OfficeMax Lab Results

Last week I reported that I was launching several Frequent Miler Laboratory experiments (see “Laboratory Preparations”).  Most of the results are in and can be found on the Laboratory page (sort results by date to find the most recent).  For each significant finding, I’ll write up a new post to explain how to leverage it.  In this post, I’ll describe the OfficeMax experiments and the exciting results…

Experiment

This experiment had 3 parts:

  • Portal: Go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to OfficeMax to buy an OfficeMax gift card.  See if points are earned (despite T&C text saying no).
  • Open Savings: Use American Express business credit card with OPEN Savings to make the purchase.  See if OPEN Savings credits my account with 5% back.
  • Upgrade: Use the OfficeMax gift card in-store to buy to a different merchant’s gift card.

Portal

I logged into my Ink Bold account to shop the Ultimate Rewards Mall and clicked through to OfficeMax.com.  The Terms & Conditions suggested that this experiment would not work:

Not eligible on gift cards, gift certificates or any other similar cash equivalents.

And, in fact, as suggested by the T&C, I did not receive points.  You might think this happened because I didn’t use a Chase card for the purchase, but I rarely do and I almost always get points (see “Ultimate Question”).  Anyway, I’ve recorded this part of the experiment as a FAIL.

Open Savings

American Express business cards come with a feature not found on their personal cards: OPEN Savings.  These are rebates that are automatically credited to your account when you shop at certain merchants and fulfill the terms.  Merchants include Hyatt, Marriott, Hertz, and more.  You can see the full list of merchants and terms here.  Note that you do not really need a business to get a business credit card.  If you ever do any consulting, EBay selling, or anything that earns money for yourself or may do so in the future, you can apply for a business card as a “sole proprietor”.  A great side benefit is that American Express will let you get sign-up bonuses for both business and personal cards so you can often double your sign-up points!

Until recently, OPEN Savings gave 5% off for all OfficeMax purchases of $100 or more.  A great opportunity at the time was to go to OfficeMax stores to buy more valuable gift cards (Amazon, Visa, etc.) and automatically get 5% back.  Recently, though, they changed the terms.  I wrote about this in May in the post “Coming to an end: 5 percent off Amazon, EBay, and more…”  The new terms are (bolding is mine):

Get discount based on your total purchase as follows: 5% discount if a purchase is $250 or less and 10% discount if a purchase is more than $250. Valid only for purchases made online at officemax.com, officemaxsolutions.com or telephone orders. Discounts not available for purchases made at retail locations. Visit officemax.com/opensavings for OfficeMax terms and conditions.

This was a big blow to my gift card buying scheme since the scheme depended upon buying gift cards in-store (at retail locations).  However, the possibility of earning 10% back is very interesting.

In this experiment, I started small by buying a single physical $25 OfficeMax gift card.  It took a full week, but I did receive the expected 5% back from Open Savings.  Experiment result: SUCCESS.

Upgrade

Getting 10% back from OfficeMax purchases is nice, but even better is if you can get 10% back and upgrade to a more valuable gift card.  I visited an OfficeMax yesterday and bought a $25 Amazon gift card with my $25 OfficeMax gift card.  It worked like a charm, no questions asked.  Result: SUCCESS

Note that some readers reported that they had to argue with tellers who thought using gift cards was against the rules, but they were ultimately successful anyway.

Next Steps

Based on this experiment, I believe it is now possible to get 10% off all Amazon purchases!  I just ordered $300 worth of OfficeMax gift cards to prove that it will result in 10% back.  I will also follow up with another post detailing different ways to leverage this opportunity.  Finally, I’d love to find a points or cash back portal that credits gift card purchases!  If you order OfficeMax gift cards, please try various portals and let me know the results.  One reader has reported failure from uPromise and a number of airline portals (aa,ua,usair,delta,sw) so there may not be any good options, but it’s worth trying!


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Comments

  1. I guarantee that as soon as you find a portal that accepts gift cards or cash back and you publicize it, it will get shut down. There are just some things that cant be told to a large amount of people.

  2. So if I buy more than $250 gift cards from OfficeMax.com with an Open card and then go to the store, I can redeem them for other gift card?

    • Grant: Yes, that’s the idea. I can’t promise that your OfficeMax will be nice about it, but mine was.

      al613: Nice find for people in the Chicago area. Thanks. Unfortunately it is limited to 2 per household.

