OfficeMax Lab Results

31

Last week I reported that I was launching several Frequent Miler Laboratory experiments (see “Laboratory Preparations”).  Most of the results are in and can be found on the Laboratory page (sort results by date to find the most recent).  For each significant finding, I’ll write up a new post to explain how to leverage it.  In this post, I’ll describe the OfficeMax experiments and the exciting results…

Experiment

This experiment had 3 parts:

  • Portal: Go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to OfficeMax to buy an OfficeMax gift card.  See if points are earned (despite T&C text saying no).
  • Open Savings: Use American Express business credit card with OPEN Savings to make the purchase.  See if OPEN Savings credits my account with 5% back.
  • Upgrade: Use the OfficeMax gift card in-store to buy to a different merchant’s gift card.

Portal

I logged into my Ink Bold account to shop the Ultimate Rewards Mall and clicked through to OfficeMax.com.  The Terms & Conditions suggested that this experiment would not work:

Not eligible on gift cards, gift certificates or any other similar cash equivalents.

And, in fact, as suggested by the T&C, I did not receive points.  You might think this happened because I didn’t use a Chase card for the purchase, but I rarely do and I almost always get points (see “Ultimate Question”).  Anyway, I’ve recorded this part of the experiment as a FAIL.

Open Savings

American Express business cards come with a feature not found on their personal cards: OPEN Savings.  These are rebates that are automatically credited to your account when you shop at certain merchants and fulfill the terms.  Merchants include Hyatt, Marriott, Hertz, and more.  You can see the full list of merchants and terms here.  Note that you do not really need a business to get a business credit card.  If you ever do any consulting, EBay selling, or anything that earns money for yourself or may do so in the future, you can apply for a business card as a “sole proprietor”.  A great side benefit is that American Express will let you get sign-up bonuses for both business and personal cards so you can often double your sign-up points!

Until recently, OPEN Savings gave 5% off for all OfficeMax purchases of $100 or more.  A great opportunity at the time was to go to OfficeMax stores to buy more valuable gift cards (Amazon, Visa, etc.) and automatically get 5% back.  Recently, though, they changed the terms.  I wrote about this in May in the post “Coming to an end: 5 percent off Amazon, EBay, and more…”  The new terms are (bolding is mine):

Get discount based on your total purchase as follows: 5% discount if a purchase is $250 or less and 10% discount if a purchase is more than $250. Valid only for purchases made online at officemax.com, officemaxsolutions.com or telephone orders. Discounts not available for purchases made at retail locations. Visit officemax.com/opensavings for OfficeMax terms and conditions.

This was a big blow to my gift card buying scheme since the scheme depended upon buying gift cards in-store (at retail locations).  However, the possibility of earning 10% back is very interesting.

In this experiment, I started small by buying a single physical $25 OfficeMax gift card.  It took a full week, but I did receive the expected 5% back from Open Savings.  Experiment result: SUCCESS.

Upgrade

Getting 10% back from OfficeMax purchases is nice, but even better is if you can get 10% back and upgrade to a more valuable gift card.  I visited an OfficeMax yesterday and bought a $25 Amazon gift card with my $25 OfficeMax gift card.  It worked like a charm, no questions asked.  Result: SUCCESS

Note that some readers reported that they had to argue with tellers who thought using gift cards was against the rules, but they were ultimately successful anyway.

Next Steps

Based on this experiment, I believe it is now possible to get 10% off all Amazon purchases!  I just ordered $300 worth of OfficeMax gift cards to prove that it will result in 10% back.  I will also follow up with another post detailing different ways to leverage this opportunity.  Finally, I’d love to find a points or cash back portal that credits gift card purchases!  If you order OfficeMax gift cards, please try various portals and let me know the results.  One reader has reported failure from uPromise and a number of airline portals (aa,ua,usair,delta,sw) so there may not be any good options, but it’s worth trying!

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