Before you buy gift cards, check twice!

A few days ago we decided to shop for a new Roomba. Roomba’s are really cool robots that will hopefully save us time by constantly cleaning the floor of our house. The best deal we found was at JC Penney, for a little over $350. Instead of buying directly at the store where I would have gotten only 1 point per dollar, I headed over to a nearby Office Max which stocked JC Penney gift cards, and I bought 4 of them (three $100 cards and one for $50), adding up to my expected $350 purchase. I paid with my Chase Ink Plus card, which earns 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent at office supply stores, so I earned a total of 1,750 Ultimate Rewards points.

I then went home and went through the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal, which at the time was paying out 7 points per dollar spent at JC Penney, plus a 10% off coupon, and went to pay with the gift cards. By doing this additional step I earned approximately another 2,450 Ultimate Reward points, which brought my total earned to a cool 12 points per dollar, or 4,200 points, instead of the normal 350 points I would have earned at the store.


I only ran into one problem. After I was getting ready to pay, I got an error message saying I would only be able to use a maximum of two gift cards per order. Oops….

Normally I would have gotten around this by placing two different orders, but this was a single product, so I couldn’t split it. Ultimately, I had to end up using two $100 gift cards and pay the $150 balance with a credit card, leaving me stuck with $150 worth of JC Penney cards that I’d rather not have. It was an oversight that shouldn’t have happened, and in retrospect I should have tried to “fake-buy” the product to test out the website before I actually committed to it.

In the end we still earned the 4,200 points, but we will now have some friends and family who will receive some JC Penney birthday gifts in the next two months while we clear out the remaining gift cards. I suppose it’s a win-win after all!

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2 Responses to Before you buy gift cards, check twice!

  1. David says:

    I just tried to do something similar but Office Depot and Staples would not let me use my credit card to purchase gift cards. Have you heard of this policy?

    • travelguys says:

      David, yes, people often report that this and that store hasn’t let them. It seems to be on a store by store basis, but all of the stores I have been to haven’t been an issue when using a credit card. Is it with ANY type of gift cards, or just “money” cards, like Visa, MC or Amex gift cards? I buy a lot of gas and home improvement cards and have never had any push back.

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