How to buy points for free

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This is a trick for advanced gift card churners.  The trick can be used to help meet minimum spend requirements, earn points, and even earn some money.  I’ve hinted about this in previous posts, but I’ll bring it all together today. 

The Trick

At a high level, the trick is to use an Amex business credit card to buy OfficeMax gift cards for 10% off, then upgrade those cards to more valuable cards before selling them.  Through this process it’s possible to increase credit card spend (and therefore earn points), and even make some money.

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What you need

  • Amex Business card: In order to pull off this trick, you need an American Express business card with OPEN Savings.  Most American Express credit cards have both personal and business variants.  If you get the business version, you will automatically be enrolled in their OPEN Savings program in which you get cash back automatically (applied to your statement) when shopping at certain merchants.  You don’t have to have an official business to get a business card: if you ever sell items via yard sales or online, you have a business; if you do consulting, you have a business; if you rent out property, you have a business; etc.  If you’re in that situation, when filling out a credit card application put the business type as “sole proprietor” and use your own Social Security number as the Tax ID.  See “Best credit card offers” to find some Amex business card options with good signup bonuses.  Note that the SPG card will soon increase the signup bonus to 30K so you may want to wait a week or two for that one.
  • Nice OfficeMax: People have reported mixed success in using gift cards at OfficeMax to buy other gift cards.  You need to make sure your local OfficeMax is nice about this before you risk too much!

Step By Step

Step 1: Buy OfficeMax gift cards

Browse to OfficeMax.com and buy more than $250 worth of OfficeMax gift cards.  The largest cards they sell are for $100 each so I’d recommend buying at least 3 $100 cards at a time.  Make sure to pay with your Amex business card.  In order to receive 10% back, you must make the purchase online and the purchase must total more than $250.

Caution: OPEN Savings are only from purchases made at OfficeMax.com.  You will not get cash back for similar purchases at Office Depot or Staples.

Step 2: Upgrade to Visa gift cards

Once you receive your OfficeMax gift cards, rub off the gummy stuff on the back to expose the PIN numbers and then take the cards in-person to an OfficeMax store.  There, you should be able to find $200 Visa gift cards.  Buy them with your OfficeMax gift cards.  The Visa cards come with a $6.95 fee, but you’re still way ahead since you got 10% back from the purchase of the OfficeMax gift cards.

Step 3: Use Visa gift cards to buy resell-able gift cards

Even though Visa gift cards are like cash, they’re not easy to turn into cash.  Instead, use the gift cards to buy easily sold gift cards.  Currently, Plastic Jungle will buy all of these gift cards for 92% of their value: Exxon, Phillips 66, Safeway, Sams Club, Target, and Walmart.  You can find current sell prices at GiftCardGranny.com

I find it easier to buy gift cards in-person than online when using Visa gift cards to pay.  When using them online, you first need to register your name and address with the Visa gift card company.  This can be a bit of a hassle if you’re doing this often.  Here’s a better bet:

  • Find a local grocery store that offers fuel points for buying gift cards
  • See if any high value gift cards are sold at that grocery store (for example, obviously Safeway would sell Safeway gift cards).
  • Use your Visa gift cards to pay.

If you don’t have a grocery store that meets the above criteria, then simply visit Target, Walmart, etc. and buy the gift cards there.

Step 4: Sell the gift cards

Now that you have gift cards from Target, Walmart, or wherever, log into TopCashBack and click through to PlasticJungle to sell your gift cards.  You should get 92% back from PlasticJungle and another 4% of 92% = 3.68% from TopCashBack.

Add it up

Let’s suppose we start with $1450 worth of OfficeMax gift cards.  Here’s how the math works out:

  • Spend $1450
  • Receive $145 back from OPEN Savings
  • Use $1450 in gift cards to buy 7 $200 gift cards.  7 * $206.95 = $1448.65.  Use the extra $1.35 to buy a pack of gum or something.
  • use the 7 $200 gift cards to buy 14 $100 Target gift cards (for example).  This should be an even trade since no tax or service fees are charged when buying merchant gift cards at most stores.
  • Go through TopCashBack to PlasticJungle and sell the Target gift cards to Plastic Jungle (you may have to do so in multiple separate smaller batches).  You will receive $1288 from PlasticJungle and $51.52 from TopCashBack.
  • Totals: -$1450 (spent at OfficeMax) + $145 (OPEN Savings) + $1,288 (PlasticJungle) + $51.52 (TopCashBack) = $34.52 profit

Overall, you will have increased credit card spend (for points and/or to meet minimum spend requirements), earned a small profit, received a free pack of gum, and potentially saved a lot of money on gas (which you’ll need for driving back and forth to OfficeMax).

Does it really work?

So far I’ve done the entire cycle one complete time and yes every step worked.  There are some real risks though:

  • Your local OfficeMax may not allow you to buy gift cards with gift cards
  • PlasticJungle may reduce the price they’re willing to pay for whatever gift cards you buy
  • Your gift cards could get lost in the mail or otherwise misplaced on the way to PlasticJungle
  • Your TopCashBack transaction might not track appropriately

Who’s In?

Obviously this trick takes a serious time commitment and comes with some real risks.  Is it worth it to you?

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