Turn your Amex into Visa and Save $

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American Express has some of the most generous rewards cards available.  Some can be used to earn valuable, flexible points (e.g. Amex SPG, Premier Rewards Gold, etc.).  Others can be used to earn elite status as well (e.g. Delta Reserve, Hilton Surpass, SPG, etc.).  The only problem with Amex cards is that many merchants “don’t take American Express” (as Visa commercials like to say).  This can be especially frustrating when you’re trying to meet spending thresholds to get bonus points or elite status.

Here is a solution that not only puts the spend on your card, but saves you money as well!

The Business Card

First, make sure you have the business version of the American Express card and that it qualifies for OPEN Savings.  If you don’t already have such a card, consider signing up for one.  If you don’t have a business, that’s OK.  You can use your own name as the sole proprietorship business name, and your own SSN as the business’ tax ID. 

OPEN Savings

American Express business cards come with OPEN Savings which automatically give you money back for using your card with certain merchants.  You can see the list of merchants here.  Make sure to click through and read the terms and conditions since some have specific requirements about how much you must spend and whether or not it can/must be online.  The key to the trick presented here is that OfficeMax is one of the partners.  They offer 5% back on purchases of $100 or more.

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Buy Visa Gift Cards

The trick here is simple.  Use your Amex card with OPEN Savings, in person, at an OfficeMax store.  At my local OfficeMax, they sell $200 Visa gift cards for $206.95.  You will get 5% back from this purchase, so your total cost will be .95 x $206.95 = $196.6.  Accounting for the $6.95 fee, you will have a 1.7% savings and a visa card that can be used in places that do not take American Express!

Spending

I’ll be the first to admit that carrying a bunch of Visa gift cards around can be a bit of a headache.  For example, how will you remember how much money is on each card?  Also, some places, such as gas stations, put a hold on a certain amount of money on your card.  This can cause more headaches: the transaction may be denied because the amount on the card is less than the hold amount; and/or future transactions can be denied because the hold sometimes takes days to clear and therefore makes it look like there is less money left on the card.  Another issue is that most gift cards can only be used within the United States.  That being said, with most merchants using Visa gift cards is a painless process.

Conclusion

As is pointed out above, this trick is not without its headaches.  However, if you need to increase your Amex spending, this could be a great weapon in your arsenal! 

Reminder: Until Feb 14th, you can win a Barnes & Noble Nook Color simply by adding a comment to our ever growing story.  Visit this page to participate!

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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18 Comments on "Turn your Amex into Visa and Save $"

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bluecat
Guest

Great idea. Have you tested it?

BTW, for the PPM idea that involves Staples: how did you get the Staples clerk to accept a Staples gift card when purchasing a Shell card? My local store wouldn’t allow it. (“Cant use gift cards to buy gift cards..”)

FrequentMiler
Guest

bluecat: Thanks! I’ve tested purchasing Amazon gift cards with an OPEN card at OfficeMax and that worked. I don’t see any reason why the Visa card won’t work. PPM that involves Staples: Do you mean the slow but viable PPM? The idea there is to use the Staples gift cards to buy Free After Rebate (FAR) items. That way, you get your money back in the form of a rebate.

bluecat
Guest

FrequentMiler, about the Staples: I guess I can’t remember, or am getting mixed up with other ideas (like the buy-gas-card-with-Sears-GC idea). Anyway, can’t do this at Staples (and it doesnt work at Lowe’s either).

So, for the record, is KMart/Sears the only chain that let’s you convert their gift card into a “better” (e.g., gas card) one?

FrequentMiler
Guest

bluecat: I’m sure there are others. I’ve heard that ToysRUs allows it, for example. Walmart.com allows it too so I would guess that Walmart, in person, does as well.

Justin
Guest

Does officemax carry gas cards?

bluecat
Guest

justin, i know that Staples does. The good thing about buying gas cards versus a visa is that, at staples anyways, you have to pay that 6.95 or whatever it is “penalty” for getting a general purpose card. If you buy a shell card at staples, you dont pay extra.

so what would be really good is buying a gas card at officemax with your amex open card, if they dont penalize you.

anyone live near an officemax–go do a run and see if carry those gas cards and if so do they charge a penalty?

nulle
Guest

does the 6.95 fee applies to some limit in generic visa card purchases? does the fee the same no matter the amount loaded onto generic visa card?

why carry a bunch of small denomination generic visa gift card when you can carry just one? (don’t lost the card…)

EagerTraveler
Guest

great info

Jen
Guest

RE: AmEx OPEN and buying gas cards…My AmEx OPEN is from COSTCO, and I get 4% back on gas. Am I missing something, or is this gift card churn not particulatly worth it for me, as the Office Max 5% is not that much more, considering the hassle?

bluecat
Guest

Jen, if you have a spend requirement to knock out, this is a great way to “time shift” your spending to meet the requirement.

In my case, I have 2 Amex SPG cards that need 10K spend in the next 3 months

bluecat
Guest

Update: I visited 2 OfficeMaxs. Neither had gas cards. One had $200 Visa cards but the other did not (they only carried 200 Amex cards). Weird.

FrequentMiler
Guest

bluecat: Thanks for investigating! Very helpful info. If anyone else finds gas cards, please let us know!

Mia@prepaidcards
Guest

“…many merchants ‘don’t take American Express’ (as Visa commercials like to say).” Definitely agree on that lol

Nice tip BTW 🙂

Apex
Guest

Just activated my Amex gold business card. Need to complete 10k spending . Any suggestions to convert to Visa now that open savings are limited to officemax.com which does not appear to carry gift cards online?

AirD0c
Guest

Um, you can buy gift cards at officemax.com:

http://goo.gl/3k9IR

Inell Fyles
Guest

I am not positive where you’re getting your information, however great topic. I must spend some time learning much more or working out more. Thanks for magnificent information I was in search of this information for my mission.