My Week in Manufactured Spending: OfficeMax Makes a Comeback

Since the demise of Redbird, it has been pretty quiet around here on the manufactured spending front – until Saturday night, when Karyn shared a great find with us: OfficeMax is stocking $500 Visa gift cards and you can buy them with a credit card. I’ve since had one person tell me he was also able to buy MasterCard gift cards with a credit card as well, though initial reports stated otherwise. 

$500 Visa gift cards are back at OfficeMax!

$500 Visa gift cards are back at OfficeMax!

I was attending the Chicago Seminars when all of this happened and I realized I didn’t bring my Chase Ink Plus card with me. When I finally got home on Sunday after two missed flights, I realized my Ink Plus was missing. So now I’m waiting for a new one to arrive before I can get in on this OfficeMax deal, which I guess some people would say is karma for “killing” this deal (or slowly choking the life out of). In any case, this is a great manufactured spending opportunity if you can access it. Hopefully I’ll have some positive feedback to share with you by next week’s installment.

The great thing about the $500 Visa gift cards at OfficeMax isn’t just the 5x points earned with credit cards like the Chase Ink Plus card, but many have reported that the fee was reduced to $3.95 per card at check-out. Basically, we got ourselves a throwback from the Vanilla Reload days, so it threw me off when the news got a lukewarm reaction. Even Rick seemed unfazed: “Yeah, but where do I find an OfficeMax? Maybe I can stop by one on my way to visit Howie…the limit is just $2,000 per day?” Basically, I got the same reaction I would have received if I’d said, “You can earn 1 mile per $1 by charging expenses to your mile-earning credit card.” I do hope this lasts through the week so I can stock up. And if it doesn’t? The sky won’t fall and we won’t be attacked by flesh eating zombies, so let’s put any plans for a panic attack on the back burner for now.

In other, non-epic manufactured spending news, I visited my local Safeway store last night, which has had a cash-only policy on Visa gift card purchases for quite a while. There was that one time when a cashier told me variable load gift cards were ok for credit card purchases, but then a manager got involved during the override process and cancelled the transaction. When this happened repeatedly, I gave up. However, today I got rung up by an assistant manager. Maybe it was a conversation I had with @gbplesh at the Chicago Seminars that inspired me, but I decided to try again. 

I showed the assistant manager the Visa gift card, which was hanging above the candy rack, and asked if I could pay for it with a credit card. He said yes and I decided to purchase two of them for $500 each. As far as I could tell, there was no override involved when he processed the transaction. He did ask me before ripping the tabs off the back to see my card and ID and after a slightly long inspection, he handed both back and finished up the transaction. In the past, I would always go to the Safeway in the next town over to buy Visa gift cards, so this cuts a significant amount of time out of my ms route.

I think I’ll keep coming back to this store at night, when the lines are short (or nonexistent) and the cashiers are more mellow. While lots of credit cards offer bonus points on grocery spending, I’m going to use my Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard for ms at grocery stores for now. I’ve found great value in Arrival Miles and since I’m earning 2.05 miles per $1 spent, that’s a good incentive to channel that spend to the Barclay Arrival Plus card until another gift card source opens up. That’s when I’ll allocate my Safeway spending to a credit card that earns bonus points at grocery stores. 

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. I have two Office Max stores near me. I checked one last night and no $500 gift cards =( I’m going to have to wait to check the other until I get back from my trip!

  2. I can charge gift/debit cards in any grocery store and in malls. I can only get refunded by prepaying utilities, etc. No place in Dallas, TX will sell money orders with loaded debit/PIN cards.

    • Jerry…what’s the story Jerry….you obviously have not been to Hong Kong Market at 9780 Walnut st. Dallas Texas please do not go crazy over there and ruin it for all of us who MS our Mo’s there. Try the Egg Foo Young at the take-out section. Delish;

      • Tex-Are you sure they will sell MOs for debit/PIN cards? If so, what is their max? I never go crazy when satisfying min spend for sign up bonuses. $2,000 is my chicken out max. Galleria desk sells cards of $250 max for $2 each. Max $1,000 per transaction. Thank you very much.

