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Middle Age Miles

MS DPs – Episode 4 – more $200 MCGCs from Staples

manufactured spend ms data points dp mastercard gift card mcgc staples liquidate plastiq debit card doxo
Mastercard Gift Card issued by MetaBank

In Episode 4 of our Manufactured Spend Data Points (MS DPs) series, we’ll review two more purchases of Mastercard Gift Cards (MCGCs) that we purchased from Staples on July 24 & 25, during a promotion where these cards could be purchased with no fees.

This episode is similar to Episode 2 in that it also involves $200 fixed-value MCGCs from Staples. But we learned a little more information with these cards, both on the acquisition side and the liquidation side, that we’ll cover here.

As always, remember that we’re total rookies when it comes to manufactured spend (MS), and we’re sharing experience far more than expertise in this series – including our own mistakes! The trial-and-error process is a huge part of the MS learning experience.

Acquisition

$200 MCGC purchased on July 24

  • Total Purchase Price = $200
    • ($0 fees because of Staples promotion)
  • Rewards from cards, offers and/or portals:
    • Amex Offer at Staples, $10 statement credit when spending at least $40 = $10
    • Additional Amex Offer at Staples, 1 extra Membership Rewards (MR) point per dollar = 200 MR points
      • Worth about $3 at our baseline value of 1.5 cents per MR point
    • Dosh, 3% cash back up to $5 cap = $5
    • Ebates/Rakuten on MR-earning account, 2x MR per dollar = 400 MR points
      • Worth about $6
    • Paid with Amex Blue Business Plus card earning 2x = 380 MR points
      • Worth about $5.70
  • Acquisition summary for this card:
    • Acquired $200 MCGC
    • Net cost = $185 (after Amex Offer credit & Dosh cash back)
    • Points earned = 980 MR points, worth about $14.70
  • Ahead by about $29.70, pre-liquidation

$200 MCGC purchased on July 25

  • Total Purchase Price = $200
    • ($0 fees because of Staples promotion)
  • Rewards from cards, offers and/or portals:
    • Amex Offer at Staples, $10 statement credit when spending at least $40 = $10
    • Additional Amex Offer at Staples, 1 extra MR point per dollar = 200 MR points
      • Worth about $3
    • Ebates/Rakuten on MR-earning account, 4x MR per dollar = 800 MR points
      • Worth about $12
    • Paid with Amex Everyday card earning 1x = 190 MR points
      • Worth about $2.85
  • Acquisition summary for this card:
    • Acquired $200 MCGC
    • Net cost = $190 (after Amex Offer credit)
    • Points earned = 1,190 MR points, worth about $17.85
  • Ahead by about $27.85, pre-liquidation

Characteristics of both $200 MCGC cards purchased at Staples

  • Issuer: MetaBank
  • Can be registered? Yes
  • Website: www.mcgift.giftcardmall.com
  • Cards were registered and set up with PINs prior to any attempted use

Other Questions Related to Acquisition

We got the $40/$10 statement credit Amex Offer twice. How? Different cardholders. The two cards were in the names of different household members. I made both purchases, but one of the cards was in the name of another household member with the same last name and address.

Why did we get Dosh credit on the July 24 purchase but not the July 25 purchase? As we just mentioned, the card we used for the July 25 purchase was in the name of another household member. Unfortunately, it was not linked to our Dosh account at the time of the purchase. It is actually possible to link cards for different household members onto a single Dosh account, at least if the household members have the same address (we haven’t tried one where they have different addresses, and we don’t plan to). We just hadn’t done the linking in time for this purchase to track.

Why did we get 2x MRs from Ebates/Rakuten on the July 24 purchase but 4x MRs on the July 25 purchase? Ebates/Rakuten started a “Double In-Store” promo on July 25 that increased the rate temporarily to 4x.

I’ve heard that Ebates/Rakuten may claw back rewards from gift card purchases. Are the earnings from these 2 purchases really in our account? Yes, so far, so good. The earnings have posted to our Ebates/Rakuten account (at least for now; we’ll keep our fingers crossed for no future clawback). Here is a screenshot of these transactions from our Ebates/Rakuten online account (remember that Ebates/Rakuten shows the earnings as cash back, even on MR-earning accounts):

How did we come up with our calculations of MRs earned? We’re taking these from our online MR summary by transaction. The $10 credit from the Amex Offer results in a deduction from the MR earnings on the purchase, but it does not result in a deduction from the bonus points earned from the “extra point” Amex Offer. Here are the line items from our online statement for the July 24 purchase:

Liquidation

You’ll recall that we learned in Episode 2 that the Metabank-issued fixed-value MCGCs from Staples qualify for Plastiq’s 1% fee using debit cards, and we could use it to pay toward one of our Citi credit card accounts. This is an outstanding online liquidation method. In fact, it seems highly likely that this will be our liquidation method for all Metabank-issued fixed-value MCGCs going forward.

And in fact, Plastiq is the liquidation method that we actually used for both of these MCGCs.

