10% off everything and 7% off everything else

As I reported yesterday, it is now possible to get 10% cash back when buying OfficeMax gift cards.  The trick is to use an American Express business credit card with OPEN Savings.  The OPEN Savings program automatically gives 10% back for online OfficeMax purchases of more than $250.

I also reported yesterday that it is possible to upgrade OfficeMax gift cards in-store by using them to buy other gift cards.  For example, I had no problem at all using a $25 OfficeMax gift card to buy a $25 Amazon gift card.  Whether this works at your local OfficeMax may depend upon store policies and individual teller assumptions. 

So, to get 10% off almost anything, the trick is to buy more than $250 worth of OfficeMax gift cards online, pay with your business Amex, and then use the OfficeMax gift cards to get what you really want.

What can I get for 10% off?

At my local OfficeMax, here are a few of the gift cards I found:

  • Travel: Southwest Airlines
  • Booksellers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
  • Hardware: Home Depot, Lowes
  • Department stores: Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s, JC Penney, …
  • Food: Starbucks, PF Changs, Red Lobster, …
  • Movies: AMC, Regal
  • Miscellaneous: iTunes, ToysRUs, PetSmart, Various phone reload cards (unlike merchant gift cards, these will likely incur sales tax), …

To see the full selection, take a look at the photos below.

7% off everything else

My next OfficeMax experiment will be to try to buy a $200 Visa gift card with OfficeMax gift cards.  The $200 Visa gift cards sell at OfficeMax for $206.96.  If the gift card trick works, my final cost will be almost 7% less:

  • Purchase price: $206.95
  • 10% of $206.95 = $20.70
  • Final cost: $206.95 – $20.70 = $186.25
  • Discount: 6.875%

The discount when buying Visa gift cards this way is just shy of 7%.  That’s a fantastic savings for a card that can be used almost anywhere!  Let’s hope this experiment works!

2012-07-09 12.57.292012-07-09 12.57.14

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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. So there’s no fee when buying gift cards like Home Depot or Southwest? Just the Visa gift cards have a fee?

  2. Doesn’t office depot have the same cards? If you can get 10x UR points through the UR mall, and 5x more through Ink Bold, that’s 15x UR points which even by conservative estimates is 20% off.

    • rick: Yes, but I don’t think you will get UR points when buying gift cards at office depot. I haven’t tried myself, though. I’d love to hear from anyone who has. We also don’t know if they will let you buy gift cards with gift cards.

  3. There might be a problem with your gift card experiment. To get the 10% discount with OPEN, you will need to buy a gift card worth more than $250, but I suppose you could buy 2 $200 gift cards.

  4. Ignore my last comment. I was confused. It sounds like you can buy $100 office max giftcards online, receive 10% off, and then redeem those giftcards in store for various retail gift cards. I didn’t see online anywhere where it says office max gift cards can’t be used to buy retail giftcards in store.

  5. For those people without OPEN savings, cardpool is currently selling office max gift cards at 10% off in various denominations.

    • Grant: Thanks for the cardpool tip! Regarding buying gcs from OfficeMax: you have to spend more than $250 in order to get 10% back (otherwise you get 5%). The largest denomination gcs at officemax are $100 so I’d recommend getting 3 $100 cards.

  6. That’s right, the Office Depot UR mall page says no gift cards. You could buy something like a laptop and go to the store to exchange it for a mix of gift cards, but that seems like too much trouble.

  7. Can you explain what the OPEN program does? How do I get the money out of that program? It seems that it would be quicker to use cardpool and buy the giftcards at a discount and then redeem in store.

    • Grant: OPEN is an Amex program for their business cards. When you buy something that meets the criteria, they automatically apply the rebate to your account. There’s no work involved at all. I agree that Cardpool is an excellent way to go as well as long as there are reasonably large denomination cards available.

  8. Just a note of caution. I’d recommend confirming that your local OD will let you use an OD giftcard to buy another gift card before jumping into this whole hog. From their gift card T&Cs: “The Office Depot Gift Card is valid on purchases at Office Depot U.S. stores, online or by phone (excluding all gift and prepaid cards).”

  9. So, Miler, let’s look at this for meeting a minimum spend on a business card or to churn for points. If if value the point a 1 cent, and 4% cash back from TCB for PJ, I need to find gift cards at Office Max that resale on PJ for 85% or Cardpool for 89%

    With that said, do they have (admitting to using giftcardgranny which is not always right):
    Abercrombie & Fitch
    ebay (haven’t seen these in ages)
    BP, Shell (or many other higher end cards; I have seen shell in the past)

    Ironically, Office Max is at 84%, so if you had to “top off” or meet a spend, you could easily justify this provided it does not drop.

