5X Everywhere!

First, let me tell you what this post is not about.  It is not about the successful experiment lab assistant Jeff conducted recently.  He bought a $100 Visa gift card at Staples.com (for $105.95) after going through uPromise for 5% cash back.  The exciting news is that the experiment appears to have worked.  5% of his cost, $5.30, has posted as pending to his account!  This means that if you buy Visa gift cards this way, you will get most of the $5.95 transaction fee back ($5.30 via uPromise) and still get 5X points if you make your purchase with a Chase Ink card.

This post is also not about how to increase the uPromise cash back to 5.5% by setting up and linking a savings account.  According to the uPromise web site, you can get a 10% annual bonus on all of your earned cash back, so 5% back becomes 5.5%.  This is really extraordinary because 5.5% cash back from a Visa gift card purchase of $105.95 comes to $5.83.  In other words, you would get back all but 12 cents of the card’s $5.95 fee and still get 5X points by making your purchase with a Chase Ink card!

What this post is really about

Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, TopCashBack has just raised their Staples cash back rate to 5.5% and now explicitly includes gift cards!


While this is the same rate that is possible with uPromise, this is much easier.  I purchased a Visa card earlier today, so I should learn soon whether the TopCashBack approach has worked.

Either way, 5X

Whether you prefer to earn 5.5% cash back from TopCashBack or from uPromise, this is an extraordinary development.  It literally means that all purchases made with these $100 Visa cards earn the equivalent of 5X Ultimate Rewards points (less a small rounding error of 12 cents)!  Imagine if you were to buy and spend 16 of these cards each month…  You would end up with 96,000 over 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points! (Here’s the math: $106 X 5 points per dollar = 530 points.  530 X 16 cards X 12 months = 101,760)

Note that the TopCashBack rate can be pulled at any time.  If you notice the rate drop below 5% or so, you might want to consider the uPromise route instead.

Spending and cashing out

While 5X everywhere is exciting, carrying a wallet full of gift cards is not.  In future posts, I’ll discuss ways to simplify using gift cards, and legal ways to cash them out.

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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. Dan .. Looking fwd to methods of cashing out gift cards.

    I cannot thank you enough for writing this blog. I find them much more useful that most blogs out there.


  2. On southwest gift cards this works out to a total of 13.8% cashback if you put the 5x points back into your SW account. Now if only Staples sold Amazon, AA and United gift cards…

  3. Shopping newbie thoughts that are circling in my brain:

    Where is the $350 check from those downloads? Can’t wait to get it to make me a believer:-)

    Why do I always see Visa gift cards and not Mastercard?

    My wife likes to shop at Sam’s Club and has to use the Amtrak MC. I would jump on this if I can get MC giftcards!

    One time I tried to use a darn Visa gc at a gas station…it was a disaster! So…if I go this route, I would use it all and pay for the difference with another card!

    I am the guy who still does not have a bigcrumbs account. In fact, the only account I have is an ebates account. I think I should get on this topcashback account then. Ok, I will use your link…should be worth an extra order of hummus for the next time we have lunch:-)

    • gpapadop: Here you go:
      * The check is in the mail
      * I don’t know
      * I’ll keep my eyes out for MC opportunities
      * Yes, gas stations are a lost cause with these. Use the $100 Visa cards to buy gas cards perhaps.
      * Thanks! Note that I don’t get the $5 referral credit until you get a certain amount of cash back yourself.

  4. Was scouting out gift cards yesterday. A safeway had staples, hyatt, amazon, ebay, southwest and those $500 visa cards. The chase freedom has 5% back on groceries this quarter.

    • tony: Yes, good point. Take advantage of the 5X groceries while you can.

      Ford: I don’t know about Safeway, but a lot of grocery stores have their own rewards programs as well so this can be a great way to double dip.

      ArizonaGuy: Yep, hopefully you’ll get your cash from TCB soon!

  5. Safeway is where I’m going as well, Amex Blue Cash preferred for 6% back on Grocery. Going to load up on $500 visa cards with $5.95 activation fee, just about 5% on anything I buy with that, looks like I can double that through portals.

    Looks like it’s already an ongoing Lab experiment, but I want to know if I could buy a visa gift card with my visa gift card…

  6. Stupid typo. I mean 500, not 600. And I was rounding the 530 down. 🙂

    Just wish I had an idea how fast TopCashBack actually pays. I’ve got a couple small purchases approaching the 90 day mark and they’re still listed as pending so we’ll see.

  7. Looking forward to your post on liquidating the gift cards. For this to work well, you gotta be able to turn them back into cash quickly to buy more. Gift cards are hit and miss with spending.

    Just got turned down yesterday at Papa Johns!

    • TSO: I think there will be a series of posts on different ways to liquidate gift cards. I haven’t found a single perfect silver bullet yet, but there are some OK options.

      THEsocalledfan: You are way too kind!

