I’ve written before about how you can use the Chase Ink card to get 9 points per dollar when buying gift cards. The idea is to “double dip” by starting in the Ultimate Rewards Mall and then using your Chase Ink to buy gift cards at Staples.com. The Ultimate Rewards Mall will give you 4 points per dollar, and the Ink will give you 5 points per dollar (because the new Ink cards give 5X for office supply store purchases). This is a really great return for merchant gift cards since you can buy them through Staples without any shipping, handling, or service fees. You can read more about this approach here and here.
Basic Triple Dip
You can turn the approach described above into a triple dip, by going through the Ultimate Rewards Mall a second time to use your gift cards. For example, you could use the above trick to buy Lands End gift cards for 9X, and then go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to Sears to get another 5X when using the gift cards. Some merchants, though, will not award points on purchases made with gift cards. Barnes & Noble, for example, will give you points for buying gift cards, but not for using them. Make sure to read the merchant’s Terms & Conditions in the Ultimate Rewards Mall to get an idea of whether or not purchases made with gift cards are allowed. Another “gotcha” to watch out for is that some merchants don’t allow their gift cards to be used online at all. Coincidentally, Staples is like that. Staples gift cards can only be used in-store.
Visa Gift Cards
One of the gift cards that you can buy at Staples.com is a $100 Visa gift card. Unlike merchant gift cards, Staples does charge a fee for purchasing visa cards. The $100 Visa card costs a total of $105.95. For this $5.95 fee, you get 954 points (9 X 106). At the Fair Trading Price of 1.31 cents per point, this is like a $12.50 rebate. Pretty good! Another way to think of this is that the $5.95 fee is worth 454 points, so the remaining 500 points is your rate of return. In other words, your 9X for buying a $100 card with a $5.95 fee is equivalent to a 5X return on a $100 card without a fee. So, let’s agree to think of this trick as giving a 5X return.
Triple Dip Anywhere
If you use the above trick to buy visa gift cards at 5X, then you can triple dip by going to any merchant in the Ultimate Rewards Mall (or in any other portal for that matter) in order to spend the gift card. Once you’ve registered the visa gift card to your home address, it will work like any other credit card for making online purchases. So, if we take the Barnes & Noble example, we can now go through the Ultimate Rewards mall to buy up to $100 worth of merchandise (or gift cards) to get another 10X (which is the current rate for B&N). You’ll end up with the equivalent of a 15X return in this example!
Triple Dip Difficulties
Here’s the problem with the triple dip: Suppose you want to buy something that costs $100.99. Online merchants usually will not let you split your payments between two credit cards. Since your visa gift card only contains $100, you won’t be able to make that $100.99 purchase. With some merchants you can get around this by buying a gift card for $1 and then applying that to the total. Or, better yet, use the visa gift card to buy merchant gift cards for exactly $100. At merchants that award points for gift card purchases (B&N, Sears, Beauty.com, etc.), you should be able to buy multiple $100 gift cards, get your triple dip points and apply multiple gift cards to your actual purchases.
Is it worth it?
Visa gift cards can be a hassle. For every gift card you buy, you’ll have to register it if you want to use it with an online vendor. Then, as I described above, you won’t be able to use the card online for purchases above the amount on the card (in person, though, the vendor should be able to split the bill between multiple cards). Even in person, these cards can be a hassle if you try to use them at a place that places a hold on your funds beforehand. Gas stations and hotels tend to do this. Finally, if you don’t spend all of the card right away, you are left trying to remember how much money is left on each card.
To me, the triple dip is only worth doing if I know I can cash out the gift card cleanly in one shot. For example, if I plan to make a bunch of purchases at Barnes & Noble, then I’d be happy to get 15X (equivalent) by buying a $100 visa gift card as described above and then using it to buy a $100 B&N e-gift card.
How about you? Is the hassle worth it? In what circumstances would you do this?
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Last updated on March 18th, 2012