Office Depot has been a personal favorite for many miles enthusiasts because of the ability to purchase Vanilla Reload cards. These Vanilla Reload cards are essentially digital cash cards that you can use to fund your American Express Prepaid Card–and now the American Express Bluebird Card.
The real advantage was when you leveraged it in conjunction with a Chase Ink credit card or charge card (Ink Bold or Ink Plus), which gave you a bonus of 5 points per dollar spent at office supply stores like Office Depot. That meant that if you purchased $2,000 worth of Vanilla Reloads monthly, you would be earning 10,000 points at the cost of only $4.95 (the fee per card) x 4 cards (max $500 value per card). Meaning you would only be hit with less than $20 in fees in exchange for 10,000 points (which transfer on a 1:1 ratio with most major airlines and hotel programs). It was a gold mine that as miles enthusiasts, we hoped would never stop.
Unfortunately this weekend has marked dark days ahead for those of us who value the Vanilla Reload cards, as Office Depot has reportedly decided to stop carrying Vanilla Reload cards. Now, these reports comes from fellow miles enthusiasts on FlyerTalk and the blogging community. Reports also have been made that some local Office Depots still have these products on stock. But the general consensus is that they won’t be lasting long.
Now, even though the Vanilla Reload gold mine looks like it’ll be running dry, there are still many ways to earn 5x points from your Chase Ink card.
- Prepaid gift cards. Office Depot, Office Max, and Staples all still carry regular prepaid gift cards and prepaid cards. Sure, there’s more fees attached and you can’t use it to reload the now coveted AMEX Bluebird card, but you can still be creative with how to spend. And it’s still a 5x option. $500 is most likely the highest amount you can purchase.
- Get them at CVS. CVS is starting to carry vanilla reloads. That means CVS is now a great option buy vanilla reloads *TO* hit minimum spending requirements for new credit cards that you might have a sign-up promotion for. (So for you new Ink cardholders, CVS might be where you want to just hit that $5k or $10k spend limit.) You may not get 5x points this way for the purchases, but it’s still a great way to hit that limit to score those bonus miles without costing you much. You can also use the gift cards you buy at Staples, etc. to buy the Vanilla Reload cards from CVS. You will get hit with double the fees, but this gives you much more flexibility with your money than having to carry around a bunch of $500 gift cards.
- Mail-in Rebates & Free After Rebate (FAR) items. With black friday approaching, it is definitely the right time to start saving up some extra spending cash that you don’t need to see for four months or more. Why? Because there will be lots of opportunities to buy items (mostly software) that will be free after rebate. These opportunities at office supply stores will score you the 5x points, and essentially cost you nothing (you pay for tax) in the long run. You just need to be ok with the money not coming back to you till a few months later.
- Gift cards for Gas & Food. There are still MANY, MANY different options for gift cards that are available at office supply stores, which can be purchased often without any additional fees! For example, I have been buying the Shell Gift Cards available at Staples with my Ink card, and then using the iPhone App “Gas Buddy” to find the cheapest Shell station in my area. I’ve found that it’s usually pretty close to Costco price, but in the long run, I’m saving much more money because of the 5x points I score. There are also gift cards to a lot of other places including Subway, Panera, Groupon, and even Amazon. (STOCK UP ON AMAZON CARDS FOR BLACK FRIDAY!)
- Amazon Gift Cards. In case you didn’t read the previous bullet point, STOCK UP ON AMAZON GIFT CARDS from Staples/OM/OD in preparation for Black Friday for the 5x points! Even if you aren’t planning on participating in Black Friday, this is a great option if you are like me and treat Amazon gift cards as cash. (You can buy virtually anything on Amazon, and it’s usually at a low, if not lowest, price.)
Speaking of Black Friday–it’s about time that we start focusing a little bit more planning attention on it, since it’s almost around the corner. Expect to see some of my game plan posts, as more advertisements are released. If you’re looking for Black Friday ads, many can be found on sites such as bfads.net and Slickdeals.
If you are wondering what the hype about Black Friday is, then just know that it’s an excellent time to purchase items at incredibly low deals. Even if you aren’t personally looking to buy anything for yourself, it’s a great opportunity to buy for friends and family while using your miles-earning credit card. Many deals are even great enough that you can just buy them and resell them on Craigslist or Ebay to make an additional profit, while still racking in the miles. Cheers and happy Monday!