix the double dip (like magazines.com)

  2. Thanks! I always read your blog from my phone so it goes straight to the mobile version. I didn’t even know about that page

  3. I buy Visa gift cards online at Staples with my Ink Bold and then “designate” them for a specific purpose. I have one card for gas, another for food, and one for misc (which I do keep the receipts for, so I can know where that $100 went). I simply use a Sharpie to write on the front what the card is for. Works for me!

  4. GoWallet does a great job of tracking all your gift card balances. You can even see where the transactions occurred.

  5. I only do the gc thing when I have to meet a min spend, which I am doing the next 3-4 months. Thanks for the tips on making it less painful, and maybe even profitable.

  6. How about using the $100 visa GC (from staples.com) in Walmart for grocery? We buy grocery from Walmart every week anyways, so we can make 954 UR points for $5.95 every week if we use the $100 visa GC from staples. does it sound right?

  7. @AJM – I take the sharpie trick one step further and just go ahead and write how much is left on the card after each purchase. $100 GC, $45 purchase at Walmart = $55 on the front of the GC w/Sharpie. Then if I make a $20 purchase somewhere I just cross out $55 and put $35.

    @shoaib – that’s exactly what I use my Visa GC’s for, Walmart groceries. I did notice the other day however that Chase categorizes Walmart as a “Grocery Store” when I go to my spending habits break down. That’ll be nice when the Freedom is 5X on Grocery Stores next quarter.

    • AJM: Thanks for the sharpie tip

      Anne: I’ll have to try out GoWallet. Thanks!

      bluto: I’m pretty sure these cards have no fees after the initial purchase fee.

      shoaib: Yep, using these in Walmart or any grocery store or department store is a great way to use them.

      Jenny: Glad you liked it!

      ikonos: Yes, it should work for Home Depot 10X as long as you buy stuff there for $100 or less. A few readers have tried buying gift cards and/or using gift cards to see if they can get 10X, but points have not yet been awarded so I’d stay away from HD gift cards for now.

  8. As a reminder, remember to check GiftCardGranny.com to make sure the discounted cash value isn’t of greater value than the bonus value. When you consider you can get Barnes & Noble gift cards at 12.5% off at reputable resellers, the triple dip may not be worth the extra hassle..

    • James: Yes, good point. If your goal is savings, buying discounted gift cards can be a better or easier way to go. On the other hand, if you value Ultimate Rewards points highly (as many readers do), you may prefer to get points. For example, I would much prefer to get 15 UR points per dollar for B&N purchases than 12.5% off by buying a discounted gift card.

      Bitachu: Neat tip!

      Vik: I don’t know of any way to combine them. The only thing I can think of is to go to a store (Walgreens, perhaps) that will let you buy a $500 gift card using a credit card and ask them to ring it up on 5 different credit cards. I’m dubious about whether this would really work. Also note that you would have to pay a transaction fee. Instead, look into a service called PayDivvy to see if that will work (and let me know!).

  9. remember whenever possible don’t use up the balance of your visa gift cards..try to keep at least 0.01$ on them..that way you can use them for priceline bids or any other sketchy sites that require you to put in a credit card information

  10. Do you know if the $100 gcs can be combined? This could be a great way of racking up points by paying my rent through William paid or something. The 9 pts you get from the mall and ink bold should be enough to cover all the transaction charges and more.

  11. I was not able to buy gift cards at K-mart using Sears gift cards as you have promoted, so I guess I will have to buy lots of Visa gift cards. To me, using Ink Bold and UR is 3 points per cent if you only value the points at 1 cent which is still a heck of a deal. Not many cards that give you 3 triple points on nearly everything. I like the sharpie ideas and buying gift cards you know you will use like for gas and groceries to avoid sharpies…..

    • THEsocalledfan: Sorry to hear you weren’t able to buy gift cards at K-mart using Sears gift cards. Were you turned down at the register? I was turned down once, but every other time it has worked. I try to load up the cart with other stuff that I need anyway (dog food, cereal, tissues, etc.) and throw in just 2 gift cards. That always has worked. Regarding Ink Bold, yes even at only 1 cent per point value, this is a great deal. It’s very easy to get more than 1 cent per point value with UR points & the Ink Bold, though…

  12. For Sears, I admit that I was just trying to buy a gift card (Friday’s restraunt) and was turned down and said I could not use for any third party. (It was a print off gift card and it even said that right on there…..perhaps physical card better, but still violating the rules and goes against my principles in this). However, I am sure Visa would work. So, I have decided to become a Visa gift card king. Figure I can maximize miles on nearly everything I buy this way. Another way to look at this is for the the $6 you burn a shot, that extra six dollars is earning you a ton of miles/points….

  13. I have purchased many many gift cards at K-Mart using $500 Sears gift cards. In all cases, I had a physical card to swipe. These were mostly purchased on Black Friday/Cyber Monday through the malls for 10x UR points and 8x WN points.

    Have bought gift cards from BP, ebay/Paypal, Subway, Olive Garden, etc.

    No problems.

  14. HI,

    But in this post you mention using the purchased visa gift cards to then again buy at barnes and noble to get the extra 10x? but the link on UR mall says not eligible for puchases made with gift cards?

  15. Hi,

    i tried this, and you can’t use the $100 visa gift card to buy a $100 barnes and noble gift card via UR because bn charges 0.95 shipping charge. So total comes to 100.95…any ideas?

    • manish: Oh yeah, those B&N gift card fees keep tripping me up. There are no fees for their e-gift cards so you can go that route. It won’t help much, though, if your goal is to resell the cards since the resellers won’t give as much back for electronic cards.

  16. Thanks for your tip on this method. Its definitely a lot better than buying AmEx GC through BigCrumbs. My last run of $6,000 only got me $96:

    http://img860.imageshack.us/img860/8362/6000.jpg

    I have a Chase Ink from years ago. I think they call it the Ink Classic (Business) now. I’ll have to wait until I can apply for another Chase that gives me 5x on office supplies before I can start doing the runs on these.

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