May 8, 2012
A week ago I revealed an exciting new way to maximize point earnings. By signing up for an American Express Prepaid card and using a Chase Ink credit card to buy reload cards at Office Depot, you can essentially earn 5 points per dollar for all purchases, and without needing to juggle multiple gift cards. To learn the basics of how this works, please see the original post for more information: “One card to rule them all”. If you have further questions, please see the American Express FAQ.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been almost giddy when making purchases. Buying groceries: 5X! Buying gas: 5X! Buying dinner: 5X! Buying Daily Getaways: 10% off and 5X!
So, now that we’ve had a bit of experience using the cards, what have we learned?
In the FAQ mentioned above, Amex states that the temporary cards are not available in Arkansas, New Jersey, or Vermont; and that the permanent cards are not available in Arkansas or Vermont. That implies, to me, that NJ residents can order the permanent card online. However, I believe that you will have to go out of state to find reload cards to buy at Office Depot.
In addition to the stated availability limitations, a few readers have reported being unable to find these cards at their local Office Depot stores. While most stores do sell them, it seems that some do not.
Buy with credit card
scheme opportunity relies on being able to buy reload cards at Office Depot using your Ink credit card. A few people have reported that their local Office Depot did not allow them to use their credit card for these purchases. In at least one of those cases, the Office Depot manager claimed that you couldn’t use credit cards to buy any gift cards. Let me assure you that if that is a rule, it is specific to certain stores and not at all what most people have found to be true. In fact, most readers have reported success in using their credit card to buy reload cards.
A few people have reported that while they were allowed to use their credit cards, the Office Depot personnel made them feel like criminals when purchasing the cards. I think this comes from the fact that some criminals do buy gift cards and prepaid cards as a way to launder money or to cash out stolen credit cards. Just remember that there is nothing illegal with what we are trying to do. And, if you can, try shopping at a different Office Depot. My local store has been very pleasant to me for all of my purchases.
Link, Like, Love: Not!
A reader who goes by Kadence reported that you cannot link these Amex Prepaid cards to Facebook, Twitter, or Foursquare for additional Amex savings. Rats! The Terms & Conditions for all three promotions state: “certain cards are not deemed Eligible Cards, including Prepaid Cards”. You can see the full T&C here: https://sync.americanexpress.com/facebook/Terms.aspx
I called Amex and they confirmed that there are no foreign transaction fees with these cards! Further, you can use these cards at international ATMs. I asked about Paris, specifically, and was given a large list of banks where the card would work for ATM withdrawals. I’m not organized enough to actually carry around a list like that (plus I didn’t write them down), but when I’m in France I’ll give it a shot at an ATM or two. As always, you may be charged a fee by the owner of the ATM, and Amex will charge you $2 per withdrawal after the first withdrawal each month.
Tracking Balance and Expenditures
A reader asked if tools like Mint.com would work for tracking expenditures on these cards. I was sure that the answer would be no, but I gave it a try anyway. Amazingly, it worked! Just add a card of type “American Express Gift Card” and then you can use Mint.com to track your expenses and your balance. Very nice!
Unfortunately, I tried the same thing without luck with two other apps: Neither GoWallet nor Expensify knew how to handle these cards.
Read My Lips: No Taxes
A few people have been charged sales tax when buying prepaid cards and reload cards. You should not have to pay sales tax. If you are charged tax, I’d recommend against completing the purchase. Sales tax will essentially wipe out the 5X gains.
Debit Cards: Not
People keep asking if these cards can be used as debit cards. The answer is simple: No. When using these cards you need to identify them as credit cards. If you want to earn miles with debit purchases, take a look at the SunTrust debit card recently described by the Frugal Travel Guy.
I received a number of questions about whether the reload cards could be purchased at Staples or OfficeMax. Currently, the answer is “no”. Hopefully they’ll appear in more locations soon. It’s also my understanding that we are likely to see more reloadable prepaid cards on the market soon to compete with the Amex cards. Please let me know the second you see one!
If you don’t mind using non-reloadable cards, there are plenty of great alternatives: Buy $500 Visa cards at Office Depot (5X); Buy $200 Visa cards at Staples or OfficeMax (5X); Buy $100 Visa cards at Staples.com after clicking through the Ultimate Rewards Mall (10X). With all of these options, the card fees reduce the true “X” a bit. To see more about these options, including the “true X”, see: “What’s my X?”
Let me know
Whether you’ve been successful or unsuccessful in buying reload cards, please let me know. Also, if you’ve found any creative ways to use these cards, I definitely want to hear that!
- One card to rule them all
- What’s my X?
- Almost too good to be true
- How to sign up for the Ink Bold
- Why Chase cancels accounts (and how to protect yourself)
If you’re new to Frequent Miler, please start here