Almost too good to be true

image

Last week, a reader who goes by Stealph on FlyerTalk (and Bringer on MilePoint) alerted me to a new discovery.  He had found $500 Visa cards for sale at Office Depot, each with only a $4.95 fee.  Later in the week, reader Steve K reported the same finding in the comments of my post titled “The best way to Ink Money (revised).” 

Why is this an amazing discovery?  Office Depot is an office supply store.  So, if you use a Chase Ink credit card which gives 5X for office supplies, you will get 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar when buying these gift cards.  Since the fee is only 1%, this means that you can buy these Visa cards and use them for day to day spend and earn the equivalent of over 4X on all of your purchases!

Let’s look at how this compares to previously reported options:

Analysis Table

The table shown here estimates the “X” for each option and each point value. For example, If you buy gift cards at Staples via the Ultimate Rewards Mall (for 2X) and you value points at 1.31 cents each, this table shows that buying $100 Visa gift cards online will give you the equivalent of 2.87X (points per dollar) for spend that you make with that Visa gift card. In other words, while you start with 7 points per dollar in that scenario, just over 4 points per dollar are used to “pay you back” for the card’s $5.95 fee so you are left with 2.87X overall.

 

Gift Card Value

Fee

Points Earned

Value points 1 cent

Value points 1.31 cents

Value points 2 cents

Buy online through UR Mall 2X

$100

$5.95

742

1.47X

2.87X

4.44X

Buy online through UR Mall 3X

$100

$5.95

848

2.53X

3.93X

5.50X

Buy in-store Staples / OfficeMax

$200

$6.95

1035

1.70X

2.52X

3.44X

Buy at Office Depot

$500

$4.95

2525

4.06X

4.29X

4.55X

 

An amazing deal

In the table shown above, you can see that buying $500 gift cards at Office Depot is almost always the best option.  You can then use those gift cards for purchases that would ordinarily only give you 1 point per dollar.  Imagine if, over the course of a year, you put $12K of spend on Visa gift cards that were bought with a Chase Ink credit card.  That’s just $1000 per month.  In that case, you would earn 60,600 Ultimate Rewards points by buying and using gift cards, instead of the 12,000 points you would normally earn (within 1X categories).  The extra cost to you over the year would be $4.95 * 24 = $118.80.  That’s a very small price to pay for almost 50,000 extra points!

Be cautious

Yesterday I wrote “Why Chase cancels accounts (and how to protect yourself).”  The key take away is that schemes like this should be done in moderation.  If you max out your credit card each month by buying Visa gift cards, Chase will eventually catch on and shut down all of your accounts.  No one knows exactly how much is too much so err on the side of caution.  See the Dos and Don’ts in yesterday’s post.

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.


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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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  1. […] Frequent Miler who has become the authority on the Chase INK Bold, pointed out that at Office Depot they sell $500 Visa Prepaid gift cards. Although there is a small $7 fee, because Office Depot is an Office Supply store, it earns 5X UR Points on the Chase INK Bold. If you were to buy 2 $500 Visa gift cards, you would earn 5,000 UR Points and then you could use those gift card to pay gas, groceries, etc. Not a bad deal! […]

Comments

  1. They also have American Express in the same denominations for $1 more I think.

    Great use: If you have State Farm insurance, they will take 2 forms of payment (max) in the office. I have a rather large bill for a teenager’s Jeep as well as my home owners coming up 😉

  2. You can do this with the chase freedom card right now in grocery categories. My Harris Teeter carries loadable AMEX and VISA gift cards up to $500. Just to be safe I loaded $492 with my Freedom card. I have a lot of wedding expenses that are coming up and I know I’ll be spending this money. Otherwise buying $1000 worth of gift cards wouldn’t really work for me.

    • sil: Yes, after you register your home zip code, you can usually use these like any other credit card. I have used similar cards to pay State Farm insurance

      Joshua: Thanks for the grocery tip. Keep in mind that you are limited to $1500 per quarter with the Freedom’s 5X categories.

      Rhonda: Yep, I’ve paid State Farm online with gift cards too.

  3. Son of a gun! I have no Office Depot anywhere near me. Further, I even think many of them closed that used to be in MSP. Guess I am stuck with the $200 gift card.

    Please, please let Staples or Office Max start selling these!

  4. I am confused. I thought buying online at the UR mall gives 10 UR pts when you buy at OfficeDepot.com? If yes, do you get an additional 5 pts for “office supplies” category for a gazillion 15 pts per dollar for just the $4.95 fee per $500 gift card?

    Or, do you mean, doing the above will not work and we need to go to an actual Office Depot store and buy the gift cards for just the “office supplies” bonus of $5 pts per dollar. Which is still good based on your analysis but….not as good as the first scenario.

  5. Pretty great find. I think I am a little too nervous about Chase shutting down cards to try this right now, but that will probably pass after I see some more people getting these without incident.

