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Over the weekend, the travel hacking community was all abuzz with the news that variable load cards (that can be loaded with up to $500) were now for sale at Office Max stores. It’s been covered by Miles to Memories, Frequent Miler and others.
Brief intro to Manufactured Spending
If you’re not familiar with Manufactured Spending (MS), I like to describe it as “the art of spending money without spending money”. One avenue that people use is to buy Visa or Mastercard gift cards with a credit card (for the points), then use those debit cards either to load something like Bluebird / Serve /
Redbird, and then use that to either mail themselves a check or even directly pay the credit card bill.
I have done a little bit of MS, mostly to meet minimum spends on credit cards, but I know that there are people for whom Manufactured Spending is a full-time job.
My experiences buying $500 Mastercards at Office Max
I wanted to wait to post on this until I could confirm it myself. Annoyingly, I have 2 Office Depots that are more convenient than my nearest Office Max. But last night, I was in the area of an Office Max, so I stopped by to see what they had.
Here was the gift card rack at my local Office Max
You can see plenty of the variable load Mastercard cards, but I could not find any variable load Visas (and I didn’t even see a slot for them, but it’s possible that I just missed it).
I have heard different stories about whether or not there is a limit on these cards (some suggesting 4 cards or $2000 as a limit, and others suggesting no limit, and/or cashiers allowing you to do multiple transactions). I just bought 2 cards, and they worked fine when I paid with my Chase Ink card (the cashier did have to get a manager’s override)
My total at the register was $1,011.90, but I have $1000 in Mastercard cards. So for a net cost of $11.90, I will get 5,055 Chase Ultimate Rewards, which I value somewhere around $100.
Mastercard or Visa?
As you can see from my gift card rack, my Office Max only had Mastercards. The Mastercards are issued by US Bank, and the PIN should be in the packaging. These can be loaded at Walmart – at kiosks they work just fine, but if you do it at a register, you need to practice your “magic fingers” on the Change Tender button.
If you have Visas, those are better because they work easier to load at Walmart AND for some reason they have been only ringing up with a $3.95 fee (instead of $5.95)
Where to unload these cards
The tricky part now is figuring out where to unload these cards. My wife and I used to have 2 Redbird cards, but with the recent changes to Target Red Card debit card loading, that is no longer an option. We are transferring our Red Cards (back) to Serve, so that’s probably what we’ll do. I’ve also had pretty good success locally buying money orders at grocery stores using prepaid debit cards, so that will be my backup plan.
Have you looked for $500 cards at Office Max where you live? Leave a comment with your location and what you found