A reader who shall remain nameless shared some surprising information from a recent focus group: Chase is considering eliminating the current ability to earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent at office supply stores with its popular Ink Bold and Ink Plus business cards.
This would significantly impair some people’s ability to earn points by purchasing a variety of gift cards at Office Depot or Staples. For example, it’s currently possible to buy a $200 Visa gift card at Office Depot with a $6.95 activation fee and then drain the funds either with Amazon Payments (free) or a money order (about 75 cents). Despite the high fees, that’s a good price for earning 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred to other programs like United MileagePlus or Hyatt Gold Passport. And if you buy a merchant gift card for a restaurant, airline, or other store, then there is often no fee at all.
This is not as big a problem as it could be. At one time Vanilla Reloads could still be purchased with a credit card at Office Depot, but that has long since ended. It is still disappointing to see yet another manufactured spend opportunity threatened with extinction.
Chase would replace the current bonus with a menu of category bonuses that customers can choose from depending on their needs. The FlexPerks Rewards card and some other credit cards already offer a feature like this. For example, you may get bonus points on the category in which you spend the most each month, or you may be able to choose a different category each month based on your expected expenses. Chase already has rotating categories (the customer has no control of these) with its no-fee Freedom credit card.
I don’t have any screenshots of this proposed change, but I do have other images that lead me to believe this information is from a legitimate focus group. I would certainly think again about paying the annual fee on my Ink Bold card if this change came to pass. We’ll have to wait and see what Chase offers in its place.