    • gpapadop: It only works in-store. Office Depot doesn’t sell these online, plus they have a T&C in the UR mall against buying gift cards. I wish it would work though! We could all retire on UR points….

      Evan: At least one reader successfully bought these in-store with a credit card (see receipt in photo). There is a difference between buying a card that already has $500 on it vs. a card that has to be loaded with $. In the latter case, you are right that it is hard to find places (but not impossible) that will load them with a credit card.

      THEsocalledfan: Please let me know when you see these at OfficeMax! I would love to buy these with my Amex OPEN cards which give 5% back at OfficeMax in addition to points earned!

  6. THEsocalledfan: There are many Office Depot stores in the MSP area. Just go to their website and type your zip code to find a store near you.

  7. A question about the Freedom card and it’s 5% quarterly bonus…is there an advantage to using the Freedom card right now at the supermarket versus using my Sapphire Preferred that offers 7% dividends at the end of the year? Is there some kind of “fuzzy math” that I don’t know about? Thanks in advance!

  8. Miler: I know about the category cap of $1500. I actually only bought about $974 of loadable gift cards, which I used within 1 week for wedding expenses that would have otherwise netted me nothing more than 1% cashback. Then I bought $100 worth of gas gift cards. Soon I will buy another $50 gas gift card and a $100 pizza hut gift card(This is for our rehearsal party before the wedding at my house). I won’t hit the $1500 cap, but if I come close I’ll start spending with other cards.

  9. This is a great find, but be cautious about moving too many of your expenses onto prepaid cards. My understanding is that you don’t have the same level of protection against false charges as you would with a standard credit card charge. Apart from reporting it missing, I don’t see much on the T&C to protect you.

  10. I’ve called 10 different ODs, largest Visa available at any of them is 200. They all act like I’m crazy when I ask them for a $500, a few even refused to go check saying that OD has never carried them. I don’t doubt this person bought one as you can see the receipt, but sounds extremely YMMV.

  11. Office depot lets you purchase Visa Gift cards with a CC? Thats pretty awesome, I know some supermarkets in California around me do not allow purchasing Visa/Amex gifts cards with CC but any other CC is allowed. anyone run into this problem?

  12. I just went out and bought a $500 card over lunch at a local Office Depot. I called a few other stores and they all seem to have them. I live in the Salt Lake area. The cards can be purchased in any amount between 20 and 500. Just simply pay for the amount you want.

  13. The store I went to in Dallas had two different versions of the Visa card, one in Gold packaging and one in Black. They also had the $500 AmEx for a $6.95 fee.

  14. Just had to stop at the Jewel for a few things so I checked out the gift card offerings. I purchased a $500 Amex gift card ($5.95 fee) with my Freedom card. We shop at Costco all the time so this is our way of earning 5 pts per $ on Costco purchases, since they only accept Amex.

  15. This is an awesome find!

    I also agree that we shouldn’t abuse any perks. However, I have a question regarding the Ink Bold’s 5x UR points for Office purchase.

    Do you think Chase is losing money on these particular transactions? If they are, I don’t know why they would set the limit so high ($50,000 per year). Given that business credit card expense is higher than personal card expense, $50,000 limit is awfully high for money losing transactions. I know 5x is higher than the typical card processing fee (2-3%), but 1UR point doesn’t necessarily cost 1c to Chase.

    What do you all think about this?

  16. Mandopii: that’s a good question. I’m sure that Chase loses money on these transactions. I think they’re making a bet that people will use these cards heavily and that office supplies will be a relatively small percentage of expenses. When they lose that bet they’ll be unhappy

  17. I’ll be using my Amazon Chase. They mailed me a recent offer of 7,500 points for $3,000 spend. I already spent $1,500 but will use these to make up the difference.

  18. Bought a $500 gift card today with the Ink and am loving it. Except for one thing: What do you do when the purchase price exceeds the gift card amount? I wanted to use it buy a flight on travelocity through the SP portal of the UR Mall, getting me 2 bonus points/$, but couldn’t use the card because travelocity doesn’t allow multiple gift cards to pay for a flight. On southwest.com you can use up to 6 cards on one flight! Any ideas of ways around this? If I can’t use these cards for big ticket flights, then this cash cow just turned into a calf!

    • Kevin Wagner: You’re right. These gift cards are best used for purchases of $500 or less since most online vendors won’t allow you to use multiple credit cards for one purchase. Many place will allow you to use multiple merchant gift cards, though. For example, if you’re traveling on AA you might be able to buy multiple $500 AA gift cards and then redeem more than one at a time via aa.com (NOTE: this is just an example! I haven’t tried this). Travelocity has Travelocity gift cards you can buy, but I think they can only be redeemed for hotel and vacation packages.

  19. So where do you guys draw the line on buying cards? We are in the middle of a remodel for a small business we own and the charges would legitimately go on our Ink card, and I could easily spend $7,500 between AmEx and Visa gift cards. It’s not something I would have the patience to do year-round just to earn extra points but it’s extremely tempting on this project.