However, before we liquidated through Plastiq, we tried one of these MCGCs with Doxo. You’ll recall from Episode 3 that Doxo had super-high fees, but we enrolled in a program called DoxoPlus that says it allows up to $2,000 in fee-free payments using certain payment methods, for a fixed subscription fee of $9 per month. Anyway, the attempt to use the Metabank-issued fixed-value MCGC on Doxo to pay a credit card account was a complete failure. The MCGC processed as a credit card in Doxo’s system, and we received an error message that we cannot use a credit card to pay this Citi credit card account. We do not know if the MCGC would have qualified for a fee-free DoxoPlus payment if we had tried to use it to pay a different vendor.

Back to our liquidation stats, which were:

  • $200 MCGC purchased on July 24:
    • Liquidation method: Plastiq
    • Payment made to: Citi Cards, for an outstanding credit card bill
    • Fee: 1% ($1.98)
    • Payment: $198.02
      • Payment is scheduled to be delivered by 8/3/2019
  • $200 MCGC purchased on July 25:
    • Liquidation method: Plastiq
    • Payment made to: American Express, for an outstanding credit card bill
    • Fee: 1% ($1.98)
    • Payment: $198.02
      • Payment is scheduled to be delivered by 8/9/2019

We’ll plan to update this post later to confirm (hopefully) that the payments were delivered, applied and posted correctly.

Final Accounting for This Experiment

For the card purchased on July 24: We acquired and liquidated $200 for a net cost of $186.98, leaving us with a profit of $13.02, plus we earned 980 MR points, worth about $14.70.

For the card purchased on July 25: We acquired and liquidated $200 for a net cost of $191.98, leaving us with a profit of $8.02, plus we earned 1,190 MR points, worth about $17.85.

Both of these are nicely-profitable deals. Unfortunately, they relied on special promotions – the Staples fee-free promo, the Amex Offers, the Staples offer on Dosh that has now disappeared from the Dosh app, and the Ebates/Rakuten offer – that are special-case scenarios. Thus, these results are cherry-picking. They’re not scalable, repeatable results. Still, we did quite well here, and we continue to learn things that are very helpful.

Plastiq Referral Code

We’ve learned through this series that the Plastiq bill-payment service can be an extremely valuable tool for manufactured spend. If you’re headed down this path, you probably already have a Plastiq account. But if you don’t already have an account, we would truly appreciate it if you would use our Plastiq referral code when you sign up.

When you sign up using our referral code and pay $500 worth of bills through Plastiq, you will earn 500 fee-free dollars (and we will earn 1,000 FFDs). You can use these FFDs to make $500 in payments without paying the Plastiq fee, which is usually 2.5%.

Our Plastiq referral code is 487070

To apply a referral code when you sign up for Plastiq:

  • Go to the Plastiq website (www.plastiq.com) and click the “Sign In” button
  • Enter the email address you would like to use for your Plastiq account and click “Continue”
  • Check your email for confirmation and follow the link to set your password
  • Once you enter your password, click on “Add Referral Code” below the blue button
  • Enter the referral code and click “Use Code”
  • Then finish creating your account

In addition, you can apply our referral code to your account if you have already signed up for a Plastiq account but have not made any payments yet. To do this:

  • Log in to the Plastiq website and navigate to the Rewards & Referrals section of your account
  • Enter our referral code, 487070, in the “Enter A Promo Code” box, and click “Use Code”

If you sign up with Plastiq using our referral code, thank you. It helps support our work to bring you valuable information about travel, credit cards and points-and-miles topics.


We hope you’ve enjoyed Episode 4 of our MS DPs series. We successfully completed the MS cycle on 2 gift cards, with both earning solid amounts of profits and points. And we learned a little more that will help us going forward. Please feel free to comment on our efforts!


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6 thoughts on “MS DPs – Episode 4 – more $200 MCGCs from Staples

  1. ABC

    I strongly suggest you don’t buy GCs with the Rakuten in-store option. After a while the account will be closed and you will lose ALL earned points on the account. My experience was with OD/OM.
    Tread lightly!

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Thanks for the heads-up, ABC!

      I’d be very interested in other DPs on Ebates/Rakuten shutdowns – what volume and what velocity?

      Thanks again for the comment. ~Craig

  2. asc

    I’m not very experienced with this, but I thought I read somewhere that some banks can be sensitive about different payment methods being used to pay the balance. Do you know of any DP about banks being concerned with people paying their bill with plastiq or similar methods?
    Thanks.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi asc – Thanks for reading and for posting the thoughtful comment. This certainly seems like a legitimate concern. I don’t have enough expertise to comment or really even give thoughtful advice on the risks that may or may not be caused by using Plastiq or other different payment methods. So far, all of our payments have processed fine and we haven’t run into any issues. But we’ve only made a small number of payments. At this point we don’t personally know if there are issues with higher numbers of payments over longer periods of time.

      Thanks again, good luck, and I hope you continue to enjoy Middle Age Miles! ~Craig

  3. Wes

    Did the payment to amex process without issue? Would you do it again? What did you label the payee as? Professional services?

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Wes – Good follow-up questions; thanks. Yes, the payment to Amex processed without issue, as have subsequent payments to Amex using Plastiq. Yes, I would do it again (and have done so). The recipient category for Amex in Plastiq is “Mortgage & HELOC.” Plastiq probably required that categorization, as I don’t believe I selected that category on my own. Hope this is helpful! ~Craig

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