How to buy points for free

This is a trick for advanced gift card churners.  The trick can be used to help meet minimum spend requirements, earn points, and even earn some money.  I’ve hinted about this in previous posts, but I’ll bring it all together today. 

The Trick

At a high level, the trick is to use an Amex business credit card to buy OfficeMax gift cards for 10% off, then upgrade those cards to more valuable cards before selling them.  Through this process it’s possible to increase credit card spend (and therefore earn points), and even make some money.



What you need

  • Amex Business card: In order to pull off this trick, you need an American Express business card with OPEN Savings.  Most American Express credit cards have both personal and business variants.  If you get the business version, you will automatically be enrolled in their OPEN Savings program in which you get cash back automatically (applied to your statement) when shopping at certain merchants.  You don’t have to have an official business to get a business card: if you ever sell items via yard sales or online, you have a business; if you do consulting, you have a business; if you rent out property, you have a business; etc.  If you’re in that situation, when filling out a credit card application put the business type as “sole proprietor” and use your own Social Security number as the Tax ID.  See “Best credit card offers” to find some Amex business card options with good signup bonuses.  Note that the SPG card will soon increase the signup bonus to 30K so you may want to wait a week or two for that one.
  • Nice OfficeMax: People have reported mixed success in using gift cards at OfficeMax to buy other gift cards.  You need to make sure your local OfficeMax is nice about this before you risk too much!

Step By Step

Step 1: Buy OfficeMax gift cards

Browse to and buy more than $250 worth of OfficeMax gift cards.  The largest cards they sell are for $100 each so I’d recommend buying at least 3 $100 cards at a time.  Make sure to pay with your Amex business card.  In order to receive 10% back, you must make the purchase online and the purchase must total more than $250.

Caution: OPEN Savings are only from purchases made at  You will not get cash back for similar purchases at Office Depot or Staples.

Step 2: Upgrade to Visa gift cards

Once you receive your OfficeMax gift cards, rub off the gummy stuff on the back to expose the PIN numbers and then take the cards in-person to an OfficeMax store.  There, you should be able to find $200 Visa gift cards.  Buy them with your OfficeMax gift cards.  The Visa cards come with a $6.95 fee, but you’re still way ahead since you got 10% back from the purchase of the OfficeMax gift cards.

Step 3: Use Visa gift cards to buy resell-able gift cards

Even though Visa gift cards are like cash, they’re not easy to turn into cash.  Instead, use the gift cards to buy easily sold gift cards.  Currently, Plastic Jungle will buy all of these gift cards for 92% of their value: Exxon, Phillips 66, Safeway, Sams Club, Target, and Walmart.  You can find current sell prices at

I find it easier to buy gift cards in-person than online when using Visa gift cards to pay.  When using them online, you first need to register your name and address with the Visa gift card company.  This can be a bit of a hassle if you’re doing this often.  Here’s a better bet:

  • Find a local grocery store that offers fuel points for buying gift cards
  • See if any high value gift cards are sold at that grocery store (for example, obviously Safeway would sell Safeway gift cards).
  • Use your Visa gift cards to pay.

If you don’t have a grocery store that meets the above criteria, then simply visit Target, Walmart, etc. and buy the gift cards there.

Step 4: Sell the gift cards

Now that you have gift cards from Target, Walmart, or wherever, log into TopCashBack and click through to PlasticJungle to sell your gift cards.  You should get 92% back from PlasticJungle and another 4% of 92% = 3.68% from TopCashBack.

Add it up

Let’s suppose we start with $1450 worth of OfficeMax gift cards.  Here’s how the math works out:

  • Spend $1450
  • Receive $145 back from OPEN Savings
  • Use $1450 in gift cards to buy 7 $200 gift cards.  7 * $206.95 = $1448.65.  Use the extra $1.35 to buy a pack of gum or something.
  • use the 7 $200 gift cards to buy 14 $100 Target gift cards (for example).  This should be an even trade since no tax or service fees are charged when buying merchant gift cards at most stores.
  • Go through TopCashBack to PlasticJungle and sell the Target gift cards to Plastic Jungle (you may have to do so in multiple separate smaller batches).  You will receive $1288 from PlasticJungle and $51.52 from TopCashBack.
  • Totals: -$1450 (spent at OfficeMax) + $145 (OPEN Savings) + $1,288 (PlasticJungle) + $51.52 (TopCashBack) = $34.52 profit

Overall, you will have increased credit card spend (for points and/or to meet minimum spend requirements), earned a small profit, received a free pack of gum, and potentially saved a lot of money on gas (which you’ll need for driving back and forth to OfficeMax).

Does it really work?

So far I’ve done the entire cycle one complete time and yes every step worked.  There are some real risks though:

  • Your local OfficeMax may not allow you to buy gift cards with gift cards
  • PlasticJungle may reduce the price they’re willing to pay for whatever gift cards you buy
  • Your gift cards could get lost in the mail or otherwise misplaced on the way to PlasticJungle
  • Your TopCashBack transaction might not track appropriately

Who’s In?

