Office Supply Roundup

OfficeMax, Office Depot, Staples….  Not only do some of the names sound the same, but the stores look the same and carry similar products.  Despite these similarities, the points and miles schemes available at each store vary dramatically.  So, to help clarify the differences, here is a roundup of what to look for in each store:

Staples

  • FAR deals: Every now and then Staples offers Free After Rebate (FAR) downloadable software with Easy Rebates.  I don’t care for mail-in rebates due to the hassle involved, but Easy Rebates are different: you make your purchase online, fill out a small rebate form online, and wait for your rebate check.  Why do we care?  FAR deals can be a great way to increase credit card spend, get additional points through an online shopping mall, and get all of your money back.  It’s been a while since we’ve seen good FAR deals, but I’m hoping they’ll make a comeback in August for back to school promotions.  I’ll cover these in depth once they return.
  • Gift cards online:  Staples is one of very few merchants that sell a variety of gift cards online.  For example, through Staples.com you can buy Marriott, Southwest, Starbucks, and many other gift cards with no fee and no shipping charges.  Start at TopCashBackor uPromise for additional cash back, and get 5X points by using your Ink Bold.
  • Coupons:  Staples occasionally issues valuable coupons that work on almost all purchases (even when the T&C states otherwise).  See, for example, “Staples $15 off any $100 gift card.”  You can often buy coupons like these inexpensively online if you’re not lucky enough to get one directly from Staples.

Office Depot

  • $500 bank cards:  When buying Visa, Mastercard, or American Express gift cards you are normally charged a hefty fee on top of the card’s value.  Typically, for example, a $100 gift card will cost about $106.  That’s a very wasteful 6% loss.  Even with the Chase Ink Bold’s 5X office supply bonus, it’s not a good deal.  Office Depot, though, sells Visa and American Express cards that can be loaded up to $500 with a small $4.95 fee.  As long as you load the card at the register with the full $500, your cost is just 1%.  In that case, the office supply 5X benefit of the Ink Bold far outweighs the cost.
  • Vanilla Reload cards:  You won’t find these (yet) at Staples or OfficeMax.  These are money packs that can be loaded up to $500 with a $3.95 fee.  Use these to load up certain permanent reloadable cards (American Express Prepaid, NetSpend, Mio, etc…).  Again, the Chase Ink’s 5X bonus is key to making this a big win.  See “One card to rule them all” for more information.

OfficeMax

  • OPEN Savings:  American Express business credit cards come with a perk called OPEN Savings.  At certain merchants, American Express automatically gives you a statement credit rebate when you use your business Amex.  Until recently, they gave 5% back for all OfficeMax purchases of $100 or more.  At that time, one of my favorite tricks was to go to OfficeMax to buy high value gift cards (Amazon.com, EBay, gas, etc.) using one of my Amex business cards (such as the Delta Platinum card I wrote about yesterday).  That way, I saved 5% plusI increased spend on my card.  Recently, though, Amex changed the terms of the OfficeMax rebate…Now the rebate is available only online through OfficeMax.com (which does not sell gift cards other than their own).  However, if you plan to shop at OfficeMax.com, this is still a great deal.  The new rules state that you earn 5% back on purchases up to $250, and 10% back on purchases over $250.  Combine this with an online portal (such as Ultimate Rewards which is currently 5X for Ink Bold holders, or ShopAtHome which gives 6% cash back) and you can really do well!

All Three

  • In-store gift card purchases: All three of these big box office supply stores have gift card racks in which they sell gift cards to other merchants.  If you have a Chase Ink card, use it to buy gift cards for places you plan to shop anyway and you’ll earn 5X for these purchases.

Other Tricks?

Do you know of other office supply tricks not listed here?  Or, do you know of unexpected merchants that Chase codes as Office Supply stores for 5X with the Ink Bold?  Comment below

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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. Under your section of “ALL THREE” In-store gift card purchases… I don’t see any difference in buying, say a gift card for Target vs. buying one of the bank cards. In fact I’d say that buying the bank cards is better because you can use them anywhere where as the gift cards are obviously limited to where they can be used.

    • patrick: bank gift cards come with usually hefty fees whereas merchant gift cards are sold without fees. So, if you’re going to shop at Target anyway, there is a big advantage to buying the Target gift card instead of the bank gift card. Note, that I just mentioned Target because it was in your example, I don’t think any of the office supply stores actually carry Target gift cards unfortunately. The reason I only list bank gift cards under Office Depot is that OD is the only store in which I’ve seen $500 bank cards available. With such high denominations, the fees are a much smaller cost as a % of total.

