How good is this deal? Free $10 ePromo card at Staples when you buy a $50 eGift card.

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At first blush, this deal looks pretty sweet.  $10 back from a $50 gift card purchase seems like a nice 20% rebate that should also be stackable with other offers.  Let’s look closer…

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This is not a 20% discount

When you get a gift card as a bonus for buying stuff, the math gets a little confusing.  It’s not really correct to say that the $10 gift card bonus on a $50 purchase is a 20% discount.  Remember that the gift card isn’t worth anything until you use it.  So, its more accurate to say that you get a total of $60 worth of Staples purchases for $50.  That’s a 16.7% discount.  In reality, though, you probably won’t buy exactly $60 worth of stuff.  For example, let’s say you actually buy $70 worth of stuff and use the $60 of credit to pay for all but $10.  In that case, overall, you will have realized a combined 14.3% discount.

The ePromo Card is not a normal gift card

Unlike normal gift cards that never expire, this card is valid only until July 7th 2013.  So, if you don’t use the card right away, you won’t get any value from it.

Neither card works online

Even though Staples sells and promotes eGift cards like these, Staples.com does not allow you to use gift cards for online purchases!  Seriously.  Print out the gift cards and bring to the store or bring up the email on your smart phone when you shop in-store.

You can’t buy gift cards with gift cards (Yes you can. Maybe)

The terms & conditions are clear on this point:

eGift Cards cannot be used for credit card payments or to purchase other gift cards (including Staples gift cards) or wireless cards.

ePromotional Cards cannot be used for credit card payments or to purchase other gift cards (including Staples gift cards) or wireless cards

In practice, though, in my experience I have been able to buy gift cards at Staples using printed out gift cards as payment.  I’m not sure the same would be true for the promotional gift cards, but maybe.

You won’t earn portal points or cash back

These days when shopping at Staples.com I usually start at uPromise in order to earn an extra 5% cash back on all of my purchases.  And, when buying 3rd party gift cards (physical or egift cards), I’ve always had success getting cash back (or points from other portals).  With these Staples eGift cards, though, I don’t think any portals will track the purchase.  The reason is that when you checkout you are taken to a different website: staples.cashstar.com.  In all past experiments, when a website behaves this way, I’ve found that points or cash back are not awarded.

You might not earn 5X

One of the reasons I always love deals from Staples, OfficeMax, and Office Depot is that I know that I can pay with a Chase Ink card and earn 5 points per dollar for my purchase.  This is in addition to any special offers going on and in addition to points or cash back from a portal.  In this case, though, the payment is processed by CashStar, not by Staples.  A reader tweeted that his transaction was coded like this: CST*STAPLES CSTR GFTCD.  CSTR apparently stands for CoinStar.  It’s still possible that the purchase will be coded as an office supply purchase, but it might not.

Bottom Line

Despite all of my misgivings, I still think that this deal is a very good deal in certain situations:

If you know that you will make purchases at Staples in the next few weeks and you don’t mind not getting automatic warranty from your credit card, then you might as well take advantage of this discount.

Or:

You are willing to take the chance that before the promo gift card expires, you’ll be able to cash it out by buying free after rebate items.  Alternatively, you can watch for promotional items that offer 100% back in Staples Rewards.  This way, you will extend the time you have for using the credit.

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