My Car Runs on Points – Does Yours?

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Yesterday was a big day in my house, my much anticipated New Ink Bold Business card arrived in the mail!  I have wanted this card since it came out in November of last year.  I have drooled over the 5x point categories of office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services.  In fact, despite how insanely crazy tomorrow will be getting ready to head out of town to go to the Freddies and the Frequent Traveler University, it is at the top of my “to do” list to move some of our recurring bills in those bonus categories to this card.  However, I started maximizing the Ink Bold benefits today without moving any bills to this card.

Application Link: Chase Ink Bold

While I was out running errands, I ran in to an Office Depot that isn’t too far from my house.  I have been there before to scout gift cards, but this time I was armed with my New Ink Bold that was going to give me 5 Ultimate Reward points for every dollar I spent there on everything – including gift cards.  While the gift card selection there was heavy on mid-level clothing retailers and chain restaurants, there were a couple gift cards there that did interest me greatly.  The main one that caught my eye today was the $50 Shell gift card.  Check out this photo of $100 of gas AKA 500 Ultimate Reward points.

Since my husband frequently has to drive three hours each way to Austin for work, gas is a pretty sizable expense in my household.  I would say we spend around $500 per month on gas.  I loved the first quarter of 2012 when gas was one of the 5x bonus categories on the Chase Freedom Visa Card, and have really missed that little perk of having to fill the car up so often.  I am very excited to have a way to get 5x points for gas purchases during all twelve months of the year now!  Assuming we used gift cards purchased with the New Ink Bold for 5x points at office supply stores, or the Chase Freedom during the quarters that gas is a 5x bonus category, the $500 per month that was spent on gas will earn us 30,000 Ultimate Reward points per year.  Those points are very valuable for my family and will allow us to beef up our United, Hyatt, British Airways, Marriott, or Priority Club accounts.  That is crazy for just one type of purchase that we were going to have to make regardless!

I wanted to add a quick note due to some of the comments on the post (and thanks for all the comments!), that it of course doesn’t make sense to chase points by paying more for gas than you normally would.  If you don’t normally buy Shell gas, and Shell is more expensive in your area, then clearly this might not be the best plan for you.  However, it does seem that Shell gas cards are treated as a cash transaction, so if you live in an area that charges more to use credit cards on gas, this could result in some savings.  I know in my area you can use Kroger Fuel Points at Shell gas stations, so the price is typically about the same, but your results may vary.

If you want to really learn about maximizing gift cards, I would read the posts by fellow BoardingArea blogger, The Frequent Miler.  I love his schemes and “experiments”, but the truth is I barely have time to keep up with laundry (for the record, there is lots of laundry when you are potty-training a little one!), so my gift card buying and selling time is currently pretty limited.  However, even I can handle stopping at an Office Depot near my house to pick up some gas gift cards every once in a while.  30,000 Ultimate Reward points annually for my efforts is nothing to laugh at, so I am stepping into the world of strategic gift card buying… fill-up at a time.

For the record, I also picked up a $50 Shell gift card to give away during my “Family Travel” presentation this weekend at the Frequent Traveler University.  The gift card will be given away, but the 5x points it earned are all mine.  😉  If you have the new Ink Bold, have you started to maximize the 5x bonus categories yet?


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The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.



  1. And this means that you can now pay 5% more for Shell gas than generic and still break-even. But hey, keep telling yourself how great a deal you’re getting kiddo…. the banks love it, and maybe you’ll even get another affiliate referral!

  2. I know what joe is referring to: when you have a gift card, there is a sensation that you don’t need to be as careful with spending it as if it was cash. I mean, “it’s already spent”. right?

    If you play the points game, you have to be very careful about not getting suckered into buying something (like Shall gas) that you would not otherwise buy. We buy generic gas like joe, and Shell is always more expensive, so it’s not worth the hassle.

    A MUCH smarter move would be to get the PenFed card that gives 5% CASH back on any gas purchase, anywhere.

  3. Sorry, but I’m with Joe on this one… It seems most of your posts are written to get people to sign up using your link.

  4. I too love the 5x on gas. I say it everytime I am filling up at the Shell near my house (the one I go to anyway!). Reading the Frequent Miler got me excited about this card and it has not disappointed.

