The best way to Ink Money

I’ve reported in the past that those with Chase Ink cards (the ones that give 5 points per dollar for office supplies) can profit from buying Visa gift cards at office supply stores.  There are two general approaches to doing this, one is online and the other in-store.  Which is better?

Option 1: Buy Visa gift cards at Staples via Ultimate Rewards Mall

As I reported in the post “Inking Money” you can buy $100 Visa gift cards (with a $5.95 service fee) at Staples via the Ultimate Rewards Mall in order to get a total of 9 points per dollar.  The extra points earned when doing this (above the 1 point normally earned for credit card spend) are worth $11.18 according to the Fair Trading Price of Ultimate Rewards points.  After subtracting out the $5.95 service fee, you gain $5.23 (in the form of points).  In other words, this is like a 5.23% rebate!

Option 2: Buy Visa gift cards in person

Another option with the Ink card is to buy $200 Visa gift cards with a $6.95 service fee at any office superstore such as Staples, OfficeMax, or Office Depot.  Since the Ink Bold gives 5 points per dollar for office supplies, this approach returns 1035 points, or 935 more than would be earned for non-bonus purchases.  The Fair Trading Price of those 935 points is $12.24.  After subtracting out the $6.95 service fee, you gain $5.29 (in points).  This amounts to a 2.6% rebate.

So, which approach is better?  Option 1 gives you a much better rate of return.  On the other hand, the maximum size Visa card you can get with this approach is $100.  With the in-store approach you can get cards worth $200.  Either way, if you can use Visa gift cards effectively, this is a great way to maximize your points earnings!

If you do not have a Chase Ink card, you can read more about those and other cards on the Preparing for Miles page which can be found as a menu item at the top of every page on the Frequent Miler blog.

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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    • Jenny: Yes, you can, but it is difficult to purchase items costing more than $100 with $100 Visa cards. If you can find items for $100 or less, or if you can use coupons or gift cards to get the credit card amount down to $100, then it’s a great way to go!

      Mow: Yes, you can use the Freedom card to do a similar trick at grocery stores. I don’t know how they would code Walmart and Target purchases. If I were you, I’d go to a dedicated grocery such as Kroger and buy gift cards there.

  1. With the new 5% category coming, I see that walmart and target are listed however (grocery purchases only). My question is how do they know its grocery purchases or not? Can we still buy gift cards? Since that you can buy VISA gift cards with walmart gift cards, I was wondering if there is a way to maximize these combos.

  2. @Jenny, if you did that you wouldn’t get 5x from using Ink so you would be paying $5.95 for 4 x $105.95 = 424
    points. It’s actually worse than that because you give up at least 1x (100 points) when you redeem the $100 visa gift card vs. using Ink for the purchase so it’s really more like paying $5.95 for 324 points which is approaching 2 cents per point. There are some who value UR that high, not me.
     
    I can obtain UR at 1 cent so that’s my benchmark for purchasing points (albeit not for trading points). The idea here is to transform Ink into a higher than 1x card for everyday purchases. Assuming you are willing to buy points at 1 cent, option 1 provides 954 – 595 (points purchased for $5.95) = 359 points on $100 of future spend and transforms Ink into a 3.59x card. If you would buy points for more than 1 cent, say 1.31 cents, the math is 954 – 454 (points purchased for $5.95) = 500 points and transforms Ink into a 5x card.

    • HikerT: I agree with you if Jenny’s purpose was to buy something at Staples (or another office supply store). However, if the question was whether she could triple dip by buying Visa gift cards as outlined and then use them online at stores where the Ink does not give 5X automatically, then I think her strategy is a good one. An even better triple dip is to find a merchant gift card at Staples.com (which has no fees) and then use it by going through the UR mall. Note though that not all merchants will give you points when using gift cards so you’ll have to read the T&C.

  3. Never mind the first bit of my comment above to Jenny – I thought she was asking if you could buy more Visa gift cards from Staples with the Visa gift cards purchased. Actually, if I did the math right in the second part of my comment above, it seems you could make it a wheel and buy UR at 1.31 cents.

  4. @MOW. The freedom 5% grocery wouldn’t work at Walmart, Target, Sam’s club, Costco.. etc because these stores are coded as discounted stores and discounted warehouse and not grocery stores. Kroger, Safeways and your plain vanilla grocery stores would still work.

