June 26, 2012
OfficeMax, Office Depot, Staples…. Not only do some of the names sound the same, but the stores look the same and carry similar products. Despite these similarities, the points and miles schemes available at each store vary dramatically. So, to help clarify the differences, here is a roundup of what to look for in each store:
- FAR deals: Every now and then Staples offers Free After Rebate (FAR) downloadable software with Easy Rebates. I don’t care for mail-in rebates due to the hassle involved, but Easy Rebates are different: you make your purchase online, fill out a small rebate form online, and wait for your rebate check. Why do we care? FAR deals can be a great way to increase credit card spend, get additional points through an online shopping mall, and get all of your money back. It’s been a while since we’ve seen good FAR deals, but I’m hoping they’ll make a comeback in August for back to school promotions. I’ll cover these in depth once they return.
- Gift cards online: Staples is one of very few merchants that sell a variety of gift cards online. For example, through Staples.com you can buy Marriott, Southwest, Starbucks, and many other gift cards with no fee and no shipping charges. Start at TopCashBackor uPromise for additional cash back, and get 5X points by using your Ink Bold.
- Coupons: Staples occasionally issues valuable coupons that work on almost all purchases (even when the T&C states otherwise). See, for example, “Staples $15 off any $100 gift card.” You can often buy coupons like these inexpensively online if you’re not lucky enough to get one directly from Staples.
- $500 bank cards: When buying Visa, Mastercard, or American Express gift cards you are normally charged a hefty fee on top of the card’s value. Typically, for example, a $100 gift card will cost about $106. That’s a very wasteful 6% loss. Even with the Chase Ink Bold’s 5X office supply bonus, it’s not a good deal. Office Depot, though, sells Visa and American Express cards that can be loaded up to $500 with a small $4.95 fee. As long as you load the card at the register with the full $500, your cost is just 1%. In that case, the office supply 5X benefit of the Ink Bold far outweighs the cost.
- Vanilla Reload cards: You won’t find these (yet) at Staples or OfficeMax. These are money packs that can be loaded up to $500 with a $3.95 fee. Use these to load up certain permanent reloadable cards (American Express Prepaid, NetSpend, Mio, etc…). Again, the Chase Ink’s 5X bonus is key to making this a big win. See “One card to rule them all” for more information.
- OPEN Savings: American Express business credit cards come with a perk called OPEN Savings. At certain merchants, American Express automatically gives you a statement credit rebate when you use your business Amex. Until recently, they gave 5% back for all OfficeMax purchases of $100 or more. At that time, one of my favorite tricks was to go to OfficeMax to buy high value gift cards (Amazon.com, EBay, gas, etc.) using one of my Amex business cards (such as the Delta Platinum card I wrote about yesterday). That way, I saved 5% plusI increased spend on my card. Recently, though, Amex changed the terms of the OfficeMax rebate…Now the rebate is available only online through OfficeMax.com (which does not sell gift cards other than their own). However, if you plan to shop at OfficeMax.com, this is still a great deal. The new rules state that you earn 5% back on purchases up to $250, and 10% back on purchases over $250. Combine this with an online portal (such as Ultimate Rewards which is currently 5X for Ink Bold holders, or ShopAtHome which gives 6% cash back) and you can really do well!
- In-store gift card purchases: All three of these big box office supply stores have gift card racks in which they sell gift cards to other merchants. If you have a Chase Ink card, use it to buy gift cards for places you plan to shop anyway and you’ll earn 5X for these purchases.
Do you know of other office supply tricks not listed here? Or, do you know of unexpected merchants that Chase codes as Office Supply stores for 5X with the Ink Bold? Comment below
Related posts and links
- Is Staples’ gift card gravy train coming to an end?
- One card to rule them all
- What’s my X?
- Open SAVINGS