    I will be using it at FT University this weekend.

  5. I suppose it works for people who would’ve gotten name brand gas anyways (same with Freedom’s current quarterly bonus, you can buy Shell/Chevron/76 gift cards at grocery stores as well).

    My question is, does this mean you pay the “cash” price at the pump when there’s a difference between the cash and cc prices?

  6. MP – See you on Thursday/weekend.

    In NYC, getting the gift cards for gas regardless of the brand is the smartest thing to do here. CC are charged at least a .10 bump per gallon from cash or GC. Not sure about everyone else but I don’t regularly have that much coin to fill up without a CC or gift card.

  7. Frequent Miler wrote about a Visa Vanilla gift card available at Office Depot. Might be a better option to buy a $500 card and use that for gas at a station with the cheapest gas (you pay a 4.95 fee for the card though).

  8. Paying extra for Shell gas is not everyone. I used to think that all gas are the same for my BMW until 2 years later when my car begin to sputter from deposits build-up. I promptly switched to Chevron w Techron and the problem went away. Several other Top Tier gas including Shell have similar detergent. QuikTrip seems to be the cheapest. Shell does seem to cost more than other Top Tier gas but I found some in my area that are about the same as Chevron. I will gladly pay extra for fuel efficiency and performance.

  9. Shell is always the most expensive in SoCal. That negates half the savings plus the annoyance factor with $50 increments. You’ll be paying in two . Shell is worst for credit price discrimination. Hopefully this is treated as

  10. Oops, hit send too soon. Stupid TouchPad.
    You’ll likely have to pay in two transactions or only partially fill as the $50 wont be good for two trips. Hopefully this is treated as a cash transaction.
    Be careful about committing too much as that $500/month may be needed for future (rising) minimum spends.
    You seem to be effectively buying a lot of points lately. Make sure you factor that into your true travel costs.

  11. I just called the reconsideration line on Monday for my Ink Bold so I’m waiting impatiently. My first purchase will be at Office Depot.

  12. Amazing coincidence. I just got my card on Monday. Bought 8 of the same shell cards today. Shell is the cheapest gas near my house. I’d really have to go out of my wy to find generic gas that’s going to mess up my engine. Only wish they had more for me to buy. Why can’t they sell them online so I can go through UR!

  13. I agree. I use my CC during %5 cash back at gas stations to buy Visa/MasterCard/AMEX gift cards with $500 limits so I can spend them anywhere. I get %5 cash back on all purchases. Now if only daycare and my landlord took a CC.

  14. I called and got my new ink bold approved on Monday 🙂 I am eagerly awaiting the card and will hit staples/office depot as soon as I get it 😛 although for me it’ll probably be Amazon and/or Visa gift cards. But I totally got you (and was slightly jealous), when you mentioned how you took the long awaited card straight to Office Depot 🙂

  15. +1 on the Penfed visa card…except for hitting spend bonuses, I can’t see why everyone doesn’t have this card in their wallet just for gas.

  16. My old car used to run noticeably better on Chevron gas, too, and getting the gas was cheaper than a new car. Or being squashed when merging. The new car still gets Chevron since it did well in an older engine.

  17. I buy gas at Costco, or the closet station which just happens to be Shell. Right now I am working my way through the Sapphire card spend (which I was happy to apply for through your link). I can use the Sapphire to buy Costco cash cards through the Costco website, which I can use for gas, as well as alot of stuff that I would normally buy from Costco over the years.
    I may not be the smartest, but I am frugal. My miles/points are used for “aspirational” travel events that I would not normally consider to be within my travel budget. Therefore, at times I have been known to pay a little more for something in order to get the miles/points I want.

  18. Remember you can also buy Shell gas cards at grocery stores which are the 5x category for Chase Freedom cards this month. That still helps those of us w/o the Ink Bold card.

  19. I like the idea of getting the Hilton Amex Card. No annual fee, usually signup bonus of 40,000 points. But 6 points on gas and grocery always. Kroger sells Amazon, Target, Marriott, Petsmart, Starbucks, Cheeecake Factory, Kohls and many other gift cards. So I easily earn 150,000 hilton points annually with this method. Plus small business saturday for every card holder.

