Looks Like More Bad Points News at Office Depot

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It was a bad day in the miles and points world when Office Depot abruptly stopped selling Vanilla Reload cards.  Looks like this weekend is shaping up to be another bad one as there seems to be truth to the rumor that Office Depot is going to stop carrying gift cards with a variable amount.  This was first reported on this Flyertalk thread.  Of course I bee-lined to my own Office Depot this morning to check out the situation, and while the store still had plenty of variable gift cards available, the register did ask for a manager override for the first time in my gift card buying experience (and all I bought was $500 worth).

Several folks have reported seeing a memo that Office Depot was no longer going to carry them because of the costs associated with the product.  I prefer to fly under the radar at my local stores, so didn’t ask to talk to a manager about whether or not they had received a memo, but the manager is the one who helped me check out and he didn’t mention anything regarding the cards being pulled ASAP.  Of course, just because he didn’t mention it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

If you don’t know why this is at all relevant to miles and points, then at this point I recommend not worrying about it now since it seems to be on the way out…at least with the cards on which you can load up to $500.  I’ll still be interested to see what they carry after that date.  The FT thread says that February 4th is the deadline for the cards to be pulled, so assuming that is true, you may want to make one last trip ASAP if gift cards are your thing.

This is a bummer, no question, but we’ll see how it shakes out and then adjust as needed.  What does the situation look like at your local OD?

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    • avidtraveler, they hadn’t pulled anything at my local store yet, so I don’t know (also not sure if my store has $500 cards?).

  1. 1 ATL store manager said memo came from her DM rather than corporate and began emptying the variable card rack only after I tried unsuccessfully to buy the Amex prepaids. She had a list of Skus printed out to pull off rack. “Replacement” products arriving within a week, but no product specific details available. OD 1 mile up the road didn’t get or read the memo- had plenty in stock, although required new manager “override” feature. Required, per store manager, “for all prepaids over $100”

  2. Confirmed, OD is in the process of pulling them. Found a few a snapped them up. Store manager was very nervous, previous manager was fired for selling gift cards when when he wasn’t supposed to. People are buying them, then reversing the transaction later in the same day.
    Manager called the district manager for approval. District manager was unsure what was going on and was going to check his email tomorrow (Sunday). He approved the sale when I presented ID at start of transaction. Was nice while it lasted.

  3. Great to hear if this means we will no longer have to endure the seemingly never-ending Chase Ink Bold CC pumping by bloggers!!!! 🙂

  4. @Josh,

    Do the math on $4.95 charge for a $50 card earning 250 points worth $2.50-$5.00. OD is the only place that sells $500 cards.

  5. @Glenn,
    I will have to check out the local places tomorrow. I know for sure I’ve purchased $200 cards at Staples in the past – haven’t looked for the variable ones yet.

  6. I noticed it earlier this week. Was able to get a bunch of oVDs with plenty left. Went back the next day and none were there. Went to another OD. It was sold out too. Went to the third one, no oVDs but still had oV gift cards so I grabbed a dozen left. Was hoping it was just the end of the month and they will be restocking soon. I did see another oV gift card with $1 higher load fee so I thought that maybe they have pulled the “old” cards to start charging more.

    Sounds like I may need to make another trip in the morning to snap up whatever AmEx cards are left as well.

    Too bad as I was just in another city that has twice the number of ODs and decided not to bother with it.

    @gregorygrady: +1 🙂

  7. I purchased one two weeks ago and it required a manger override. They sold it to us without asking for an ID. We will see what happens as this store still had 20 beans sitting on the rack. I tried to purchase the beans but the register said invalid when it was scanned.

  8. Well there will still be ways to get some points with the Ink cards at OD and others with regular gift card purchases for stores and businesses you will shop at eventually anyway,or will use as gifts to people, but, yes, the ease and amounts from doing it with the variable gift cards up to $500 was nice indeed and will be missed if this is all true.

  9. Let’s also hope certain bloggers don’t discover alternative reload products and plaster photos all over the internet of their wife holding a whole bundle of them, like a drug dealer posing with their coke and gun stash.
    ..
    Time to churn Carlson and Hilton points at 0.083 cents per point.

  10. Darn. I was in OD Saturday night at 8:50 pm (right before closing) and the gift cards were still up. I did not have my ID on me so I couldn’t buy any. I went back in Sunday morning right after open and they were already pulled. And I was going to do a big purchase to get me through for awhile. Oh well, I will just buy VR at CVS for a measly 1% until that goes away :). Still good with Bluebird for car payments, other thing that cannot be charged to a cc, etc. This was a little too good to be true anyway.

  11. Is anyone really surprised about this. Stores that allowed CC purchases on these prepaid cards were LOSING MONEY with each transaction! Most businesses aren’t in business to lose money!

    A $500 load garners a $4.95 fee at the highest. At best, the store gets about $2.50 of that fee. A $500 credit card transaction costs the store between $7-$12 for merchant transaction fees with the CC companies. Even if they got the full load fee, the store still loses!