Obviously this trick takes a serious time commitment and comes with some real risks.  Is it worth it to you?

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    • Tahsir: If you use gift cards too often when using amazon payments, paypal, or other similar money transferring options, you are likely to get flagged for possible money laundering. You don’t want that headache.

  1. That’s a cool procedure! You said you’ve completed all the steps. How long did it take for for the topcashback transaction to become payable?

    • Andre: The cash back comes from Amex, not from TopCashBack. It takes about a week to get the statement credit from Amex.
      CORRECTION: Oops, my coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. Yes, part of the cash back is from TopCashBack when selling the gift cards to PlasticJungle. That usually shows up as pending in a day or two. It can take quite a long time for it to become payable.

  2. You forgot to include:

    YOU WILL BE SHUT DOWN BY AMEX, once you start charging tens of thousands of dollar on you OPEN card!

  3. @andras – are you saying there aren’t people who put tens of thousands on business cards? i am sure there are folks who put six or seven figures a month of business credit cards.

  4. Good list, however the problem with using VIsa gift cards at Kroger is if you do $100+, they have to verify your ID and payment form. The Visa cards say GIFT right on them, and then they don’t let you buy gift cards with it. Hvae to do $75 worth of gift cards usually to stay under this, which makes it a bit of a hassle, but still worth it.

    • Curtis: Thanks for that tip! In that case, people may find it easier to simply buy Target gift cards at Target like I did. You would lose out on the fuel points, but simplify the process a bit.

  5. Dallas TX, local officemax not allow giftcard to buy giftcard, so no churn here. ANybody know where can buy GC by GC in north TX?

  6. For us w/ regular jobs schemes like this one is just way too time consuming. You only need one glitch in the whole process to get hurt! And the process contains too many steps for such glitch to happen! Definitely not for me!

    Regarding topcashback, I am starting to doubt that these folks ever will let transactions go from confirmed to payable!! I just don’t find them reliable at all.

    My 2 cents

  7. I love reading these and Have tried one or two myself. But TopCashBack is not reliable at all. I have about 10 tickets in for transactions(giftcard sales) not being tracked. Its funny my purchases track (not that they are payable yet) but the giftcard sales don’t work at all. I am beginning to think they are just a scam. No company can have that many issues and it not be by design.

    • Quigs: I agree that TopCashBack has proven to be unreliable. So far, for me, cash back from PlasticJungle transactions (buy and sell) has been rock solid, but other transactions (especially hotels) has been a disaster. I don’t think they’re a scam at all I just think they have a lot of work to do to improve their processes, support, etc.

  8. Do you really need to have an AMEX OPEN card? Can’t you buy OfficeMax GCs cheaper at PJ? Looks like 92% x (1 – 4% TCB) = 88.32%

  9. I applied for and was approved for the SPG card around 2 weeks back. I read that they may increase the signup bonus? Does american express give you those extra points within a certain number of days of account opening like Chase? This is if american express changes the signup bonus

  10. AX has very detailed customer profiling & market segmentation algorithms. They also have very detailed customer profitability measures. If you fall outside certain customized and individualized boundaries for your specific business spending profile, they will first FR you, and if you are in the 20% or so that stays open after an FR, they may still close your account later, or dramatically reduce your hard or soft authorization limits.

    That said, I still do a version of this, just not as much as I’d like. As you may recall, I’ve been known to go big, on sub 1 cent per mile deals. My rule of thumb on this one, though, is to stay profitable to AX overall, across all my business and consumer cards with them. I highly value several of my cards with them, and the ongoing signup bonuses, so I sadly tone down my urges on this deal. If your card says “BUSINESS” on it, as opposed to “CORPORATE”, it is basically lumped in with your consumer spending profile for these profitability purposes.

    I dated a girl who worked in that department, so I gleaned a few knowledge gems. I felt like a spy. 😉

  11. Have done this mult times- 2 problems: as stated by many, TopCashback is not reliable. I have many pending transactions with them-takes soooo long and might not ever come through. Disappointed with them. Second: most OffMax stores will NOT allow buying of GCs with a GC. And it is hard programmed into the register. Which leads me to say that it’s just a matter of (short) time before all OffMax stores are like this. If you have a store that works, great. But be warned and do not get stuck with a stack: they can and will disallow it from one day to the next (as they did with their rewards program last July with not even one week notice). You could order a stack and it could even happen while the GCs are in the mail on their way to you.

  12. This is definitely a lot of work and comes with some real risks. On the upside, I don’t think you’ve captured all the rewards.
    1. Go to through a portal like Upromise or Discover Card for 5% (yes, you can use Amex and still get Discover cash back). Alternatively, American Airlines gives 3 miles/$ or 4,350 miles. Result: 5% of $1,450 = $72.50
    2. Charging $1,450 will give 1,450 Membership Rewards points. Consevatively, they are worth $14.50.
    Total profit = $34.52 + $72.50 + $14.50 = $121.52

    • Paul Ahn: Some readers and I have tried a number of portals, but none have returned points or cash back yet for OfficeMax gift card purchases. Personally I’ve tried UR Mall, uPromise, and MrRebates. I’m still hoping we’ll find one that works, though!

