Turn your Amex into Visa and Save $

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American Express has some of the most generous rewards cards available.  Some can be used to earn valuable, flexible points (e.g. Amex SPG, Premier Rewards Gold, etc.).  Others can be used to earn elite status as well (e.g. Delta Reserve, Hilton Surpass, SPG, etc.).  The only problem with Amex cards is that many merchants “don’t take American Express” (as Visa commercials like to say).  This can be especially frustrating when you’re trying to meet spending thresholds to get bonus points or elite status.

Here is a solution that not only puts the spend on your card, but saves you money as well!

The Business Card

First, make sure you have the business version of the American Express card and that it qualifies for OPEN Savings.  If you don’t already have such a card, consider signing up for one.  If you don’t have a business, that’s OK.  You can use your own name as the sole proprietorship business name, and your own SSN as the business’ tax ID. 

OPEN Savings

American Express business cards come with OPEN Savings which automatically give you money back for using your card with certain merchants.  You can see the list of merchants here.  Make sure to click through and read the terms and conditions since some have specific requirements about how much you must spend and whether or not it can/must be online.  The key to the trick presented here is that OfficeMax is one of the partners.  They offer 5% back on purchases of $100 or more.

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Buy Visa Gift Cards

The trick here is simple.  Use your Amex card with OPEN Savings, in person, at an OfficeMax store.  At my local OfficeMax, they sell $200 Visa gift cards for $206.95.  You will get 5% back from this purchase, so your total cost will be .95 x $206.95 = $196.6.  Accounting for the $6.95 fee, you will have a 1.7% savings and a visa card that can be used in places that do not take American Express!

Spending

I’ll be the first to admit that carrying a bunch of Visa gift cards around can be a bit of a headache.  For example, how will you remember how much money is on each card?  Also, some places, such as gas stations, put a hold on a certain amount of money on your card.  This can cause more headaches: the transaction may be denied because the amount on the card is less than the hold amount; and/or future transactions can be denied because the hold sometimes takes days to clear and therefore makes it look like there is less money left on the card.  Another issue is that most gift cards can only be used within the United States.  That being said, with most merchants using Visa gift cards is a painless process.

Conclusion

As is pointed out above, this trick is not without its headaches.  However, if you need to increase your Amex spending, this could be a great weapon in your arsenal! 

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