Multiple paths to 5X everywhere

A couple of weeks ago I presented at Frequent Traveler University in Los Angeles.  One of the topics I covered was how to earn 5 points per dollar (or more) on all spend.  We started with a moment of silence for the end of Vanilla Reload cards at Office Depot (see “Office Depot discontinues Vanilla Reload cards“).  We then went on to discuss a number of opportunities that still exist.  Below is a brief outline…

1. Buy gift cards and use them

Many grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations, and office supply stores sell gift cards.  The trick is to use a credit card that offers 5X or more at one of these locations to buy gift cards that you can then use elsewhere.  See “Best Category Bonuses” to find credit cards that offer the best bonuses.

Example 1: Suppose you are about to make a big purchase at Lowes.  You can always stop by a different store first to buy Lowes gift cards (usually with no fee and no sales tax) and then use those gift cards at Lowes.  The advantage is that, depending on which card you use, you may earn 5 or 6 points per dollar when buying the gift card compared to 1 point per dollar if you made the purchase directly at Lowes.

Example 2: Go to a store in which your credit card earns a high multiple and buy a bank gift card (e.g. Visa, MasterCard, or American Express).  Use that gift card for all purchases in which you would normally have earned only 1 point per dollar.  Watch out for fees, though!  Most bank gift cards have very high fees as a percent of their overall value.  For example, most $100 cards have $5.95 fees.  That means you would be paying 6% in fees in order to earn 5 points per dollar.  It’s not worth it!  Instead, look for $500 cards with $4.95 fees.  Losing just 1% in order to earn 5 points per dollar is often a great deal.

Caution: When you buy merchandise with a gift card, you do not get the benefits such as extended warranty and purchase protection that many credit cards offer automatically.  Use gift cards only to buy things where you are sure those protections don’t matter. 

2. Buy reload cards

Prepaid reload cards are more versatile than gift cards because they can be used, indirectly, to pay bills that can’t usually be paid by credit card.  The way they work is that they come with a PIN number that is used online to load the money from the reload card into something else.  The “something else” could be your Bluebird account, your PayPal account, or one of many prepaid reloadable debit cards.  For more information, please see “The reload game is on.”  Currently, reload cards are no longer available at office supply stores, but can be found elsewhere.  As with gift cards, the trick is to use a card that earns a high multiple at a place that sells reload cards (see “Best Category Bonuses“).

3. Buy reload cards with bank gift cards

This is a combination of options 1 and 2, above.  The idea is to buy bank gift cards at a place that offers you the best points per dollar, then use that gift card to buy reload cards at a different store.  While I and many others have had success with this, it doesn’t always work. Some stores that sell reload cards won’t allow gift cards as a form of payment.  Note also that you now have two fees involved: there is the initial fee for buying the bank gift card (e.g. $4.95 for a $500 card) and then the fee for buying a reload card (e.g. $3.95 or $4.95 for a $500 card).  Make sure these fees are worth it before doing this!

4. Load a Target Amex card with bank gift cards

Full details of this technique can be found here: The 5X everywhere backup plan

5. Load an American Express Campus Edition card

The American Express Campus Edition prepaid card can be loaded at the register at Barnes & Noble campus bookstores.  Find a card that offers a high multiple at bookstores, and you can earn points by reloading this card.  Yes, it works!  More details can be found here: American Express Campus Edition


5X Everywhere techniques often involve some risk and hassle.  Please see my post “5X dangers and headaches.”


As shown above, there are quite a few ways to continue to earn “5X everywhere”.  In my talk, I described ways to take things ever further, but I’ll leave those details for another day and venue.  Is it worth the hassle?  That really depends on your tolerance for this stuff.  Yes, its possible to earn far more points with these techniques than without them, but at a cost of time and sometimes great frustration.  I’ll follow up soon with a post about putting 5X into perspective.

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  1. I’ve been doing #3 with Vanilla pre-paid card + Reload it. The cost ends up being $4.95 for $500 + $3.95 for $950, but at 5x points, that’s 0.28 cents a point…not bad, since I can then pay taxes, bills and buy MOs using the card loaded with reloadit packs.