      HikerT: That makes sense. We need to find an exec at OfficeMax and convince them that they’ll lose all of their business to Office Depot unless they start carrying $500 cards 🙂

  8. The Frequent Miler: Once again putting other bloggers in the dust with new and innovative content not even found on Flyertalk.

    I took a break from Staples/Office Max to keep Chase happy, but boy, will I bet back using these portals. 🙂

    Hats off, once again.

  9. After reading up on Chase’s aggressiveness close accounts for getting too fancy churning cards, maximizing 5x spend, etc. I think I’m going to ease up significantly on my Ink Bold 5x spend. Not willing to risk losing 250K UR getting too fancy buying $100 GCs. In the near term I’ll probably use Freedom to buy $500 of GCs at Safeway which nets roughly 4x (ignoring the $1500 cap). Also need to focus more on my Delta Reserve Biz card spend, and I’m hoping Office Max will start selling $500 Visa GCs soon.

  10. If I choose the “Deliver to a store near me” option, can I pick up the gift card immediately? Otherwise, how long does it take them to mail the gift cards out?

  11. Just called Staples, they said the card gets mailed to the store, so there’s no benefit to choosing that option.

  12. I have a terrible experience mailing gift card to the store. I’ve ordered them and asked to be mailed to my local staples for pickup. Its has been 1 month and I called to both staples and thegiftcardmall (the 3rd party vender for their gift cards), apparently staples didn’t received it or “they can’t find it” so now I’m in the process of getting refunded, so far no news yet after 1 month+, verdict: RISK!! (they are delivered in an envelope, I guess its get easily misplaced, or, so many reasons I can think of!) sending them to home has been working just fine.

  13. If you have a Safeway nearby, here’s how you can get optimize with Freedom…

    Go to Safeway and use your Freedom to purchase a $100 prepaid MasterCard and get a coupon for $10 off your next purchase at Safeway.

    Net cost = $105.95 – $10 off next purchase – $5.30 (5% cash back) = $90.62 => 9% cash back! Of course, this is worth more if you value 5x UR more than 5%.

    Wash rinse repeat, up to $1500 this quarter…

  14. Two questions:

    1) Can you explain how you are able to use the cashback link and then order through the UR portal to double dip in the 5.5% rebate and then 5x earning? Do you log into the upromise/cashback and use their Staples link and then navigate to the UR portal using the same browser and then use the UR Staples link to earn the bonus? I am a little lost how this works

    2) General question, can you use any credit card on the UR portal and earn the bonus points or does it have to be used with the chase card associated with that login?

    • jedijood: This trick doesn’t use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal at all. The trick is to use the TopCashBack portal and then pay with a Chase Ink card. Chase Ink cards automatically give 5 points per dollar at office supply stores.

      Yes, you can use any credit card on the UR portal, but if it doesn’t track properly, you will have trouble getting help from Chase.

  15. Has anyone had success using the Vanilla Visa bought at Office Depot online at a discounted giftcard seller. I just tried at plastic jungle and the site just returned a blank form after I inputted the Visa card info. I have registered the card online with my zipcode.

  16. Just to be clear, the question above relates to using the Visa Gift card to purchase discounted retailer gift cards online through a cash backl portal.

    • Scott: I’ve had some trouble using the $500 Visa online too. I wonder if some verification systems look for more than just zip code. I’ve had better luck with the $100 Visas from Staples and the $200 Visas from OfficeMax. With those, you register your full address and phone number.

  17. Thanks. Let me know if you are ever successful using the Office Depot card online at a discount gift card site. Thanks for all of your efforts on the blog. Before you started I was just learning about shopping portals, finding the best bonuses on credit card spend and was getting into doing a few things with gift cards. I have a business and have no problem spending lots on credit cards. The information/schemes I have learned has multiplied what I was earning on the same spend. I came upon your blog just after you started and it is the first thing I read each morning. I hope to meet you and discuss some strategies – maybe in Chicago?

  18. FrequentMiler,

    Have you explored using a reloadable Visa or Master card. Vanilla reload participates in NetSpend and Mio network, so a reloadable card of those networks should also work. (i.e. ordering a reloadable card online from the network website and then reloading using OD prepaid cards)

    It will help for places where AMEX is not accepted.

  19. FrequentMiler,

    I believe we can just order the permanent card online on netspend or mio website (with a $0 balance). And then load using the vanilla reload pack. Don’t see any reason why it won;t work.

  20. Has there been evidence that these points actually got posted to the account from the online staples purchase?

    And has anyone actually had luck purchasing a prepaid card within the last month with a credit card? Everywhere now has signs that they can only be purchased with cash, and have had registers deny the transaction when hoping the cashier would look the other way or while trying to stick into a multiple item purchase…

  21. I am no longer positive where you’re getting your info, but good topic. I must spend a while learning much more or figuring out more. Thanks for excellent info I was on the lookout for this information for my mission.

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