An interesting new gift card has appeared at some OfficeMax / Office Depot stores recently. The Five Back Visa Gift Card is loadable upon purchase up to $200. It has a $6.95 fee, but it also advertises an intriguing benefit: Get up to 5% of your purchase price added back to your card.
At first glance, this card appears to be a winner:
- Use your Chase Ink or Amex SimplyCash card to earn 5X rewards
- Buy the Five Back Visa Gift Card in denominations of $200 at a time to minimize the card’s fee as a % of total. This means a total fee of 3.5%.
- Use the card at participating merchants in order to get 5% back.
At a high level, it looks like it’s possible to save approximately 6.5% on purchases at participating retailers by earning a combined 10% in rewards (5X from credit card, and 5% Back from the gift card) less the 3.5% fee. Of course, you can do even better when OfficeMax / Office Depot offers special deals on Visa gift cards such as this week’s $15 Instant Rebate on $300 in Visa Gift Cards at Officemax/Office Depot.
But, does it really work that way?
The Five Back Visa Gift Card website displays a “growing list” of of merchants that will add “up to” 5% back to your card with every purchase. Listed merchants include (but are not limited to):
- Bass Pro Shops
- Bed, Bath & Beyond
The list of participating merchants is pretty big. I expect that most people will find a few merchants on the list that they shop with regularly.
Five Percent Back, or less?
The Five Back Visa Gift Card website offers a FAQ which answers the question: How can I earn money back by using my gift card?
When you shop at participating merchants, the Award Sponsor (Blackhawk Network California, Inc.) will add a certain percentage (up to 5%) of your purchase amount (including sales tax) to your Card balance. Visit www.fivebackgift.com for a list of participating merchants and the money back percentage award offered by each merchant. The Award Sponsor (Blackhawk Network California, Inc.) will round earnings amounts to the nearest whole cent (with amounts below half a cent being rounded down and amounts of half a cent or more being rounded up). If you return an item on which you earned money back, the Award Sponsor (Blackhawk Network California, Inc.) reserves the right to deduct the money you earned from your Card balance.*
The strange thing here is that the answer says that you can earn “up to 5%” and that the website lists the money back percentage award offered by each merchant. But, it doesn’t actually show the exact percentage anywhere. The website simply shows participating merchants offering “up to 5% back”.
I reached out to Blackhawk Network for clarification and they told me that all of the currently displayed merchants offer 5% cash back. They wrote:
Yes, currently you get 5% back directly to the card at all of the retailers currently featured on the website. Similar to a regular Visa gift card, you can use the Five Back card at any retailer in the US that accepts Visa debit, but this card offers the added value of 5% back directly to the card when used at those participating retailers.
In summary: According to Blackhawk Network, you will get 5% back (deposited to the card’s balance) when you use the card at participating merchants. I think it is safe to assume that this will remain true unless/until the gift card website adds specific cash back rates for certain merchants.
Yes, the card has a PIN that can be used for debit purchases. By default the PIN is the last 4 digits of the card number, but you can change the PIN online.
Whether or not PIN-based transactions are eligible for 5% back is unclear. I haven’t found any terms excluding them.
Is 6.5% combined savings real?
The savings made possible with this card sound terrific, but is it practical? Let’s walk through an example in which a person shops regularly at CVS…
- Go to OfficeMax or Office Depot to buy the Five Back Visa Gift Card.
- Pay total of $206.95 with Chase Ink card.
- Assuming no other promotions are in effect at the time, get 5X rewards = 1035 Ultimate Rewards points
- Bring card to CVS and make $200 in purchases (any overflow can be paid with another card)
- $10 should be re-credited to the gift card (5% back)
- Upon next visit to CVS, use remaining $10 on card
- 50 cents should be re-credited to the gift card (5% back)
- Upon next visit to CVS, use the remaining 50 cents
- 3 cents should be re-credited to the gift card (5% back)
- File away gift card because it’s not worth worrying about 3 cents
Aside from the hassle involved, let’s look at the net results:
- $210.50 worth of stuff (maybe even gift cards) purchased from CVS
- Total spend: $206.95
- Rewards: 1035 Ultimate Rewards points worth $10.35 in cash or potentially much more in travel
Assuming the individual involved simply cashes in their Ultimate Rewards points at a penny per point, we end up with:
- Final out of pocket cost: $206.95 – $10.35 = $196.60
- Total savings: $210.50 – $196.60 = $13.90
- Savings as a percent of CVS spend: $13.90 / $210.50 = 6.6%
Conclusion: Yes, assuming the 5% rebate really works as expected, it is possible to get excellent savings from purchases made at participating retailers.
Can you find it? Where is it sold?
I had hoped to test out this card in preparation for this post, but I haven’t yet spotted it in the wild. I visited two OfficeMax stores and quite a few drug stores and grocery stores, but couldn’t find the card. Still, I know it exists because at least three readers sent me photos when they found the card at Office Depot.
Blackhawk Network told me that the card is available at the following stores:
Albertsons, Shaws, Jewel, ACME, United Supermarkets, Hy-Vee and Office Depot.
Is it worth it?
Personally, I hate dealing with gift cards if I don’t have to. Will I remember which cards are expected to receive rebates? Will I remember which ones still have value? Will I remember to bring the gift cards to participating merchants? Will I lose those gift cards?
If you’re more organized than me, though, this Five Back Visa Gift Card can be an excellent source of consistent savings (assuming it works as advertised!).