    I say, it’s about time the stores stopped the madness!

  12. HockeyCoachBen — they lose money on the $200 cards as well, and the merchant gift cards which carry no fee. Who would bring $500 cash to buy a gift card?
    ..
    I just went to clean out my local OD store and that manager’s version of the story is it’s all about fraud. Btw, they let me buy those blue amex prepaids just fine, $4k worth. That’s all they had left.

  13. Am I the only one who thinks this is unethical. If the policy changed, live with it. If you want to know if the policy changed, ask the manager. Hoping to take advantage of a manager or a clerk, without concern for the potential consequences, is unethical in my book. Of course, these are my ethics though, you have your own.

  14. Visited my local store today. They had all the variable $$ cards pegs removed sitting on the base of the endcap. When I asked, the cashier said something about back end operational expenses. The manager said something about putting cash through a washing machine. Times they are a changin’…as always.

  15. Went to a different OD this morning, all the vanilla variables were pulled. They hadn’t bothered with the prepaid amex yet. Grabbed two and went to pay for them, kept the total price for eat at $499 with the fee (if it’s below 500, the transaction doesn’t require manager override). Used two different cards.

    As I was paying, the manager directed the employees to pull the prepaid amex’s. Used the restroom and they were all gone when I left.

    Clearly the computer will still ring them up; they are just manually pulling them. Will lay low and check the OD stores in a month, once the employees forget about this restriction. He key is keep transactions below $500 and the management won’t get involved.

    Will have fond memories of this:
    Postal Money Orders: Gone
    Mint: Gone
    Office Depot: Gone:
    CV*: Will last will be gone soon.

    It’s time to earn points & miles the old fashion way. . .credit card churning.

  16. At least one of the ODs in Tulsa has restocked. I almost emptied it out earlier in the week before this ‘memo’ went around so I stopped by today and was surprised to see about two dozen of oV gift cards with 4.95 fee, another half a dozen with 5.95 fee, and a bunch of AmEx with 5.95 fee. Grabbed six in two transactions, manager had to override each, didn’t say a word.

    So if anyone wants to head over to the exciting city of Tulsa, we can grab a margarita at the Cheddars across from OD 😉

  17. Why do people mainly talk about the variable vanillas? Is that any better than the prepaid AMEX cards? The fees here in So Cal are the same.. each costing $4.95 per load. And both can be used elsewhere. Vanilla reloads were pulled from my local OD.. but the Amex prepaid was fully stocked. I’m new to the game as of this past week (bummer! at least I was able to hit my minimum spend!).

  18. For the 1st time today my CVS in Philadelphia would not accept a credit card to purchase vanilla reloads (trying to meet minimum spend). She said her manager said not to accept them. Will try another CVS tomorrow.

  19. @Sharon amex $500 prepaid cost $5.95 and amex not accepted everywhere, my OD pulled vanilla variable, but has amex variable.

  20. @Adnan.. thanks for clarification 🙂 I guess Amex prepaid is cheaper here in So Cal. I’ve been loading $500 for $4.95 and then buying VR at CVS for $3.95. And you’re right.. Amex isn’t accepted at many places. Hopefully CVS will continue to allow cc for VR so i can unload my Amex prepaids 😛

  21. All four OD stores in my area have pulled the variable Vanilla VISA ($50-$500) cards per OD company memo. In one of the stores, found the last remaining four AMEX variable cards and got them for $500 each on my Bold MC. Required manager override. He said that mgr override required now on any gift card sales over $200. The register actually comes up with prompt and cashier cannot continue until mgr logs in with override. The staff at the ODs were “nice to suggest” that CVS and Walgreens carry these cards and I might want to try getting them there :-/ . I want my 5X points though. I had been using these VISAs to buy Vanilla Reloads at CVS. It’s been working since the CVS closest to me still sells VR’s and let’s you buy with Visa Gift Cards. Interesting though, I tried to buy VRs at CVS today with the $500 AMEX gift cards and the register prompted for ‘alternative tender required’. Would not take the AMEX $500 gift cards. Ugh!

  22. So what card is everyone going to use to buy VR directly from CVS while it lasts? I don’t have any minimum spend to meet right now so I am wondering if it is worth using any card to buy directly at CVS just for the spend points vs time and cost. I’m thinking I might use the Club Carlson card. I have enough airline miles and now I think I could use hotel more. Won’t be all that worth it but maybe depending on redemption.

  23. Went to my OD this morning in a panic and there were TONS of Amex variable cards. I got 5K worth – better to be safe than sorry!

  24. I went to OD on my lunch break. No variable Visa cards ($200 were the max) but still plenty of the blue amex prepaid versions. Loaded up $3K worth… it was great while it lasted.

  25. None of the OD, OM, or Staples in the Boulder area carry the variable gift cards. I’m about to try here in Tucson, though (along with the local CVS…)

  26. In LA area OD, no variable visa, but Amex up to $500. $4.95 charge. Got a couple. Now can I use the Amex gift card to buy Vanilla Reload at CVS?

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