UPDATE: Many people on FlyerTalk are reporting this deal as dead. Buy at your own risk!
It’s out there now, so I don’t mind posting this. Shortly after Chase and Office Depot changed the rules for Visas and Vanilla Reloads, another opportunity has presented itself. You can buy a fee-free Home Improvement Gift Card from Office Depot for $500 (2,500 points), take it to WalMart, and load it to a Bluebird card using any PIN you type in (or alternatively buy a Money Order for $.70), similar to the way we use Vanilla Visa gift cards. It’s free points. Lots and lots of free points. All credit for this find goes to Points to Paradise. Keep up to date with new developments on the FlyerTalk thread with the most subtle thread title ever.
Yesterday I hinted a small warning about this particular scheme. It’s more risky than ones in the past because the HIGC is not a cash equivalent. It is a merchant gift card. Yes, it can be used at multiple merchants (a huge list that’s terrible to search), but if something goes wrong and the issuer disables PINs or WalMart stops allowing their use, you may be stuck with a lot of gift cards that can be hard to liquidate. I had a hiccup on my try with this yesterday. Edit: And once again today. I’m officially going to stop trying this.
There are reports of “new” vs. “old” HIGCs, where the “new” ones are the ones that are PIN-enabled. No definitive word yet on if this is true and how to tell new from old. If the worst should happen, it won’t be the worst thing ever – spending money at home improvement stores is relatively easy for many people. But it’s definitely not like having a Visa or MasterCard either. Just be careful with how much you risk.
I really don’t want you to be stuck with a ton of HIGCs that you’re not going to use, so here’s an easy way to test it: Load just $20 on it the first time, take it to Walmart, and see if it works. If it doesn’t, THEN STOP THERE. If it works, feel free to go back buy the entire lot of gift cards. I recommend buying in small batches as you work through this.
Warnings aside, I want to point out that the HIGC is also sold at good old CVS. That means that if you’ve either maxed out your Chase Ink cards or you find that your local Office Depot has already run out, head to a CVS and earn points there. It’s only 1x points, but don’t complain…they’re still free.
And if you haven’t yet heard, many CVSs now have a monstrous $5K daily limit on gift card purchases. Yup…they actually increased the daily limit at many stores (cashiers should have a memo saying so). If you have a store nearby that allows this, then feel free to mix and match your Vanilla Reloads with the HIGCs.
If you’re curious about how to make money, a cash back card like the Barclay Arrival card would earn $11 in travel back with each $500 HIGC purchase. Other “double cash back” cards work in much the same way. I personally like earning Starwood points for the flexibility, but you should have your own strategy in place to get what you want out of your points.
I’m using this opportunity to ensure my 4 night stay in Tokyo next month is going to be at the Park Hyatt!
And btw, I mentioned this deal on the Travel Summary Facebook page two nights ago and discussed it on Twitter all day yesterday. Feel free to follow me on either for a heads up on the next deal!