  2. Visa Gift Cards at Office Depot 5X are the way to go, except when you need purchase protections. Using the Visa Gift Cards through shopping portals can yield high return (see my recent post). With everything there is risk. I recommend not throwing all your eggs in one basket and diversifying your techniques, which FM presents. Thanks FM! :)

  3. You know there are other things to write about, just saying…

    For instance, how to unlock the car and put your key into the ignition. That’s always a tough one. I will need full circles and arrows on this one, TPG was lacking those in his post on THIS EXACT SAME TOPIC this morning.

  4. It’s funny that many of the blog comments nowadays are bloggers commenting on fellow bloggers’ blogs. Nothing wrong with it, it’s just funny. Maybe we will soon have blogs about bloggers’ blog comments.

  5. bluto: Hmm, a blog about blogger’ blog comments. I may start another one after the one I recently did reviewing other blogs:-) I can build an empire this way and get everyone to use my affiliate credit card links, lol.

  6. @Frequent Churner: A local store sells reloadit cards, but they say cash only on them. Never tried buy them before because they say cash only. Do your stores / reloadit cards say the same? If so, how are you getting around it by buying with cc or gift card?

  7. Blah Blah Blah

    I agree with a couple of posts above. Time to get your head out of your a**. I like it how actually YOU have been destroying the deals and have been tremendously successful in diverting the anger towards MMS.

    Waiting for your next blog “Chase Ink Bold discontinues 5X on gift cards”

  8. B-Rad: mine say Cash Only as well, except i stumbled on a few grocery stores where the manager doesn’t seem to care. I go there when it’s busy, buy 2, ring them up and don’t make a big deal about it. The manager just overrides it to allow the large purchase and I’m on my way. I’ve had a few stores where it works half the time, depending on the manager on duty.

  9. @frequent churner – care to let us know what grocery stores you are able to do this with?

    And do you go to the register or to the service desk?

  10. Bought gift cards at OD in November/December however points aren’t showing up as 5x in account summary. Does OD give 5x points on American Express gift card?
    The reward summary chart is not detailed enough.

  11. Ron: no, haha, I won’t be revealing that. There’s enough spoonfeeding going on already and I don’t want this deal to die as well. It’ll take experimenting in your city to figure this out anyway.

  12. Good job churner, wish you had not posted it to begin with. Just watch as it will now catch on in a couple of months and the same place will ask for other forms of payments. I still can’t believe people are still posting specific details like you did. I mean there are 100s of prepaid/reload posts out there yet there is still spoonfeeding on a daily basis going on.

    It probably also means that the main source of points is something else and these bloggers don’t care that it will go down. Otherwise I can’t imagine someone killing their own golden goose. So time to go find that.

    The CVS that I had been going to had 30 VRs and I was probably the only one doing it at a rate of 2 per week maybe. Then suddenly last week I see 4-5 left in the rack and now the same cashiers who know me personally have been asking for cash. Why? Because some pricks came and bought 8 each of multiple cards/transactions enough to raise concern with the manager later on during audit.

    Also anyone who is asking for spoonfeeding type of post (like Ron) is a pr*ck (offence is intended). This is the type of person who if he was in your town would go to the same store to hit-and-run and ruin the place for you. Just think about their attitude by the question here. I mean they couldn’t even go to a few stores to check that out for themselves? Really?

  13. I’m intentionally not revealing the locations, store names, etc.. The rest is publicly available info. Anyone who does some research into prepaid cards will know about the various reload types. Btw, now TPG has suddenly started copying MMS and spoonfeeding prepaid card info on his blog. I guess the FM will from now on be the only one getting my click business :)

  14. Yah FM is/was the coolest in my book but he is regurgitating 5X on a daily basis here … He will be known as “The 5X Killer” when it is all said and done. We will make sure to promote that moniker everywhere for all his efforts. Unfortunately the tables were turned against MMS last time around, I don’t think it was his blog…..

  15. As frequent churner said no spoon feeding, you experiment for yourself at your local store. Don’t be afraid to try self checkout either, that experiment alone pretty much paid for the 65″ plasma in my living room. Didn’t even require a cashier approval.

  16. Listen, you guys arguing that public blogs, that are intended on helping the public maximize points and game the travel industry system,to be the gatekeepers of information when there underline objectives are to help the masses, gain readership, bring egalitarianism to a world of elites are the foolish ones. People read these blogs to get this information and to learn. If you are not happy with the information disseminated from a public blog with this mandate I would suggest you start a private forum or club of your own without criticizing the work that they do and that everyone enjoys! Peace.

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