Sunday, January 19, 2014

Extreme Manufactured Spend at Staples with Chase Ink

Disclaimer: I receive a referral commission for the following link(s) and I greatly appreciate supporting the site: Discover it® and Plink

Update 3/4/2014 - Plink has announced that the Staples deal will expire as of 3/11/2014 so no more cashback for that part of the deal :(

The Chase Ink lineup of Business Credit Cards has some great benefits.  One of the best is that you get 5 points per dollar spent at Office Supply stores like Staples, Office Max and Office Depot.

The idea of manufactured spend is to buy a form of money (usually in the form of a Visa Gift Card) at or below cost while racking up points or cashback.

In stores at Staples you can't get much of a good deal if you buy Visa Gift Cards because you are maxed at a $200 gift card which comes with a $7 fee.  Even though you are getting 5x points, you don't come out with much.  I don't think it's even worth your time unless you don't have a job and can churn the cards over and over.

Online you are maxed out at a $100 Visa Gift Card at Staples which has the same $7 fee, ouch! However, there is usually a way of working some magic.  I've tested everything I'm about to show you except one point.  The one I haven't tested will definitely work.  Allow me to explain:

The hurdle we need to get past is that darn 7% fee staples charges.

Let's start by making it worse.  In order for this to work you need to have Staples Gift Cards.  Staples charges a $2 shipping fee for the privilege of buying a Staples Gift Card online.  So if you are buying a $100 Staples gift card, you are paying $102.  I don't know of any other stores that charge for their own gift cards.  We now need to cover 9% in fees.  Let's see if we can do it.  Challenge on!

Here are the steps.  Read them all before you begin.

1) Start your shopping from Shop Discover.  You need a Discover it® Card to access it (sign up from this link and you will get $150 after spending $750 in the first 3 months) .  From there you go on to Staples website.  Discover will give you 5% cashback for anything you buy at Staples.  At Staples you buy 2 $100 Staples gift cards for a cost of $203.98.  Pay for the purchase with your Chase Ink card.
     -  You will get 5% cashback, or $10.20, into your Discover account even though you didn't pay with a Discover card.  You will also get about 1,020 Ultimate Rewards points from Chase.  This picture is from a $75 Staples gift card I bought with my Chase Ink.

2) After your Staples Gift Cards comes in the mail, go back to Shop Discover and then on again to Staples.  Use your Staples Gift Card to buy 2 $100 Visa Gift Cards.  The final price for the Visa Gift cards is $213.90 so you you still need to pay $13.90 on your Chase Ink Card.  Until about two months ago Staples did not allow you to use a Staples Gift Card online, now you can use it online and use it to buy Visa Gift Cards. Works for me!
     - You will get another 5% cashback, or $10.70, into your Discover account.  You will get another 69-70 Chase Points.

3)  Before you buy anything, sign up for an account at Plink if you feel comfortable with it, you have to give them your username and password for your online credit card.  They use bank level encryption so it should be safe, but you never know.  The upside is that you get a $3 Amazon gift card if you spend $60 or more at Staples at one time on the credit card you attach to Plink.  You have to connect your Chase Ink for it to work.  The Visa Gift Card purchase just got you a $3 Amazon Gift card as well.

4) If your Chase Ink is a Visa Card (mine is a Mastercard, but I will make sure to call up and switch), you can sign up for Visa Savings Edge.  You will get another 1% cashback for anything you buy at Staples on that card.  It needs to be a minimum of a $200 purchase so you would only get it if you buy two gift cards.
 - If you are buying two $100 Staples gift cards, you will get $2.04 cents.
 - This is the one I haven't tested since I have a Mastercard.  There is no reason it shouldn't work. Business cards only.

The Bottom Line

Here is the final math assuming two Visa Gift Cards at a time.

You come out with 2 $100 Visa Gift Cards
Fees - $17.88 (1.99 x 2 and 6.95 x 2)
Shop Discover Money - $20.90 ($10.70 + $10.20)
Plink Money - $3 Amazon Gift Card
Visa Business Edge - $2.04
Chase Ultimate Rewards = 1,090 points, which is worth a minimum of $10.90 because it can be cashed out for $10.90.

$20.90 + $2.04 + $3 - $17.88 = $8.06

Your Haul = $8.06/$200 = 4% + 1,090 points.  If you count the points as $10.90 you are getting
18.96/200 = 9.48% cashback.  Not too shabby at all.

