The end (of 5X everywhere) is nigh

The Mayan calendar ends on December 21 2012.  Many believe that the end of the Mayan calendar signifies the end of the world as we know it.  Is it possible, though, that the real meaning is the end of “5X everywhere”? 

OK, settle down, I made the title of this post purposely provocative in order to get your attention.  I don’t really think that “5X everywhere” is coming to an end, but rumors are spreading and it would be irresponsible of me not to warn you of the possibility…

Background

“5X everywhere” is a technique for earning 5 points per dollar for all spend (see   “One card to rule them all“).  This technique relied on, among other things, being able to buy Vanilla Reload cards at Office Depot.  Some believed that “5X everywhere” was dead when Office Depot stopped carrying Vanilla Reload cards (see “Office Depot discontinues Vanilla Reload cards“).  Many of us, though, continue to earn 5X everywhere the easy way (see “Almost too good to be true“) or the hard way (see “The reload game is on“).  Recent rumors, though, make me wonder if even these techniques are near an end…

The rumor

A couple of readers have recently and independently reported the same story:  when they went to Office Depot to buy gift cards with their Chase business card, the cashier told them that Chase has stopped awarding 5X for gift card purchases.

Is this true?  I know that on my most recent statement I still saw 5X for gift card purchases.  Is it even possible for Chase to distinguish regular purchases from gift card purchases?  I don’t know.  What if you buy gift cards and a pack of gum at once?  Will Chase somehow see the details of the transaction and be able to award 5X for the gum, but not for the rest?  It seems unlikely to me.

Why spread a rumor?

You might wonder why I would bother reporting this with so little information either way.  Normally, I wouldn’t.  But this feels similar to something that happened before where rumors eventually evolved into fact…

Vanilla Stories

I first wrote about Vanilla Reload cards in May 2012 in the post “One card to rule them all.”  A few days later, I received an email from a reader who was told by an Office Depot manager that Office Depot would no longer carry Vanilla Reload cards.  Naturally, I was worried about this, but soon found that it wasn’t true.  At least, it wasn’t true nationwide.  Office Depot kept selling them. 

A week later, I received a very similar email.  The gist was the same: Office Depot would stop selling Vanilla Reload cards.  And then, a week or two later, I received another email just like it.  About once a week I heard the same story.  But Office Depot kept selling the cards.  In fact, in some cases, the same store that reported the end of Vanilla would restock and continue selling them!

In November, things changed.  The rate at which I received these reports spiked up suddenly.  It was time to take the reports seriously.  So I called a number of Office Depot stores and heard the same story.  The end had come for real.

From rumor to fact

So, the Vanilla rumor evolved from fiction to fact in a period of 6 months.  What about this new one?  Will it pan out?  Or, is there just a single misinformed cashier spreading this misinformation?

Reader input

Have you recently bought gift cards at Office Depot with your Chase business card?  Did you hear anything like this from the cashier?  Did you receive the full 5X points on your statement?  Unfortunately, its not easy to check.  See “Chase Ink: Check your X” for details.


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Comments

  1. The key, methinks, is to diversify your spending on the Ink. Occassionally put a 1x or 2x purchase on it (or better yet, a purchase through the UR mall for Xx). Easy for me to do now, since I’m new to Ink and am trying to meet my minimum spend.

  2. This will end sometime–it’s too good to be true. That said, I highly doubt the information from OD is correct though. Someone who’s working as a cashier at OD has no clue what Chase is going to do. It’s Chase’s problem with respect to awarding 5x, not ODs.

  3. I have no legit business. Anybody in the same situation had trouble getting the Ink card?

    I do have from CHASE 2 FREEDOM cards, Hyatt, Fairmont, SOuthwest, Sapphire Preferred, and United Explorer

  4. My statement was generated today and I got 5X. As for rumors, here’s what will happen eventually: OD stops selling 500 GCs with CC in the interim. Then they update their systems in next 8-10 months at least if they can start coding GC txns in a different way to Chase. BTW, I feel it is both Chase and OD losing on this. OD would be paying commission to chase so that chase can award these points. So in short term, some ODs and some cashiers may choose not to sell 500 GCs or sell it only with cash. Other than that, don’t expect anything to change. Keep churning GCs and reloading (in moderation please)!

  5. OD is not losing money on the sale of a visa/amex gift card with credit. The margin is jugh enough to cover the credit card processing fee. They are however losing money on the sale of blue Amex prepaid temporary cards. The margin on these cards are ridiculously thin because they offer an alternate revenue stream. They also were losing money on the reload cards sold with credit as these have the same razor thin margin. (I’ve seen the P&L first hand)

  6. Seems really unlikely (as others have said) that cashiers would know the details of a complex rewards program like Chase Ultimate Rewards (Ink flavor). So I tend to think this rumor is a miscommunication, or an organized attempt at obfuscation on the part of someone for some reason.
    .
    On the other hand, it is true that someone, somewhere is losing money paying out $25 of reward points on a $4 transaction. I’m sure the tendency is going to be towards finding and stopping the ability to receive rewards on the purchase of cash-like instruments.

  7. Tried to buy a Vanilla GC last night in Houston, and the cashier said the manager would only let me buy $200 worth with a CC, but up to $500 with cash. That was only one store. I haven’t checked with others.

  8. mine closed 12/5/12 got the 5x point, then went an bought 1K giftcard again…and i always buy something else along with GC probably a $.50 cent crappy eraser, gum are over priced,.. and now i am stacked up with erasers.

  9. @Chunity – thanks. im in ‘town’ and so far so good, but next time im in your neck of the woods, ill keep on driving. =)

    @Adnan You’ve got a good idea… i (honestly) wonder if that has some merit. I’ve been inclined to buy a powerade on the way out as well… But they are double the price i can get at the grocer down the road. seriously, OD make it easier on me… #firstworldproblems

  10. NYC OD has no gift cards over $200 anymore, the cashier says they pulled them because they are too close to times Square and had fraud..

  11. My statement closed 12/15 (came in the mail today, forgot about that).
    Last billing period I had $3,771 of purchases that I expected to get 5x (out of a total of $3,771 in purchases for the month)
    I received 5x on everything. As I expected/hoped. That included 5X500 GC at OD, and 4X100 GC @ Staples. The other $871 was phone + internet bills and some other office supply purchases.

  12. I received 5%, but then got shut down. Apparently someone at Chase decided that purchases of $503.95 raise red flags and suspended my account. When I called about a declined charge the Sapphire representative transferred me over to some other department and they asked me if I bought prepaid cards. Not sure exactly what data they had from the purchase transaction, I figured lying a dangerous option. I simply pleaded ignorance and they told me they would notify me of what action they would take. Normally, she stated, “rewards abuse involves account closure.”

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