Is Staples the Perfect PPM?

A while ago I posted a series about the search for the perfect perpetual point machine (PPM).  In those posts, I asserted that the following characteristics would make a PPM perfect:

  1. The PPM may take effort and money to setup initially, but must not take much effort or money to keep it going.
  2. The PPM must be able to generate hundreds of thousands of points per year.
  3. The PPM must do no harm.
  4. The perfect PPM would also somehow do some good for the world, not just for the recipient of the points.

Could the Staples Free After Rebate deals that I’ve been writing so much about qualify for perfection?

Not much effort

When the idea of a Staples PPM was first raised by Steelsnow eons ago (November 17th), it sounded like a pain in the butt to me so I passed along the info, but didn’t ever try it.  In February, though, a few readers pointed out the latest deal to me and I finally gave it a try.  I was amazed at how easy it was!  It hardly takes more than 15 minutes to log into the Ultimate Rewards Mall, click through to Staples, buy the right items, and then submit the rebates.  Done!

I’d say that this PPM easily meets the first criteria above.

Almost big enough?

Since I started publishing Staples deals in February, I’ve listed $1,905 in FAR (Free After Rebate) software downloads.  That amounts to an average of about $950 per month.  If this trend continues, we’ll be able to spend $11,400 at Staples each year and get all of that money back.  With a Chase Ink credit card it is possible to earn 9 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for those transactions.  So, it is possible to earn over 100,000 points per year if Staples continues these offers at the pace that was set in February and March.  Do I really think it will continue at this pace?  No.  Am I hoping?  You bet.

The bar set for a perfect PPM is pretty high.  It’s unlikely Staples will lead to hundreds of thousands of points, but if it leads to 100K per year, that’s awesome!  If Staples continues with FAR deals at the current frenetic pace, I’d say this PPM is close enough to meeting criteria #2.

Is anyone harmed?

Usually when points are free they come at someone’s expense.  There are three potential losers in this scheme: Chase, Staples, and the software manufacturer.

Chase: Chase presumably gets paid by Staples for the points given out through the Ultimate Rewards Mall so they should be fine there.  They do give out a lot of points for Ink spending so one could easily argue that they are hurt by that, but since 5X at office supply stores is a standard card benefit they’ve only harmed themselves on that front.  I’d say Chase is fine.

Staples:  Staples most likely does quite well with these deals.  They are not the ones paying for the rebates.  They do provide a great service through their Easy Rebate program, but in return they make a huge number of sales.  I’m betting that Staples wins big with these through lower margins but higher sales.

Software Manufacturers:  Companies like Trend Micro and McAfee are the ones who pay for these deals.  They must lose money on each one.  Why do they do it?  Offering mail-in rebates often makes sense since a large portion of customers never collect.  With Easy Rebates, though, I can’t image this happens too often.  My guess is that their goal is to get people to install their software so that they can advertise directly to users each year when a new version of the software is available.  If that’s true, then we are foiling their plans when we buy their software but never use it.  We could actually help them more by donating the software to schools or other organizations since they would then become potential customers in the future.

While a case could be made that the software manufacturers are harmed, I think that’s a stretch.  I believe they know what they are getting into when they offer these rebates.

Doing Good?

Doing good in the world isn’t really a requirement of a perfect PPM, but it’s a definite nice to have.  I know that I haven’t done anything useful with my purchases, but it would be really cool to find schools or startup businesses that could use this stuff.  That way it would do more good than simply earn points.

So, is it perfect?

What do you think?  I’d say it’s very close!


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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. It’s close but it is not a riskless proposition. The best way to do this is usually to get the downloadable software and downloadable software is non-returnable. If for some reason you make a mistake or there is some glitch in the rebate system and you get denied the rebate you could be out a few hundred bucks.

    I do also worry about potential sales tax consequences. So far Staples has been not been charging sales tax on downloadable software. I’m not sure if that is proper or not. If you are doing this through a real business and get a sales tax audit you might get an unpleasant surprise. I emphasize maybe a lot depends on what state you are in and what the rules are in your state.

    There is also the float issue. You have to wait several weeks to get your rebate. If the deals keep coming at this pace you could be out a good bit of money while waiting for rebate checks to come in. I wouldn’t do it unless you are paying off your credit card balance every month. I suppose with the Bold you have to but with the Plus you don’t.

    Despite those possible issues I think it’s a great way to get a lot of points.

  2. Make sure you also enroll in the Amex/Facebook “Link, Like, Love” promotion where you’ll get a $10 statement credit with a $50 staples purchase. Ends April 30th.

  3. I am finding that UR has not been posting points for the Staples FAR purchases. I have been paying with an Amex and thought that shouldn’t be an issue?

  4. Actually, I’d like to point out an additional fact about the software manufacturers here. They are definitely playing the game and hoping that some percentage of people don’t go for the rebate (I agree they’re very likely to lose that game).

    However, consider the market as a whole here. I would bet that they’ve sold plenty of copies to customers they figure will buy these at full price. Now the software is already written and produced, so at the margin, it can’t hurt to essentially give the software away for free (the marginal cost of another unit of existing software is essentially $0). But they devised a scheme (rebates) where they could potentially still make money by giving away their software. And if they don’t make money, it didn’t really cost them too much, and as you mentioned, they have the potential opportunity to advertise new versions/software to a wider user base.

  5. Maybe it’s more straightforward to get the points posted if you’re using a Chase UR eligible card. A call to UR should clear it up if you used an Amex.

  6. It have to say this is pretty close to the PPM. I am making $$ this week with the Twitter and FB deals. Earning $20 for two copies. What a deal!! What a deal!!

  7. It does seems like eons ago, doesn’t it? While it does have a few small shortcomings like Dan mentioned above, overall it works very nicely and is also one of the best ways to meet minimum spends (or bonus spends) as well. It’s been fun watching the posts and everyone getting into some of the deals! While it’s not always a consistent amount, it is a very rewarding source of spend and points – in January there was one week with over $1k in FAR software! Nice job in putting together the posts and updates FM.

  8. What’s even better is Staples is realizing their screw-up and proactively resolving it. They’re issuing a refund of the unexpected sales tax for my California “delivery” of the two single purchases I made last weekend.

    I also went ahead and ordered the additional 8 with the shopping basket limit fixed and was not charged sales tax on that.

  9. Sure! We could definitely use more license keys. If you’d like to do so, please send it to: info@shantibhavanonline.org

    And please put ‘Staples License Key’ in the title. Our non-profit has been profiled in the New York Times, ABC World News, the Discovery Channel and so on–we do some good work with very underprivileged kids in India, and free software like this is definitely helpful!

    P.S.: Great blog! Thanks for all the helpful tips!

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