One of my favorite ways to earn points and meet minimum spending thresholds is through the purchasing of gift cards. It gives a lot of flexibility with how you are able to use them (load to Bluebird, money orders, future spending, gifts, etc) and can earn bonuses from category bonuses. For someone that is not in the US a lot, it is really the best way for me to generate points (with the help of family in the US).
Background On Buying Gift Cards From Staples
Since I view Ultimate Rewards as my primary point program right now (because we use United miles for flights and Hyatt for hotels), I like to use my Chase Ink Plus and Bold card to buy Visa gift cards at Staples. The fees are high (for a $200 card, I pay a total of $206.95) but the amount of points I receive for doing so makes it worth it. Using a Chase Ink card at an office store gives me 5x points so I am earning 1,034 UR points for each card I purchase. That translates to me paying roughly .6 cents per point when I do it this way. Since my actual value is 2.1 cents per point, that is great for me!
Word on the value: there are many ways to value points but in this specific instance, I take the cost of the airplane tickets I would have had to purchase anyway, subtract the taxes from the award ticket, and then subtract the miles I would have earned on a paid ticket to get the value. Again, this will vary for everyone and certainly varies for me, even with Ultimate Reward points, but for this specific use, that is how I value those points.
Problems With Activation Codes
When you place an order with Staples for Visa gift cards, they are actually fulfilled by GiftCardMall. The way it works is that they send you the gift cards and then, in a separate envelope, they send you the activation codes. Without first activating those gift cards using the 4 digit activation code that applies to each card, you will be unable to use the value on those cards.
On a recent order (made to take advantage of the Amex Staples offer – $25 back on $100 purchase), I did not receive the activation codes. I kept bugging my family thinking that someone had misplaced it but they could not find it. It turns out that this has been a problem of late – the activation codes were not being sent. The only solution was to call in and give some personal information to get the codes (Shawn at Miles to Memories has a good write-up on that – here).
Activation Codes Being Sent Via E-Mail
In a nice turn of events from GiftCardMall, they have actually started sending me some of the missing codes via e-mail! I actually wish they would do this permanently as it is much easier to take care of them this way instead.
If you have also not been receiving your activation codes in the mail, make sure you check your e-mail to see if they have sent the codes to you! A good search term to use to find them would be Visa Gift Card Activation Codes. That should pull out the e-mail if you had missed it or it went to your junk/spam folder.
Inside the e-mail is an apology for not having sent out the codes and the last 4 digits of the card it applies to and that all-important activation code. Simple call 866-357-7391 with those numbers to get your card activated and ready to spend!