  2. @Patrick – The advantage to buying a card for a specific merchant is that you don’t get hit with the fee for the all-purpose gift card.

  3. Miler,

    I thought you said the Ultimate Reward mall deal of going to Staples is dead. I had looked, too, and it seemed to confirm that gift cards are no longer eligible. Did something change again?

    • THEsocalledfan: No, you got it right. That’s why this post recommends going through TopCashBack or uPromise. I did report that the TopCashBack deal appeared to be ending soon, but it looks like it is still going. I’m waiting for confirmation from Natasha.

      Patrick: Yes, the $500 cards are a great deal — almost as good as Vanilla Reload cards

  4. Ahhh… I see. No fee at all. Got you. Though when I buy my bankcards or AMEX reloads I do the $500 ones so the fee is negligible. And I have the flexibility to use it anywhere. But I get your point.
    Thanks

  5. how often would you buy the $500 vanilla reloads or visa gcs OD using IB card? I do it with $2 or 3$ kitchen products like kitchen spray or hand wash liquid to make sure the charges don’t look same?

  6. General Question: Do you know of any stores that allow you to use their store gift cards to buy other stores’ giftcards? Thanks for your time.

  7. @ frequentmiler

    What is the advantage of the Amex reload over the $ 500 vanilla card, other than the ATM privilege? Also, is there a difference in activation fee?

    • JoC: In addition to the $1 difference in load fees, the Amex is just easier to use. The Vanilla reload can be registered to your home zip code, but not to your full name and address. As a result, it is declined by many online vendors. The Amex is fully registered to you and so is accepted almost any place that takes Amex cards. Another advantage of the prepaid amex is that you can load more than $500 onto it which can be important for large purchases.

  8. Can you buy an Office Max GC online through a cashback portal using an Amex Open card then use that GC to purchase other GC’s (I.e. Amazon or Gas cards) in the store?

  9. @joC – there is $1 difference in activation fee. The vanilla reloads cost $3.95 for up to $500/card, whereas the cheapest vanilla giftcard fee is $4.95.

  10. I sent FM an email about this earlier today, but the Staples GC deal through UR is not dead. It worked for me after the terms changed on a test purchase that only included a restaurant gift card. I say we don’t go screaming that from the roof tops, but it has worked after the terms changed. Hopefully it will stay that way. 😉

  11. I am also interested in “safe” frequency of buying vanilla reload cards at OD with IB. Can some of the veterans share what’s been working for them?

  12. “Typically, for example, a $100 gift card will cost about $106. That’s a very wasteful 6% loss.”

    I agree with this sentiment. Which is why I avoid online retailers that have storefronts in Michigan. That 6% sales tax is a very wasteful 6% loss. I’d rather buy items on Amazon. Usually just as inexpensive (sometimes more!), and no sales tax!

    • FliesAlot: Yep, but just in case there’s confusion about this: the 6% fee on some Visa gift cards is not sales tax, it’s just a retail markup. There is no sales tax for gift cards.

  13. HoKo: I don’t know. An experiment is needed here

    MommyPoints: Thanks, that’s great news!

    pointhuntress: This trick is too new for anyone to know what is safe. I wish I could give a better answer!

  14. Here in the BayArea CA. The vanilla reload cards have dried up. OD no longer carries them. Folks can correct me if I am wrong.

  15. I bought an office depot gift card through cardpool.com after going topcashback.com and was wondering if store gift cards could be used to buy other gift cards in-store and vanilla reload packs?

    I bought a $25 card, so I will give it a chance in a few days and let you know what I find out.

    • Grant Thomas: I think I remember someone else trying and striking out, but it’s not unusual for different stores to have different policies. I’ll look forward to hearing your results!

  16. And the AMEX prepaid can be loaded with up to $2,500 where as the Visa gift cards can only have a max of $500.

  17. I bought 2 $500 gift cards last month from Office Depot on my Bold Ink card. I just got my statement and checked my rewards, and there was no 5x bonus. In fact, I just got the standard 1x on my purchase. Has Chase caught on and not giving the bonus anymore?

    • Fred: The points should show on your statement as 4X bonus points (because you get 1X automatically for all purchases). If it’s not there, call Chase to dispute it. Sometimes the bonus points show up on the next statement for some reason.

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