Frequent Miler Laboratory experiments continue to roll on with a surprising amount of success. In the post “Laboratory Preparations” I described a number of experiments that were being launched. In each case, the goal was to see if I could take a merchant gift card and use it in-store to buy a different merchant’s gift card. In other words, could I effectively upgrade one gift card to another? One reason for testing this is to be prepared whenever discounts or points are offered for gift card purchases. If we know a card can be easily upgraded, then we can take advantage of gift card deals even if we don’t want to shop at that particular merchant. Since posting the details of the experiments, I’ve reported the results of a few of them, but not all. Here now, are the complete results…
Marshall’s doesn’t seem to sell gift cards from other merchants at all. Instead, I used my $25 gift card to buy a pair of $25 Nike sandals. They’re comfy!
Best Buy: SUCCESS
Best Buy has very few gift cards for sale other than their own, but they do sell Amazon Kindle gift cards which are really general purpose Amazon gift cards. I used my Best Buy gift card to buy an Amazon gift card without any problem. No questions were asked by the cashier.
Bed, Bath & Beyond (BBB): SUCCESS
As I reported in the post “Bed Bath and Far Beyond,” BBB has a large selection of gift cards, but few interesting ones (to me). I used my BBB gift card to buy a Visa gift card without any problem. No questions were asked by the cashier.
Just like Best Buy, ToysRUs has very few gift cards of interest, but they do sell Amazon Kindle gift cards. In my case, the Kindle cards were sold out, but they were offering a deal to get $5 back on $30 worth of iTunes gift cards. I used my ToysRUs e-gift card plus $5 of credit to buy the iTunes gift cards and they gave me a $5 ToysRUs gift card in return. Bonus: I went through uPromise to buy the e-gift card from ToysRUs and I earned 5% cash back (at least, that much is pending).
This was the only store in which I brought a gift card to the register, but was unable to buy it. The cashier tried, but the register wouldn’t allow it. She even called over a manger to see if she could get an override, but no luck.
Technically, the OfficeMax experiment included one failure and several successes. The one failure was (as expected) when I went through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to buy OfficeMax gift cards, I didn’t get any points. This is consistent with the Terms & Conditions. On the other hand, by paying with my American Express business card, I automatically earned cash back (see the post “10% off everything and 7% off everything else” for details). And, in two separate visits I was able to buy both an Amazon gift card and a $200 Visa gift card using my OfficeMax gift cards. In both cases, no questions were asked. Next week I’ll discuss some exciting ways to leverage this discovery. Until then, dust off your Amex business cards and have them ready!
Here’s how to find a complete list of upgrades that we have found to work (or not to work):
- Browse to the Frequent Miler Laboratory. For those who haven’t memorized the URL, you can always look under the “Resources” menu on any Frequent Miler page.
- Find the “Completed Experiments” table and type “upgradegc” (without the quotes) into the table’s Search box. The table will automatically filter to gift card upgrade experiments. To limit to successful experiments search for “upgradegc success”. Similarly, you can view failed experiments by searching for “upgradegc fail”.
If you have gift cards lying around unused, please visit the store in question and see if you can buy a more useful gift card with that one. Let me know the results and I’ll update the Lab results table. Thanks in advance!
|Chase's 5/24 Rule: With most Chase credit cards, Chase will not approve your application if you have opened 5 or more cards with any bank in the past 24 months. Some exceptions that are NOT subject to the 5/24 rule include: British Airways, Hyatt, IHG, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Marriott Business, and Ritz Carlton.
To determine your 5/24 status, see: 3 Easy Ways to Count Your 5/24 Status.
|Chase 5/24 semantics ("Subject to" vs. "Count towards"): Most (but not all) Chase cards are subject to the 5/24 rule. That means the rule is enforced in making approval decisions. In other words, you probably won't get approved if your credit report shows that you opened 5 or more cards in the past 24 months. Meanwhile, most business cards (such as those from Chase, Amex, Barclaycard, BOA, Citi, US Bank, and Wells Fargo) are not reported on your personal credit report. These cards do not count towards 5/24.
Chase IHG Card is not subject to 5/24 so it's easy to get. But after approval it will count towards your 5/24 total.
Chase Ink Business Preferred is subject to 5/24, so you likely won't get approved if over 5/24. If you do get approved, it won't count towards 5/24 since it won't appear as an account on your credit report.
|Amex 5 credit card limit: If you apply for a new Amex credit card, you may get turned down if you already have 5 or more Amex credit cards. Both personal and business cards are counted towards this limit. Charge cards, though, are not counted. You can apparently get as many charge cards as you’d like, and the number of charge cards you have does not affect your ability to get up to 5 credit cards. Authorized user cards are also not counted towards the 5 credit card limit. See also: Which Amex Cards are Charge Cards vs. Credit Cards?|
|Applying for Business Credit Cards
Yes, you have a business: In order to sign up for a business credit card, you must have a business. That said, it's common for people to have businesses without realizing it. If you sell items at a yard sale, or on eBay, for example, then you have a business. Similar examples include: consulting, writing (e.g. blog authorship, planning your first novel, etc.), handyman services, owning rental property, renting on airbnb, driving for Uber or Lyft, etc. In any of these cases, your business is considered a Sole Proprietorship unless you form a corporation of some sort.
When you apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietor, you can use your own name as your business name, use your own address and phone as the business' address and phone, and your social security number as the business' Tax ID / EIN. Alternatively, you can get a proper Tax ID / EIN from the IRS for free, in about a minute, through this website.
Is it OK to use business cards for personal expenses? Legally, it's fine. And, anecdotally, almost everyone I know uses business cards for personal expenses. That said, the terms in most business card applications state that you should use the card only for business use. Also, some consumer credit card protections do not apply to business cards. My advice: don't use the card for personal expenses if you're not comfortable doing so.
|Chase Ultimate Rewards points are super valuable and super flexible. At the most basic level, points can be redeemed for cash or merchandise, but you'll only get one cent per point value that way. A better option is to use points for travel. When points are used to book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, points are worth 1.25 cents each with premium cards (Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred, for example) or 1.5 cents each with the ultra-premium Sapphire Reserve card. Another great option is to transfer points from a premium or ultra-premium card to an airline or hotel program when high value awards are available (see this post for details). If your points are tied to a no-fee "cash back" Ultimate Rewards card, then first move those points to a premium or ultra-premium card before redeeming them in order to get better value.|
|Amex Membership Rewards points can be incredibly valuable if you know how to use them. In general, if you use Membership Rewards points to pay for merchandise or travel, you won't get good value from your points. One exception is with the Business Platinum card where you'll get a 35% point rebate when using points to book certain flights. This gives you approximately 1.5 cents per point value, which is pretty good. If you don't have the Business Platinum card, then your best bet is to transfer points to airline miles in order to book high value awards. More details can be found here: Amex Transfer Partners.|
|Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by the same guy who showed you how to fly round trip to Africa (DC to Senegal) for 50,000 points. You can find John’s website and award booking service here: theflyingmustache.com/awardbooking.
-Greg The Frequent Miler