Staples Rewards, Gift Cards & Coupons
Perhaps you have heard by now, but sometime late last night Staples decided to have a sale on $200 Visa gift cards. (Now out of stock.) I actually went to bed around 10pm and almost missed the sale. Somehow I awoke around 3am and checked my phone to see it. I then quickly purchased a few cards and went back to bed.
If you didn’t see the sale, it was simple. $200 Visa gift cards normally cost $206.95 at Staples online. Yesterday and this morning they were offering $10 off of that price with a limit of 3 discounts per order. If you used a Chase Ink card the math looked like this:
- Cost of 3 cards: $590.85
- UR Points earned: 2,954.25
- Profit: $9.15
That is nice, since you could literally buy these cards at 3am while in bed. There is one important consideration to make with deals like this though.
Staples Rewards Calculations
As I reported earlier this year, Staples sees deal like these as negative spend. For example, in order to reach their “Plus” level, you must spend at least $500 per year. For “Premier” that number jumps up to $1,000. I recommend at least reaching plus, since that doubles the number of ink cartridges you can recycle per month from 10 to 20.
So when calculating spend, Staples adds up the totals of your purchases and puts you into a tier. Their old website was sort of terrible, but they have now made it easier to see all of your spend. Well almost all of your spend.
Staples keeps track of another secret number relating to coupons and gift cards. You see, Staples maintains that you can never use Rewards and/or coupons on gift cards. As you saw with last night’s sale, sometimes this happens and is completely legitimate. Well, that may be the case, but that coupon counts against your spend even though it won’t show online.
Well the $206.95 purchase fee does not qualify for rewards. So that is the $0 level of spend. Then you used a $10 coupon. Now in their eyes you are at -$10 in spend. So last nights deal with a maximum of 3 cards was actually a -$30 in spend for Staples Rewards. You could try to leave your number off of the order in the future, but that generally doesn’t work because they track by address.
Using Rewards for Visas
A little birdie has told me some rewards certificates can be used to purchase Visa gift cards online. This doesn’t always work, but even if your rewards can be used in this way, I don’t recommend it. Here is why:
- Those rewards will also count as negative spend. Using a $50 rewards towards a Visa gift card amounts to a negative $50 in spend.
- Staples will crack down. This is definitely against their policy and if they catch you doing it, then you risk having your entire account shut down. Not worth it in my opinion. (Read here to find out my experience with being scolded by them.)
Be proactive and keep track of the dollar amount in coupons you use towards gift cards. If you are using a coupon for gift cards in-store, then don’t use your rewards number. If purchasing online, then you probably can’t avoid the negative spend, so keep it in mind when making your final spend calculations. Don’t find yourself in the position I was in earlier this year when I thought I was Premier, but hadn’t even qualified for Plus because of coupons.