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Several TPG readers reported today that Office Depot will be pulling $500 American Express gift cards, which could be the end of a major points-earning portal for many.
For those who are unaware, the leverage here is that the Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards both offer 5 points per dollar spent on “office supplies.” Chase classifies anything purchased at office supply stores as office supplies. So if you buy a $500 Amex prepaid card that has a fee of $4.95, you earn 2,525 Ultimate Rewards points. The only fee you eat is the $4.95. Then you can use the card for your everyday expenses – you cannot load it onto the Amex Bluebird like you can with Vanilla Reloads, but you can still use Amex gift cards to purchase pretty much anything you could use a regular Amex credit card for.
So essentially, you can earn 5 Chase points for most of your spend if you purchase Amex Prepaid cards with Ink Bold. You don’t earn points when you use the Prepaid cards, but you earn them all on the front-end when purchasing them with an Ink Bold/Plus. This concept was famously blogged about by Frequent Miler last year as “The One Card to Rule Them All”; and you can check out my own series on prepaid and reloadable cards for which posts include Maximizing Prepaid and Reload Cards for Points and Miles, Maximizing Reload Cards for Points and Miles: Vanilla vs. Green Dot vs. PayPal vs. REloadit, Maximizing Prepaid / Reloadable and Reload Cards For Points And Miles – Choosing Which Credit Card To Use, Reloadable Strengths and Weaknesses and The Top 10 Ways to Maximize Miles and Points With Prepaid, Reloadable and Gift Cards.
However, it seems like they may be in the process of pulling them off the shelves nationwide, so you may want to schedule a visit to your closest store sooner than later. I’m not really shocked by this/ I’ve noticed that they’ve been scarce at New York City Office Depots for the past couple months and I was even told I could only purchase one a day at the Times Square location back in November.
Even if these cards disappear, there are still ways to leverage 5x points on office supplies. You can still buy many other gift cards at popular retailers at Office Depot, Staples, Office Max, etc. Even if you are in the market for electronics, you may want to price out buying them at an office supply store for the category bonus.
Remember, the 5x bonus is capped at $50,000 spent per year, but it is possible to get both the Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards – both come with lucrative 50,000 point bonuses after $5,000 spend within 3 months. The spend requirement used to be $10,000 and there are rumors it will be changed soon back to that level, but I haven’t gotten any confirmation either way. I have both Bold and Plus as well as the old Ink Bold that was discontinued last year and they are an integral part of my ability to generate huge amounts of Ultimate Rewards points, which I then redeem mostly through United for premium Star Alliance awards, as well as Hyatt where 22,000 points gets an award night at the top Park Hyatts around the world (often over 4 cents per point in value).
Don’t Abuse the Benefit
As always, be reasonable with how you take advantage the perks of your credit cards. If Chase feels like you are gaming the system, they can shut down your account, which would hinder your long-term ability to take advantage of credit cards since Chase offers so many great products. There is no set limit as to what would constitute getting shut down and reports of this happening are few and far between, but I still recommend being a good customer to Chase and using your card for other purchases as well.
Report Your Experiences
Has your local Office Depot pulled Amex prepaid cards off the shelf recently? Report your experiences below and help fellow readers out by keeping track of where they are or aren’t available.