  3. I went to my local Officrmax in Pasadena and asked the manager if I am able to buy other gift cards with an OfficeMax gift card, and he said absolutely not. So I am wondering if he is just saying that or it differs from store to store. Any feedback would be appreciated.

  4. Will – my guess is that your mistake was asking a manager. I just walk up to a random register, have them scan my Amazon gift cards, and then present my OfficeMax gift cards as payment. Their computer systems allow it. One would think that if their company policy prohibited using OfficeMax gift cards to pay for 3rd party cards that their computer systems wouldn’t allow it.

  5. @Will, my local Officrmax in Honolulu is the same as you. I was buying gift cards aggressively before the open saving comes to an end at local store and wished I could buying OfficeMax gift card online and upgrade them at stores. I asked all the cashiers, they told me “no”, eventually asked the manager confirmed it. I guess this may similar to “buying visa gift card at Safeway requires cash only” case. Even though most of the cashier or manager says “cash only”, but if you can find a cashier that would take your gift card, their system will accept it. I called the Safeway payment handling department and asked why the system accept CC for Visa gift card but most of the local stores requires cash only. He said as the general company police, CC is allowed for buying Visa gift card, but each local store can have their own decisions, the manager can choose not allowed. It will be nice if anybody can have an idea on how to get the manager to follow the company’s general police and not to make his own.

  6. If I go to the officemax through a rebate website such as ebates or mrrebates and use the amex business credit card, will I get the 5%-10% open saving rebate as well?

  7. @Jon, the cashier will say “no” and you end up piled a lots of OfficeMax gift cards have no quick way to use it. I tried this strategy at Safeway, only success one time(that’s how I confirmed the local store system can accept it). All the other time they just simply canceled the purchase.

  8. I did the same experiment on 6/26/12, and had the exact same results as you. I bought $300 in OfficeMax giftcards online, and got back the full 10% on my OPEN card. I was saddened that my 5x UR points have yet to post though, and it looks like they won’t ever, since many later purchases have shown up already. Inside OfficeMax, I had no problem upgrading to Amazon. The manager at my OfficeMax knows me well, and I am on their “approved list” for very large giftcard transactions. They implemented that list last year in my store, for anyone doing more than $5K in giftcards at a time. I’m also trying another experiment now, and will update you with my results.

  9. Ebates doesn’t show any special conditions (like excluding gift cards) for officemax purchase. Has anybody tried that? It offer 3% cash back as of now.

  10. I tried last evening to buy at officemax using merchandise credit in deerfield, IL and I was turned down. The message on the screen was that blackhawk network is banned or something related to blackhawk.

    My only explanation to your success and my failure is that individual stores ban certain types of payments types and most of the stores in chicagoland (deerfield IL, glenview IL and skokie IL have at least banned these transactions.

    Do this only if you have found a store where GCs are accepted.

  11. I currently only have personal cards with Amex and they are Amex Platinum, SPG, and Hilton. Any suggestions on which business card (and possibly a personal card at the same time) to open?

    Also, I assume that you earn points on the net amount (purchase less open savings credit)… is that correct?

    • Alan: SPG business is a great one. If you get a targeted offer for either the Platinum card or the business Rewards Gold take a serious look at those. As to points: I think you get points on the entire purchase since the OPEN amount comes back more like a rebate than as a subtraction. I’m not 100% sure, though.

  12. OPEN discounts are usually on top of the rewards program. Has anyone successfully stacked OPEN 10% back on top of the SimplyCash’s 5% back on office supply? That would be a killer deal, but I suspect OM.com is not coded as office supply.

    • Robert: I don’t have the SimplyCash card, but I expect that that would work. I would be very surprised if OfficeMax.com is not coded as office supply. Why wouldn’t it be?

  13. I went ahead and purchased $500 in OM gift cards only to realize that the nearest OM to me is over 30 miles away, negating any benefit I could get from the transaction. I’m left with the question…now what?

  14. Charles: Ouch. You may have to make the trip once to upgrade to better cards. I’ve confirmed that you can buy Visa gift cards with OM gift cards. I’ll write that up in the next couple of days.

  15. It looks like the additional 5% won’t work on SimplyCash. Transaction coded as “Merchandise & Supplies – Mail Order” as opposed to other transactions in store that were coded “Business Services – Office Supplies”. +1 for Ink Bold.

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