      • Tex A. I just went to Hong Kong Market Place business counter. 1. They do not sell money orders at all. 2. I inquired at each (all Vietnamese) take out vendor. None had even heard of egg foo young.

      • Ignore Jerry. He’s obviously misleading people to think money orders are dead. Shame on you Jerry.

        • I went to Hong Kong Market and they don’t sell money orders at all. No egg foo young either.

        • Martha-If you would only READ. I said MOs are dead in Dallas, Texas area—-not everywhere.

  3. Has anybody tried to load PIN enabled Visa/Master Gift Card at any Walmart Neighborhood Market? Do they have KATE like the regular Walmart and if their cashier register has authority to process BlueBird/Server Reload? Thanks.

    • The WM Neighborhood Markets I’ve been to don’t have a kiosk (in fact, all the Walmart stores in my area have done away with KATE). A year ago when I still had a Bluebird, you could load it at the checkout line.

  4. The $500 Mastercard gift card is issued by US bank national association. Anyone know if they work loading serve?

    • And have you loaded using mcgc (not vgc) was reading on travelcodex that mcgc from us bank na haa problems loading. Anyone have mcgc datapoint?

  5. careful with arrival. i have recently had them shut down both my wife and I account with considerable amount of award balance forfeited. I called them but was given crappy answer that letter should arrive, and when did all said was negative public info no credit report was pulled to affect this closure. ( i have credit score of 775 never late or anything) so they were just to brush me off…In the end I filed complain both to bbb and cfpb and you gotta love the gov agencies , they in return credit me all the pts as travel redemption into cash..yet account is still closed..which is fine by me at this point. My ms was pretty hard on my own barclay arrival about 20k a month never cycle my cl limit., however my wife use was only daily general spending no more than 2 k a month..so, go figure..

    • Thanks for sharing, JS. It’s a good thing you at least got your points back in some way. I’m definitely going to be more careful with my Arrival spending going forward.

  6. Hi Ariana. I’ve been calling around Office Max locations in Virginia — and getting some “interesting” answers. Some say they only have the fixed value cards, but as of yesterday, I had one location assure me that yes, they’d received a new shipment of the Visa and MC variable loads…. but they hadn’t as yet figured out how to load them into their sales systems. Being told it may be several days to a week before they have them for sale. Apparently I was hardly the only person to have been calling about these cards. 🙂

    ps, jeers to those curmudgeons out there who seem determined to slam down “bloggers” for allegedly hyping a deal that they (perhaps prematurely) dismiss as merely local. We shall see.

      • Driving all the way to an Office Max costs more in time and fuel than buying at grocery stores.

          • Obviously. If they were the same distance, I wouldn’t have written anything.
            An Office Max is far from me and we go to nearby grocery stores all the time.

    • In Bay Area, it’s very tough to load bluebird or Serve. Does Walmart still let any customer load their BlueBird/Serve with PIN enabled VGC/MGC at cash register or Money Center? I can’t find any KATE here in Bay Area.

  7. I called OD yesterday and confirmed they had $500 variable vanillas and could use credit.

    Show up and manager checks me out. Hardcoded against credit! *facepalm*

    As some people noted, I seem to recall some OD stocking $500s previously but could never pay with credit.

  8. The single Office Max’s in my area (2 others are OD) does not allow the purchase of variable load VGCs with a credit card. Cash only. When I called the woman knew exactly what I was talking about and she quickly said “Cash only”. Last week, when I called but they were out of them, they did accept cc’s, or at least that’s what another rep told me on the phone. I think a few people wiped them out and they simply changed the store rules to only allow cash. Bummer. So I’m sticking to $300 VGCs at staples.com. Not as great of a deal, but still good and I don’t have to leave my house to purchase them.

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