Just a couple of weeks ago, during the first week of October, we proclaimed the week “the best gift-card buying week of the year. Well, this week is here to challenge with 4 very good (profitable if you know what you’re doing) gift card deals. Let’s review all of them here:
1. (Unadvertised) Office Depot/Max Deal – $15 off VGC purchases of $300+
The Deal: Purchase $300+ in Visa Gift Cards (VGCs) at Office Depot/Office Max, and get $15 off. Good from 10/20 through 10/26/2019. Terms say “Limit one (1) per household/business” and “One offer per transaction.” YMMV. Our local OD/OM stores in the north Dallas suburbs limit to one transaction per customer per day (or at least per visit).
How We’re Playing It: We’re buying 2 x $200 VGCs for a total of $400 per transaction (note that $200 is the highest denomination for VGCs at our local OD/OM stores (and maybe everywhere)). For most $200 VGCs at OD/OM, the purchase/activation fee is $6.95 per card. Thus, with the $15 discount, the total for the 2 cards comes to $398.90. At our local OD/OM stores in the north Dallas suburbs, fixed-denomination and variable-load VGCs both qualify for the promotion.
What Card Are We Using? At OD/OM, like with all office supply store purchases, we use a Chase Ink Cash (CIC) card that earns 5x Ultimate Rewards (UR) points per dollar. Aside from the legacy Chase Ink Plus card that’s no longer available for new applications, no other card comes close to the CIC’s earning at office supply stores. At our baseline value of 1.5 cents per UR point, that’s a points rebate of about 7.5%.
2. Staples Deal – No-Fee $200 MCGCs
The Deal: Purchase a $200 Mastercard Gift Card (MCGC) at Staples and pay no purchase/activation fee (regularly $6.95 per card). Good from 10/20 through 10/26/2019. The express terms of the deal in the Staples mailer do not contain a limit; however, local signage may differ, and our local Staples stores in the north Dallas suburbs limit to one transaction per customer per day (or at least per visit).
How We’re Playing It: If you’re limited to one card per visit, the only thing you can do here is pick up one $200 MCGC fee-free. To purchase multiple MCGCs on this deal, we’ll have to drive to multiple Staples stores in a day and/or make multiple visits to a single store.
What Card Are We Using? Just like with the OD/OM deal, we’re using a Chase Ink Cash card to earn 5x UR points per dollar, for a points rebate of about 7.5%.
3. Safeway/Just 4 U – $10 off when you buy $100+ in MCGCs
The Deal: Purchase $100+ in MCGCs at a Safeway chain store, and get $10 off. Good through 10/26/2019. Must add the offer to your “Just 4 U” account prior to using the offer, and you must provide your Just 4 U card or the phone number associated with your account when you check out. Limit 1 offer/use per Just 4 U account during the promotional period. This limit applies even for different dates/stores/transactions.
Note that the official terms & conditions say that “Offers are limited to one per customer” and “Using multiple accounts to exceed limits on offers and promotions is not permitted.” Note that it is possible to have multiple Just 4 U accounts, each associated with a different phone number. But you are at risk if you violate the express terms and conditions.
Unfortunately, this offer can no longer be loaded. The offer was available last week and could be loaded to Just 4 U accounts then. As best we can tell, it is not unusual for Safeway/Just 4 U to remove the ability to add this type of offer about a week before the offer ends.
How We’re Playing It: We’re buying a $500 variable-load MCGC each time we use this offer. For these MCGCs, the regular purchase/activation fee is $5.95 per card. Thus, with the $10 discount, the total for a $500 card comes to $495.95. Philly and I each have a Just 4 U account. In our area, the best store to use this deal is Tom Thumb, and we have several within reasonable driving distance from our house.
What Card(s) Are We Using? Right now, we’re using an Amex Hilton Surpass card for this deal, because we’re working on hitting $15,000 in spend on the card before the end of calendar year 2019 in order to earn a Hilton Free Weekend Night certificate. (See our recent article about Our Amex Hilton 2-card Aspire-Surpass Upgrade-Downgrade Strategy for more details.)
The Surpass card earns 6x Hilton Honors points per dollar for spend at US supermarkets. At our baseline value of 0.5 cents per Hilton point, that’s a points rebate of about 3%. In addition, each transaction with this deal covers about 1/30th of the $15k spend for a free night certificate. If we semi-arbitrarily say that we’ll get about $300 in value for the certificate, then doing this deal is worth about another 2% for a total of 5% rebate (1/30th of $300 is $10, and $10 is 2% of the ~$500 purchase price).
