What’s my X?

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Wow, great stuff is happening for Chase Ink fans!  Yesterday I showed how to earn 5X on all purchases without the hassle of gift cards.  I also reported that Staples has increased their Ultimate Rewards Mall bonus for Staples to 5X when you log in with your Ink card.  What does it all mean?

First, if you plan to buy any gift cards, check staples.com to see if they have what you need.  By going through the Ultimate Rewards Mall and using your Ink card you will earn 5X from the mall and 5X from your card’s office supply category bonus to earn a true total of 10X!  Yes, this means you can get 10X for Starbucks, Marriott, and Southwest to name just a few!

If, instead, your goal is to get Visa or Amex gift cards (or prepaid cards), there are some fantastic options if you use your Ink card:

  • Option 1: Go through UR Mall to Staples.com and buy $100 Visa for $105.95
  • Option 2: Go through TopCashBack to Staples.com and buy $100 Visa for $105.95 (you will get 5.5% back)
  • Option 3: Go in person to an office supply store (OfficeMax, for example) to buy a $200 Visa gift card for $206.95. 
  • Option 4: Go in person to Office Depot to buy a $500 Visa prepaid debit card (non refillable) for $504.95.
  • Option 5: Go in person to Office Depot to buy $500 reload packs for reloading Amex Prepaid cards.  The cost for each is $503.95.

The first option sort of gives you 10X points, but with a hefty 6% fee.  The second option comes very close to true 5X thanks to the cash back.  The third option starts at 5X, but with 3.5% in fees.  The fourth and fifth options have much lower fees as a percentage of the face value.

But, what are the exact numbers?  Which option is best?  The answer depends a bit on how much you value Ultimate Rewards points.  The table below computes the true “X” for each option depending on whether you value points at 1 cent each, 1.31 cents (the Fair Trading Price amount), or 2 cents each.  The idea is that some of the points earned are used to reimburse you for the card fee.  The points remaining make up the true “X”:

Gift Card Value

Fee

Points Earned

Value points 1 cent

Value points 1.31 cents

Value points 2 cents

Buy online through UR Mall 5X

$100

$5.95

1060

4.65X

6.05X

7.62X

Buy online 5.5% back TopCashBack

$100

$5.95 – $5.83 = $0.12

530

4.89X

4.91X

4.95X

Buy $200 Visa at Staples / Office Max

$200

$6.95

1035

1.7X

2.52X

3.44X

Buy $500 Visa at Office Depot

$500

$4.95

2525

4.06X

4.29X

4.55X

Buy $500 reload card at Office Depot

$500

$3.95

2520

4.25X

4.44X

4.64X

 

As you can see in the table above, buying through the Ultimate Rewards Mall is almost always the best “X” unless you assign low value to points, in which case TopCashBack is the winner.  Of course, with both of these options the largest denominations available are $100, which can be a hassle to spend.

To get larger denomination cards, the best option is to go in-store and you’ll get over 4X when loading $500 at a time, regardless of the approach you take.  For convenience, I much prefer the reloadable American Express card option (for more on that card, see “One card to rule them all”).  However, sometimes you do need a Visa or Mastercard so luckily that option works well too!  For more about that option, see “Almost too good to be true.”


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