  5. Thanks for all your advice. I was thinking of using the Visa gift cards to triple-dip through the Chase UR Mall at Groupon, etc. 🙂

    • HikerT: Unfortunately you can’t make it a wheel because Staples won’t let you pay part of the $105.95 with a gift card. So, there is no way to use the $100 card to check out (that I know of).

  6. I purchase the Visa gift cards with my Ink Bold through Staples. When I receive them I use a Sharpie to write on the front what it’s for. I have one for gas, one for groceries and one for misc. personal spending.

    Unfortunately, there are some merchants who will not accept a Visa gift card for an amount less than what is owed. For instance, when I go to WalMart, if my purchases totals $20 but I have only $5 left on my Visa gift card, they will not accept it as $5 against the total. I have to pay with a gift card with at least $20 on it or it will get rejected. Other merchants, like Target will let me pay a $20 bill with a Visa gift card with a $5 balance left on it and then I still owe them $15. So it can be a bit of a hassle keeping track of how much is left on each card, but to me it is worth the extra UR points.

    And if you’re a person who doesn’t really keep track of where your money goes, you wouldn’t need to mark your cards for different line items of your budget like I do.

  7. I was coincidentally thinking about this last night. I came to the conclusion that unless you value UR points very low, it’s always better to buy it online.

    Online you get 9x – 5.95%

    Buying the $200 cards in the store you get 5x – 3.475%

    Set the equal and solve for x. That means for all values above 0.62 cents, it’s better to buy the $100 ones online.

    Also, I don’t think the triple dip of using the gift cards to buy more gift cards online is worthwhile. You only earn an incremental 4x online and you’ll end up paying an incremental $5.95 in fees. That is like buying points at 1.5 cents each.

  8. @Frequent Miler – I suppose if you are going to buy non-Visa $100 GCs at Staples.com, you could first buy $100 Visa GCs for $105.95 (954 points), then use those Visa GCs to purchase $100 GCs (400 points). That makes sense if you are willing to pay $5.95 for 454 extra points (1.31 cents each), ignoring hassle and the risk of doubling down for a hickup at the UR mall. It’s probably better to just buy Visa GCs to transform your Ink into a 3.5x – 5x card for everyday spend at stores that allow split purchase.

  9. Just thinking out loud here…Seeing staples has the $200 product at store..has anyone tried to see if there is a SKU # or way to pay for the $200 GC even though it doesn’t show up on the Staples website? May be worth a call to Staples…Maybe if enough interest is generated..they may make it available online in the future…

    I remember years ago, my credit union used to have an option to allow me to cash out visa gift cards into my account..Has anyone tried that recently with success?

    Has anyone had success ordering the Visa GC online and being able to pick it up at the store instead of waiting for them to ship? If not, how long does it typically take to get the GCs in the mail?

  10. This “inking money” is such a great idea!

    I also purchase the $100 Visa cards online, getting the 9 points per dollar using my Ink card through the Staples store in the UR mall, as recommended by the FrequentMiler.

    And, despite my having a wallet full of the best point earning cards, it is a lowly Visa gift card that pays for anything that has no chance of requiring a future claim such as a warranty or return. So, when I eat out, go to the grocery store, get gas (etc.) these purchases get me a whopping 9X (minus the $6 per card, of course.)

    Since I have been able to get no less than 3 cents per UR point, it is like getting about a 25% rebate after the $6 are accounted for.

    And here is the kicker: it really is closer to a 50% rebate, since I will get the 50,000 bonus points once I meet the Ink spend requirement. After that, it drops down again to “just” 25%. Thanks FrequentMiler! 🙂

  11. @HikerT: I have enjoyed your insightful replies (as well as those of other regulars such as bluto)!

    If I may ask, and so long as it would not require your divulging anything you don’t wish to, how do you go about purchasing UR points for 1 cent each?

    Thanks!

  12. I’m loving loving this blog. Hey so I realized with the Chase Ink, that if you buy gift cards online, for example, southwest, you make 9x that through the UR mall! I needed to buy tickets and I thought why get 3x with AMEX gold when I can get 9x with Chase ink! Also, i use a ton of gas, why get 2x on sapphire and instead get 5x by buying gift cards to a gas station. I think I make sense but does that make sense to you? Basically, if i can get the gift card at staples, go get it, right?

    • Ryan from MA: Thanks! Yes, buy gift cards with the Ink card! As you said, If they’re available online at Staples.com that’s the best since you’ll get 9X total if you go thru the UR mall. Otherwise, go in person to any office supply store (Staples, OfficeMax, Office Depot) and buy gift cards. I’ve seen gas gift cards at both Office Depot and Staples.

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