      Also, regarding the MR points: you will get whatever type of points your credit card offers (MR, SPG, Delta, etc.). Since the OPEN Savings is directly applied to your statement, I think you get 10% fewer points (but I could be wrong). For example, if you spend $1450 and get $145 back, I think you’ll only get points for $1305.

  13. @FrequentMiler,

    Thanks for the notes on Open. Turns out I do have it! Looks like they actually opened an account for me, but it has $0.00 in it.

  14. @Paul- Are you sure that you will earn 1,450 membership rewards points on top of the 10% bonus? I thought it was 10% total on the points but I could certainly be wrong about that.

  15. @ Paul- I just read my last statement and it shows a bonus for ‘Open Savings’ spend and then my points for all other spend so I don’t think that you get 11x points on purchases (10x bonus plus 1x for regular purchases)

  16. @Stevedealin, yes, I’m sure you get the points in addition to the 10% back. But as FM pointed out, you won’t get the full 1,450, but 1,305.
    @Stevedealin, the Open Saving gives 10% in statement credit (i.e. cash), not points.
    @FM, I’ll try the Discover Card portal and let you know how that goes. You are correct, you’ll only get 1,305 MR points due to the 10% back.

  17. Something I’ve been wondering about PlasticJungle… They always seem to say “Up to 92%” or something similar, but you can’t get a hard quote without putting in a valid GC number … at which point you’re already invested.

    Are those “up to” numbers pretty firm?

    • Ed: Plastic Jungle adjusts the prices they will pay according to market conditions so the payback amount can change at any time. This happened on Tuesday, for example, when Target sold gift cards for 10% off. Plastic Jungle dropped their payback amount at least twice during that day

  18. I’m trying this for the first time. If it’s possible to get visa gc’s with officemax gc’s couldn’t one just use amazon payments, serve or venmo to then pull the money off those gc’s & not waste time taking a hit & selling them? Or just pull cash off those visa’s from an atm to keep your bandwidth on those awesome sites for your cc churns? [scratching head]

    • Knarf: You can’t use them at an ATM since you don’t get a PIN, but yes you could cash out the visa gcs with amazon payments, etc. The downside is that if you do that too often, your account may be flagged for suspected money laundering (just because gcs are often used for money laundering). Also, of course, those services have limits to how much you can do each month.

  19. @FrequentMiler — they got bad money launderers confused with us…recreational money launderers. Reminds me of that South Park episode with the two NAMBLAs:

    ..on a side note, anyone who wants to try this out: Vanilla reload network will send you a refund check if you let them know you have no way to use the reload packs and email proof of purchase. Don’t know the churning potential of this.

  20. I hate plastic jungle. They have the worst customer experience and they were selling kroger e-codes when kroger stores even do not honor them. I am still waiting for my money. My firend sent them Target gift cards for 100$ and still waiting for his money. It has been 2 months. This company is not trustworthy.

  21. Just for everyone’s amusement, another entry in the book of “Ed’s foul luck” …
    This evening, I strolled into my local OfficeMax, tossed two $200 VGCs up on the counter and handed the clerk four $100 OfficeMax GCs and my Ink Plus. He says, “Hmm, I don’t think you can buy gift cards with gift cards.” I reply, “Sure you can. I did it right here less than two weeks ago.” (true) Nevertheless, he walkie-talkies the manager who, distant but within sight, replies that you cannot do so. I motion him over and he rolls his eyes at me as he makes his way over.
    So I explain, … been here before … done this before … etc. He says the register won’t allow it. I say, “I’m not trying to argue with you, but I swear it worked two weeks ago. Can you please try?” He nods at the cashier and says, “Go ahead.” Then to me, gruffly, “It ain’t gonna work.” He wanders off.
    The cashier proceeds to ring up the sale and it works perfectly (of course). He walkie-talkies the manager again and says, “It worked.” Then a long pause … then the manager comes up to the register and starts explaining to the cashier how to void the sale.
    So me to him, “Wait, we just proved that it’s possible.”
    Him to me, “No it isn’t. It’s against policy.”
    Me to him, “Then why did it go through?”
    Him to me, “I don’t care. It’s not possible because I *SAY* it’s not possible.”
    Me, “Then what was the point of letting him [the cashier] try?”
    Me, “Okay, I’m not trying to be unreasonable, but if you were mistaken about the register allowing it, isn’t it possible that you’re mistaken about the policy? May I see the policy?”
    Him, rolling eyes, “It’s right there.” [Points to sign.]
    We both read through the sign, … it says nothing of the sort.
    Me, “Okay, so the register allows it, I’ve done it before, and the policy doesn’t say anything that prohibits it.”
    Him, “I don’t care.” etc.
    It went back and forth with the normal, “Is there someone we can call to settle this?” etc., but what do you do with a manager on a power trip? Oy.
    If it’s policy, that’s cool, but good gravy man … be cool about it. :-(

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