1) Ink has either a $25,000 or $50,000 yearly limit on 5% cashback at office supply stores, depending on which card you have.

2) You have to be able to do something with the $100 Visa Gift Cards.  You can put them on Bluebird at Walmart without Fees.  You can pay someone on Amazon Payments without fees.  You can use them to pay for things, but then you aren't earning other points.  Lastly, you can cash them out with Square, Google Wallet or another service that will charge you upwards of 3% to send money to a friend.

3)  You don't want Chase shutting you down if you are putting $4,000 a month on your card.  I think this is a low possibility in this scenario as it is not so crazy for a business to spend that much.  I would start slower and then ramp up the spending.

4) Plink $3 is no matter how much you spend.  If you buy $4,000 at a time, you will still only get $3. Your percentage gain is less at high numbers, but not by much.

5) Staples may not look so kindly at an order of $4,000 worth of $100 Visa Gift Cards paid for almost entirely by Staples Gift Cards.  There isn't much they can do other than cancel future orders.  

Personally,  I will probably go for the $1,000-$2,000 a month range and try to use Walmart, Amazon Payments and regular spending to avoid any fees.  If you buy $2,000 a month the math is multiplied by 10.  You will net $45 a month and 10,900 Ultimate Rewards points or 130,800 points a year and be paid $540 to get them.  A round trip economy flight to Israel will soon cost 85,000 points on United and 140,000 in Business.  Not too bad for a little extra work.

If you did 4K a month, you would be getting 261,600 points a year along with over $1,000, but it gets that much harder to dispose of your gift cards.

Caution: Keep in mind that Staples will shut this down for sure if they knew you could buy Visa Gift Cards with their gift cards so don't go crazy spreading this around.  If my blog was more popular I wouldn't have even mentioned it at all.  Hopefully it's both confusing and annoying enough that most people won't do it anyways.  


vos iz goshien said...

Wowow!!! Impressive. FYI you can cash out your visa gift cards at Costco or other stores that allow cash back with your purchases.

vos iz goshien said...

Went back to costco today to unload my gift cards. The cash back limit is $60 but the cashier are more than happy to split your purchase so you can do it twice (I only had 2 items- it might look shady doing it multiple times)

vos iz goshien said...

First of all- you can confirm the 1% back. It just comes up on your statement as a credit. I went to walmart today and loaded 1 gift card to my bluebird; they didn't ask for id or to see my debit card. Then I went to the next register and they asked for ID and to see the debit card and I said oh it's my wife's (bc it was bc I have the serve card) and walked away.

Unknown said...

Here's a link (courtesy of FlyerTalk) to apply for the Discover card and get $150 cashback after $750 min spend within 3 months:

I wish I would have done this, because it is only open to new customers, so I can't get it now.

Oren said...

Can you add the full link? Thanks

Unknown said...

Hopefully this link works:

Here's the source story at FlyerTalk:

Oren said...

It worked, Thanks! I will use it in any posts going forward.

Countdown to 40 said...

can anyone confirm the shopdiscover cash back as the terms for the 5% says not valid on gift certificates(among other things)

Oren said...

I can confirm it personally. I've done it many times and it works despite the T&C

KoolFatKat said...

How long does it take for Discover cashback to post to your account after the order is placed? How soon does it become payable after it has posted? Thanks!

Oren said...

@KoolFatKat - you will usually get an email from Discover within a few days of the order being shipped that you are getting extra cashback. It doesn't post until the next billing cycle and is immediately available after that.

It'sallaboutbeingHaley said...

How long until Staples blocks you from online orders? Or is that just a myth?

Oren said...

@It'sallaboutbeingHaley - It's happened to me before. I wasn't able to order $100 Visa gift cards anymore, though I was able to order $50 Visa gift cards. I moved and haven't had that problem since. They have called twice now to cancel orders, but I haven't been banned yet. I assume it's just a matter of time before I am banned, but who knows

JoeJoe said...

It says you must use your Discover card, but I guess you don't need to. There are other loyalty programs like this out there that allow legitimate stacking of cash back so maybe that's how this works.

Anonymous said...

Newbie here - 1st time into point/MS, and my first $400 staples gc purchase. They cancelled my online order to VGC - only 1 order and now my staples gc are zero balance. Have you had this happen? How long before they credit the funds back to Staples gc? How did you unload Staples gc?

Oren said...

I don't know how long it takes, but whenever my order was cancelled the money went back onto the gift card. Try again with one $200 gift card and see what happens.

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