  10. @THEsocalledfan: Using your assumption that 1 point is worth 1 cent, you have to find gift cards that can be sold to Plastic Jungle at 89% ÷ 1.04 ≈ 85.58%, but not 89% – 4% = 85%. If GiftCardGranny is correct on their rates, they include 76 Gas, Apple, ARCO, Bestbuy, BP Amoco, Chevron, CITGO, Conoco, Costco, eBay, Exxon, Kroger, Mobil Gas, Nordstrom, Phillips 66, Safeway, Sam’s Club, Shell, Speedway, Target, Trader Joes, Walmart, Whole Foods.

    As seen from the photos in this blog post, only Nordstrom gift cards are available, which can be sold at 87% to Plastic Jungle. Consider the 4% cashback and value 1 point at 1 cent, you can make 87 × 1.04 + 1 – 90 = 1.48 cents per dollar spent.

    Note that no other cost is considered in the calculation. For instance, you may want to pay postage if you choose to mail the physical gift cards to Plastic Jungle with delivery confirmation or insurance. If you do so, the earnings may be greatly reduced.

    • I think a better approach to meet minimum spend on Amex business cards is this:
      1. Buy $200 Visa cards for 6.85% off (as described in my post)
      2. Find the closest store to OfficeMax among these: Walmart, Target, Safeway, multiple gas stations. The key is to find ones that resell on PJ for 92%. After buying from OfficeMax, run over to this store and use $200 Visa to buy $200 worth of Walmart, Target, etc gift cards. In Ann Arbor, there is a Target in the same strip mall as one of the OfficeMax stores.
      3. Sell to PJ for 92% * 1.04 = 95.68%

      With this whole approach, you make a slight profit. You could do even better by using the Visa gift cards to buy the Walmart, Target, etc. gift cards from PJ or Cardpool, but then you would be buying in odd amounts and it would be hard to use up the last of the Visa gift cards. With the approach above, you would clear out each Visa gift card in one swoop without even having to register your address.

  11. I agree with the last approach mentioned by Miler, but has anyone confirmed that you can buy Visa GCs with the OfficeMax GCs?

    Also, I believe the PJ rate for OfficeMax GCs is only 80% cash. It is 84% if you redeem for Amazon GCs.

  12. In response to folks who asked about using OD (not Ofc Max) GCs to buy other GCs in-store at OD, my experience was that the answer is a firm “NO.” I purchased $500 of OD GCs online based on an online chat with an OD rep who said (in writing) the answer was “yes.” After elevating the matter to corporate and waiting a few days, OD gave me a refund. Caveat emptor.

  13. Same for me at off max. Cannot use off max GCs to buy any other GCs, not even other store GCs at all. Firm no- register is even programmed to block it. Just like CVS. so just realize if u squeak thru now on this, probably not for long & can be blocked quickly. Don’t get stuck with a stack. Off max sucks.

  14. I purchased a digital eCODE from plastic jungle for office max and get the following message at checkout: “We’re sorry. You cannot use a gift card to purchase a gift card. To continue, please enter a valid credit card for payment.” I imagine the same thing would happen if you tried to use the card in store as well 🙁

  15. Nordstrom is out. PJ is about 70%. (does anyone even update gift card granny?) Cardpool is at 87%, and can’t see how that math pays for the hassle.

    Only hope is buying Visa gift cards which I am skeptical will work. My Office depot did not have any of the high value cards like any gas cards, etc. Nordstrom was my only hope. I will not try the Visa gift card idea until further report from Miler.

  16. What about going through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to buy thevOfficeMax gift cards using your OPEN Amex. On a $500 gift card purchase (the max they allow online + free shipping), that would net you $1500 UR points, 500 Amex MR points, and the total cost would be $450, with the 10% OPEN credit. Thoughts?

  17. Ok so UltimateRewards may not work but how about other rebate sites? ebates seems to offer 3% but cannot find explicit terms and conditions. others exclude gift cards but wonder if any might slip through. will definitely have to test as would not want to get stuck with crappy officemax gift cards

  18. I went to 2 local OfficeMax stores yesterday. The first had $10 off with purchase of two $50 Visa gift cards ($100 limit per customer per day) and the second had $10 off two $50 Master Card gift cards. Or possibly the system wide sale was for both and those were the brands each store chose to display under the brand. Both times the cashier didn’t know about the sale but was able to find the scan code on the first page of their notebook. Normally it’s a $4.95 fee for these cards so ends up costing $99.90, but since I was using 10% off OfficeMax gift cards purchased online thru Amex Open it worked out great.

  19. FrequentMiler – were you able to buy the Visa Prepaid cards at your local OfficeMax store with the OfficeMax gift cards you purchased online. I have an AMEX Open card and this would be fantastic! Thanks!

  20. Is this still working? Was told by several office max stores that I won’t be allowed to use gift cards to buy a gift card in their store. Called a few in the neighboring state as well?

    • Marty: If you ask, they’ll all say no. And, it’s true that many OfficeMax stores don’t allow it. The trick is to go up to a nice cashier and just do it and hope they’re OK with it. I strongly recommend that anyone wanting to try this does a small test first before spending lots of money.

