5X everywhere rises

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UPDATE: Plink has been discontinued.

UPDATE: Plink now limits rewards at Staples to 10 transactions per month.

A long time ago, in a galaxy that was as yet unaware of Vanilla Reload cards, I posted “5X Everywhere!“.  In that post I explained that it was possible to buy $100 Visa gift cards at an office supply store online and recover the entire purchase fee through a cash back portal.  By paying with a credit card that earns 5X at office supply stores, you would get 5 points per dollar for Visa gift cards that could then be used in places that would otherwise earn only 1 point per dollar.

That was a pretty neat trick, but dealing with lots of $100 gift cards is no fun.  So, the trick was overshadowed by an earlier post in which I explained how to buy $500 Visa gift cards at Office Depot (see “Almost too good to be true“).  And, then both of those tricks were soon made irrelevant by my popular post “One card to rule them all” in which I showed how buying Vanilla Reload cards at Office Depot was pretty cool.

One by one, the opportunities to earn 5X everywhere have come and gone.  Office Depot stopped selling Vanilla Reload cards, then later carried them again but for cash only.  Same story with $500 Visa cards.  And, Staples increased the price on their $100 Visa cards enough to make that deal much less appealing.  Other opportunities for 5X everywhere have come and gone periodically, and lately we’ve been in such a drought that some have sought refuge with obscure Wells Fargo offers.

Now, we’re back to where we started with $100 gift cards.  As I reported recently, Plink has added Staples as a reward partner (see “Plinking Staples“).  With the addition of Plink rewards, buying $100 Visa gift cards online is once again a true path to 5X Everywhere:

  1. Register credit card with Plink.  Add Staples to your Plink Wallet.
  2. Go to Staples.com via uPromise.
  3. Buy a single $100 Visa gift card for $106.95.

If all goes well, you’ll earn $5.35 cash back from uPromise and $3 worth of gift cards from Plink.  Let’s value the gift cards at 95% face value so that we get a rebate of: $5.35 + $2.85 = $8.20.  That’s pretty cool since the combined fees for the Visa gift card came to only $6.95.  So, you earn $1.25 profit plus 5 points per dollar.  Actually, the 5X points earned are based on the total purchase price of $106.95, so you can expect to earn 535 points.  So, you are really earning 5.35 points per dollar based on the $100 value of the Visa gift card.

Lab Experiment

I tested the above process with the purchase of one gift card. I was worried for a while because it took uPromise over 2 weeks to report my cash back.  Finally, two days ago, my cash back posted as expected!  I’ve also received similar positive reports from people who have shopped Staples via mile-earning portals.

Reality

Sure, you could use those $100 Visa gift cards for all of your day to day spend and effectively earn over 5 points per dollar everywhere.  But, most people will find it painful dealing with lots of gift cards in this way.  You could, instead, make use of the gift card PINs to cash them out, or use them to load your American Express for Target cardUPDATE 1/12/2016: The American Express for Target card has been discontinued.

Even with those approaches (or maybe, especially with those approaches) dealing with $100 Visa cards will be painful.

So, yes, 5X everywhere is back, but its not as fun as it used to be.

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