If we weren’t working on the spend for the Hilton Free Night certificate, we’d be using an Amex Gold personal card. The return with that card would actually be higher, but it has a cap of $25,000 per year for US supermarket spend. On the Gold card, we’d earn 4x Membership Rewards (MR) points per dollar. At our baseline value of 1.5 cents per MR point, we’d get a points rebate worth about 6% when using the Gold card.
Another reasonable option for those who hold this card, would be the Amex Everyday Preferred card. This card earns 3x MR points at US supermarkets, up to a $6,000 annual cap. And if you make at least 30 purchases in a month, you receive a 50% bonus that would take the return up to 4.5x MR points per dollar. At 1.5 cents per MR point, that would be a great points rebate worth about 6.75% when using the Everyday Preferred card.
4. Sam’s Club – Amex Offer for extra 4x MR points per dollar
The Deal: Using this Amex Offer, you can earn 4 additional MR points per dollar spent at Sam’s Club. These MR points are in addition to those you would normally earn. You must enroll in the Amex Offer prior to use.
The express terms of the Amex Offer itself does not exclude gift cards. Remember, however, that Amex includes general terms on all of its cards now that allow Amex to exclude purchases of gift cards from earning MR points. (See this article from Doctor of Credit for more details.)
How We’re Playing It: We are purchasing MCGCs at Sam’s Club with this deal. We purchase cards loaded to $250, which is the maximum that Sam’s Club allows on each card. Purchase fees are $4.88 per card.
With each purchase, we always add at least 1 additional item to the purchase other than the MCGCs. We’re not sure that makes any difference, but at least it varies the amounts of the purchases. So far, knock on wood, the bonus MR points have tracked on all of our Sam’s Club purchases under this deal.
Until last week, we also had an offer for Sam’s Club on the Dosh cashback app. The deal was 4% cash back, with a $15 daily cap (others may have had 5% cash back with the cap). Unfortunately, last week the Dosh offer disappeared. (We understand that Dosh still has a Sam’s Club offer, but it’s for 4% with a *lifetime* $15 cap, which of course we’ve long since exceeded.) The good news is that our Sam’s Club purchases that included MCGCs were triggering the Dosh offer each day. Most of the cash back cleared, although we have a small handful of transactions that remain pending. While the Dosh deal was alive, we were doing $500 in MCGCs (2 x $250) on each daily visit. Now that we’re no longer concerned with maximizing Dosh cash back, we’re making fewer trips but higher purchase amounts (but always less than $2,000 on each visit so we don’t trigger any anti-money laundering scrutiny).
What Card Are We Using? We loaded this Amex Offer to our Blue Business Plus cards. These cards earn 2x MR points per dollar on everyday spend (up to a cap of $50,000 per year). Thus, when the 4x Amex Offer is added, we’re getting 6x MR points per dollar. At our baseline value of 1.5 cents per MR point, that’s a points rebate of 9%. That far more than offsets the purchase/activation fees of ~2% ($4.88 per $250) plus liquidation costs.
The math was even better when the Dosh deal was alive, contributing an extra $15 return to each purchase of at least $375. But it still works plenty well with a return of “only” 6x MR points.
In addition, even if we surpass the $50k annual cap for 2x earning on the Blue Business Plus card, 5x MR earning would still make this a solid deal.
Gift card liquidation is a complex and nuanced subject that is far beyond the scope of this article. We’ve provided some ideas about online liquidation of GCs in our recent Manufactured Spend Data Points (MS DPs) series. To see all of our articles covering MS topics, go to the right sidebar to see “Middle Age Miles Posts by Category” and use the drop-down menu to select Manufactured Spend.
One Final Note
On our GC-purchasing run today, we were asked for ID at 2 local stores where we’d never been asked for ID before today – one OD/OM store, and one Staples store. Based on the comments from our cashiers today (as well as others we’ve had in recent weeks), gift card fraud is running rampant in our area. We don’t ever mind providing ID, as we have nothing to hide, so we welcome the effort at fraud prevention despite the minimal inconvenience. And we wish a pox on the houses of those who perpetrate gift card fraud.
We hope you’ve enjoyed the recap of this week’s plethora of gift card deals. Best of luck in your own GC-purchasing endeavors!
Do you have additional insight or data points on these deals? Please let us know in the Comments!
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