Chase Ink cards after Visa Savings Edge
This is a guest post by Free-Quent Flyer. I recently did a guest post on his site titled “Funding bank accounts with credit cards“. I’d recommend following him on Twitter and if you do manufactured spending I’d strongly recommend subscribing to his newsletter, it’s well worth the small price.
Chase Ink cards after Visa Savings Edge
For the last few years, Chase Ink cardholders have enjoyed a phenomenal opportunity. By registering Ink cards with Visa Savings Edge, it’s been possible to buy PIN-enabled Visa and MasterCard gift cards at Staples for just $4.88 per $200 gift card. Visa Savings Edge credits 1% of the value of all Staples purchases to your statement automatically, so each $206.95 purchase earns a $2.07 statement credit.
Since Visa gift cards at Staples are so easy to liquidate (just use the last four digits of the card number as the PIN for any debit purchase), this has been worth doing even if you value Ultimate Rewards points at just 1 cent each (the rate at which they can be redeemed for cash). That’s because the Chase Ink line of small business credit cards earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent at office supply stores; at a cost of $4.88, each $200 gift card purchase earns $10.24 in Ultimate Rewards points.
Staples leaves Visa Savings Edge on December 31, 2014
Recently folks noticed that Staples’ entry on the Visa Savings Edge website
indicates that their participation will end on December 31
of this year, raising the question: will PIN-enabled Visa gift cards still be worth buying at Staples in 2015?
Ink is still better than many alternatives
Using a 2% cash back credit card like the Citi Double Cash or Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express, or a 2.22% cash back card like the Barclaycard Arrival+ MasterCard, it’s relatively easy to earn a profit of at least 1% cash back on manufactured spending transactions by purchasing $500 gift cards with activation fees of $5 or less.
After the Visa Savings Edge discount at Staples ends, $200 Visa gift cards will cost a full $6.95 and earn $10.35 in cash back, for a profit of $3.40 per gift card instead of the current $5.36 per gift card. But since the Visa gift cards sold at Staples are 60% less than gift cards sold elsewhere ($200 versus $500), these purchases net a 1.7% cash profit!
To earn the same profit buying a $500 prepaid debit card with a 2% cash back credit card, the purchase fee would have to be just $1.50. While it’s not unheard of to buy gift cards with promotional prices that low, such opportunities are not typically available year-round.
You may find flexible Ultimate Rewards points more valuable than cash
The above analysis uses the cash value of Ultimate Rewards points, but depending on your travel needs, you may find the flexible Ultimate Rewards points earned by the Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards to be worth more than one cent each. They can be transferred to British Airways and redeemed for expensive short-haul flights, as long as low-level award availability exists on the operating carrier. They can be transferred to Southwest Airlines and redeemed for up to 1.69 cents each
on Wanna Get Away fares. Likewise Seth the Wandering Aramean recently showed that Hyatt Gold Passport points have an average value of 1.69 cents
on the stays his website’s users searched for.
Other office supply store opportunities
While the Staples Visa gift card opportunity is available year round, there are other seasonal office supply store opportunities like the current Office Max discount
of $20 off every purchase of $300 in Visa or MasterCard gift cards, the value of which can be maximized by making the purchase with a credit card that bonuses office supply store transactions. These periodic opportunities increase the likelihood you’ll recoup the $95 annual fee charged by Chase’s premium Ink products.
While there’s been plenty of moaning about Staples’ apparent withdrawal from the Visa Savings Edge program, gift card purchases at office supply stores still offer outsized value compared to many other manufactured techniques we use without complaint. Personally, I’ll continue to buy PIN-enabled gift cards until the value proposition changes substantially for the worse.