About a month ago Staples started selling $200 Visa gift cards online. With a fee of $6.95, it was possible to make money on the purchase of these cards since cash back portals were paying 5% back. In theory buying a $200 gift card for $206.95 would generate a $3.40 profit after the $10.35 cash back. This was amazing.
Then The Bad News Came
Unfortunately on May 12 Frequent Miler and others shared feedback they had received from readers, that Staples would no longer pay cash back through portals starting on that day. I carefully watched as some of the portals changed their terms and conditions, while others left them alone.
Over the past couple of weeks I have placed a few test orders through two of the portals that didn’t change their language to see if any cash back would be given. After all, I used my Chase Ink card which earns 5x points plus 1% cashback through Visa Savings Edge, so I am still coming out way ahead.
The first portal I tried was Upromise. When this deal started, I successfully placed three orders through Upromise and the pending cash back showed up for all of them. I noticed after May 12 that the terms and conditions did not change and do not exclude gift cards. Unfortunately, none of the cash back for my two orders placed after May 12 has posted, so I feel this deal is dead.
Upromise requires you to wait 8 weeks before contacting them to research a cash back deal. While I don’t expect anything to come of it, I will have them research my orders when the 8 week period is up, especially since their terms & conditions only prevent cash back being paid on items bought in bulk for the purpose of resale. I definitely did not resell anything, so I shouldn’t be excluded on that basis. With that said, I am not holding my breath.
The second portal I checked was Discover. Many people had reported having success with Discover cash back and gift cards at Staples before May 12. The language at Discover always prohibited the purchase of “gift certificates”, but they were paying out anyway. After May 12, the same language remained, however no cash back has posted for either of my two orders through them.
The New Math Using A Chase Ink Visa Card
Unfortunately I do believe that the portal cash back part of the deal is dead. While it was nice to be able to earn a pure profit from buying gift cards, there is no way that it could have lasted forever given the economics. Buying these $200 Visa cards is still a good deal if you have a Chase Ink Visa card though. Lets look at the math.
Points Earned: 1035
Cash Back Earned From Visa Savings Edge: $2.07
Final Cost: $204.88
Cost per point: $4.88/1035 = $.0047
Essentially this deal allows for the purchase of Ultimate Rewards points at less than half a cent each. I personally value them at around two cents each and they can be redeemed for cash at one cent making this a great deal still. (Redeeming for cash back isn’t generally the best use of these points.)
While this math doesn’t work for other cards, it may still make sense to purchase Visa gift cards at Staples with the Chase Ink card. (You can also pay yourself back with some of the points and earn 2.74 fee free points per dollar spent as outlined in Frequent Miler’s above mentioned post.)
Good things never last forever and in the case of this hobby, often times don’t last very long. We knew the economics of Staples paying cash back through portals wasn’t going to last, especially with the widespread coverage that this deal received.
In the end, if you have a Chase Ink Visa card then this deal is still worth pursuing if you are interested in accumulating Ultimate Rewards points. While Upromise & Discover haven’t changed their terms, they clearly are not paying out on these purchases and I don’t foresee winning any challenges with them.
What has your experience been? Have you received cash back from a portal after May 12 on the purchase of Visa gift cards from Staples online? Please let me know in the comments!
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