  21. a side topic: I am in Milpitas and or/ Irvine CA . is there a nearby Kmart that let me buy BP or Shell gas cards with e sears gift cards?

  22. I read today my statement from AMEX Business Platinum and there are 2 changes in OpenSaving program – from January 15, 2013 savings at Hyatt will be 5% and citing “As January 15, 2013, the OPEN Savings OfficeMax discount will no longer apply at retail locations”. But I was under impression that this savings applies only online all the time, not in store. Is it card specific?

  23. Sergey: Very interesting. Yeah, it was my understanding that the retail location savings disappeared months ago. And, the OPEN Savings web site also specifically said “online only” since then.

  24. FrequenMiler: “And, the OPEN Savings web site also specifically said “online only” AND phone orders (according to the officemax.com/opensavings). I’m wondering if I order by phone Visa’s GC for $300, will I get a 10% bonus?

  25. Sergey: Yes, I expect that would work if they would let you buy $300 visa gift cards over the phone. Have you ever seen such a thing? The best I’ve seen at OfficeMax are the $200 Visa cards

  26. FrequentMiler: Sorry, I meant to buy VISA GCs for more than $250 to get 10% off. So, I can buy 2 $200 VISA’s, pay $10 in fee and get $41 back. In my opinion, phone order = buy in store. Anyway, I sent SM to AMEX to clarify if in-store purchases are eligible until Jan. 15, 2013

  27. FM: I got a (positive) response from AMEX:

    Yes, I assure you that you are still saving 10% when you spend more than $250 on a single transaction with OfficeMax (retail store) until January 15, 2013

    As per the Open Saving Discount program, purchases with OfficeMax will be 5% off all purchases of $250.00 or less and 10% off all purchases of more than $250.00. Please note that Effective January 15, 2013, these discounts will apply only to online purchase with OfficemAx and not retail stores.

  28. FM: Do you know if there is a cap for OfficeMax credits from OPEN Savings program? I see that there is a limit for Hyatt and Marriott rebates, but don’t see such limit for OfficeMax.

    I’ve been making purchases in Office Max stores the past few weeks and for purchases over $250 I’ve been getting only 5% back from OPEN Savings. If you secure message them after that posts and tell them that it should be 10% referencing the OPEN Savings website and the note in the statement which says in bold (as already shown by Sergey)
    “As January 15, 2013, the OPEN Savings OfficeMax discount will no longer apply at retail locations.”
    they’ll manually give you a credit for the other 5% after a message or 2 back and forth. So you’ll get the full 10% off $250+ purchases at retail stores but it won’t be automatic. It’s annoying but 10% is pretty darn good.

  30. Chris: I had the same problem – bought items(!) for more than $1K, got only 5% back. I sent SM to AMEX and they confirmed 10% credit and manually credited the rest.

  31. in light of today’s (12/11/12) blog post. I’ve been hearing rumors that some OfficeMax stores have been denying purchases of any GC with a GC citing unpublished store policy.
    Anyone else experiencing that?

  32. It looks like this update alerting cardholders of the OPEN savings changes is specific to certain cards. I went back and looked at the past 4 months of my SPG Amex statements and there was no indication of an Office Max retail change for OPEN Savings. In November, interestingly, I did see the same notice about Hyatt’s terms changing on January 15 — just nothing about Office Max.

    I wish I had looked into this before jumping on 5 $200 cards over the past week…

  33. Been to the 3 closest OM’s in my area, and it seems they no longer will let you buy Visa GC’s using OM GC’s. Cashier doesn’t stop me, but register blocks the transaction. Used to work at these locations until a few weeks ago.

  34. I am fortunate to have a store (or at least an employee at a store) who was willing to try to ring up VISA and amazon GCs and pay with an OM gift card (ordered for 10% + 5% off with an amex simply cash card), which of course works. He was certain that a merchandise credit would not work, but tried it anyway, and sure enough it didn’t.

    So now, I have a good source for 11.5% cash back on VISA GCs and 15% back on Amazon GCs.

    Are Serve and amazon payments still the best (or only) method for effectively draining the VISA GCs for free? I can’t do it with a bluebird account, right?

    I guess if I want to push it, I could always use a 3% service. Can one load to paypal and withdraw, or would I need someone to send the money to? Or would you recommend getting a paypal or square card reader?

  35. Yeah my previous comment was with merchandise credit, not OM GCs. Didn’t realize they would treat them differently. Great news if OM GCs still work for Visa GCs.

  36. Hi Miler, any recent updates on upgrading OM GCs in store?

    My first experiment today: tried to purchase Amazon GCs in store with a OM GC, and was turned down. Politely asked the cashier to give it try, but she refused to and said I could not buy GCs with GCs…

  37. Lee: I’ve never had a problem with that, but I know many people have. One thing I’ve noticed is that OfficeMax employees have been particularly taught that OfficeMax rewards can’t be used to buy gift cards. I think that some of them assume that’s true for OfficeMax gift cards as well.

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