  20. Frequentmiler: There are certain businesses whose Office expenditures would be much higher than the other businesses or the majority of their expensive is Office supplies. I’m wondering if Chase will penalize these businesses if they shop at office supplies much more than the average. Obviously, at the moment, I’m not going to risk it by going over the board with gift card churning. I currently spend 10 times more on non-office supplies than on office supplies. So I should be safe, but I’m rather disappointed at the lack of transparency by Chase. If they promised $50,000 worth of purchases on office supplies, I think they should honor that or else they should have better guideline. Well, chase is not my business, so I have no say in it really, but it’s rather frustrating to see this because I do not find this as “abusing” compared to the 1cent square transaction churning. Well enough of my rant lol

  21. “FrequentMiler says:
    Yes, after you register your home zip code, you can usually use these like any other credit card. I have used similar cards to pay State Farm insurance”

    Have you actually tried this with this card? Or just similar cards? I bought one of these cards and I’ve registered my zip code and tried unsuccessfully to pay several utility bills online.

    I even tried buying an Amazon gift Certificate with part of it and Amazon wouldn’t even allow it.

    Can anyone confirm a successful purchase with the OneVanilla that was not a face-to-face transaction?

    • Steven: That’s interesting and worrying. I have used $200 Vanilla Visa cards (from OfficeMax) as I described, but I haven’t yet tried a $500 card. Hopefully we’ll hear soon from others.

  22. My Office Depot also had an AMEX Prepaid for $500 with a $4.95 fee which I have been able to get an Amazon GC with, so that is another option.

    I’m going to try the OneVanilla in person for lunch…hoepfully it will work for that!

  23. I just had an interesting experience. Went to one Office Depot, and they didn’t have any of the $500 cards. Stopped at an OD right near my house, and they had a bunch. Score! Or so I thought. I got two of them and had them load them up for $500 a piece. The manager originally thought I couldn’t buy them with a credit card, but then after reading the T’s & C’s on the sign they had near the gift cards, realized it’s other gift cards that you can’t pay with. Alright, in the money. Or so I thought. She rings the two of them up, and it comes to a total of $1,069 and change. I ask why it’s so high, and she says because of the $4.95 fee for each and the tax. I asked why they charged tax on a gift card since you’d be paying tax again when you bought anything with it, but she didn’t seem to know and that’s how it’s coded in their computers. Anyway, I told them to cancel the sale.

    Anyone else run into this issue?

  24. Where can you buy Mastercard Gift Cards? Our health Insurance premiums can only be paid for by Mastercard. Do any office supply stores sell these there that you know of, or only Visa?

  25. Looks like I’ll have to try at a different store. It obviously made no sense that they’d charge tax on it, but arguing that with the Office Depot folks would be useless.

  26. No tax charged to me for several $500 Vanilla and Amex cards purchased Office Depot in Central Florida. I also noticed that MC GC’s were available at Staples, albeit in smaller $200 denominations.

  27. I bought one $500 Visa card, registered it, and put the info into amazon.com, and it works fine. Then the cat got sick, so I bought two more for the vet bills – that’s three cards in three days. I’ll let you know if Chase gets picky with me…

  28. has anyone found $500 gift cards in NJ? I called the store in Union (on Morris Ave) and they said they only had it up to $200 but I’m not sure if the person I spoke to knew for sure. Anyone have any info about NJ and $500 cards?

  29. I went to a local Austin OD today,
    found the prepaid Vanilla card,
    rang up 2X $500 but they ADDED TAX,
    Manager insisted that was correct,
    I cancelled and departed.

    Maybe try again elsewhere later,
    or maybe too much hassle…

  30. Orange County, Califronia- new to this so bought $400 worth with $4.95 fee. No tax. I used my Chase Ink Bold to pay for it. Already used it for CVS, dinner and Gas. No problem. Will try $500 next time.

    When you order online, what do you write for “name”. Mine says ” A gift for you” when you have to fill out the billing information?

  31. Nice idea. But need clarification please.

    Don’t have an Ink card yet but needed to fill a min. Spend. On chase SW card.
    Bought the $500 vanilla visa debit at CVS $3.95 fee.
    To activate your required to complete a detailed new account sign up.
    No business, “Personal use only” in the user agreement.
    To reload , it seems to only take vanilla reloads.
    Is that the only way to load this visa or can you buy another visa.? Or would that create a need for a new account sign up?

    Thanks,

  32. Just looked at their web site… I bought the ” my vanilla” . Which is loadable and other Percs like a bluebird card.
    worth checking out.

    The ” one vanilla ” is different. Simple debit card.

  33. robertw: No. The best use of those cards is to spend them like regular credit cards. To load bluebird you need either a Vanilla Reload card (which is different from a Vanilla Visa card) or a true debit card (with PIN) (not Amex) that can be used at the register at Walmart.

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