  20. Barb, thats nice but have you ever tried to redeem Hilton points? it takes a lot more points to get a free night (up to 50000 or so for the top category whereas Hyatt’s top hotels are more like 22000 UR points ..Just something to keep in mind.

  21. Joe, I guess I left out an obvious line in the post about comparing gas prices. 😉
    @bluecat, I agree as well about the “gift card effect”. That is one of the reasons that for us gas gift cards are pretty safe. We aren’t going to drive more just because we have gift cards (unlike restaurants where we could potentially eat out more because we have gift cards)
    @Daniel, some posts are about credit cards, some aren’t. Some are my affiliate links, some aren’t. First and foremost I write about how families can earn miles and points, any credit card sign-ups that may come as a result are just an ancillary benefit. However, I do greatly appreciate the feedback.
    @Vivek, with the Kroger discount, I haven’t found it to really be more or less than the other options around me, but it is always good to price compare. I am not a big fan of paying much extra for points, so over-paying for gas to get points wouldn’t be the best plan. 😉
    @smitty06, it is pretty neat what this card can do!
    @LX, I agree it is a good compliment to the Freedom. I will likely max out just on groceries, so for people like me there isn’t much left to spend on gas gift cards. I believe this is counted as the cash price, but I can’t promise that since I haven’t been in that situation with one yet.
    @Singapore Flyer, I remember that from living in NYC. Good reminder!
    @BothofUs2, might be a better option, but I really hate paying for gift cards. I may try that out down the road.
    @MichaelP, my dad has an older car with a big engine and has to pay attention to the type of gas he gets as well. I agree it does matter for some more than others. 😉
    @Tim, I agree. I’m not buying thousands of dollars of gift cards anytime soon for many reasons, but one is future minimum spends. I think it is treated as cash, but I would need someone in SoCal to verify that. Always important to price compare for sure.
    @Kadence, hope you have as much fun brainstorming at Office Depot as I did!
    @Goosh, wouldn’t that be awesome! Congrats!
    @Tim2, I thought the same thing about daycare. Ha ha.
    @kai, absolutely. I think I mentioned that in the post, but I know my family will max out pretty much just on groceries, so wouldn’t have been too much left to go “gift card shopping” with, however great option for those who have the Freedom and aren’t going to spend it all on grocery items to begin with.
    @Caleb, thanks! That makes it even better. 😉
    @Frequent Flyer Collector, and that is why we are all online together. Shared obsession. 😉 Who else would understand our “insanity”?
    @ari, it makes sense for everyone to have some plan in place for gas since it is an expense so many of us have to deal with.
    @reeder, gas does seem to matter in some cases for sure!
    @Perryplatypus, as long as you count $50 gas cards as “large cash prizes” then we are totally on the same page. Whatever works. 😉
    @Deb, gas is a 2x category on the Ink Bold.
    @john, first thanks for your support. 🙂 Second, sounds like a great plan to me!
    @Askia, absolutely!
    @Barb, that card does have great bonus categories. The only issue is I don’t personally value Hilton points near as much as UR points, but it still is a solid card for Hilton HHonors members, and the bonus categories are awesome!

  22. Regarding the comment that John made about Costco gift cards, I guess I am not aware of how they can be used to gain miles/points. I always thought you had to buy them with cash. Might you be able to elaborate further about how you actually purchase and use them? Thanks

  23. My dad owned a BP gas station for many years. Wisdom from him: “all gas is really the same”. 🙂

    Has anyone seen Speedway gift cards in office supply or grocery stores? Like their SpeedyRewards program, now they have a visit 10 days in April and get 7k points. Which are good for 7 hot dogs. Great time saver for daughter on the way from tutoring to ballet practice:-)

    I once used a gift card in a gas station and it was a disaster…wasted so much time getting it through. Never again.

    Already put sprint, local telecom bill, comcast and Dish Newtork bills on the Ink Bold card. Eagerly awaiting for first statement to close to get 50k plus spend points! (Already banked the 10k bump up bonus for it!).

    11 months later I need to make a decision which one to close: The Sapphire Preferred or the InkBold?

  24. @chuck, I think he is saying he bought the gift cards online where you can use Visa/MasterCard (whichever version of the SPC he has) and thus is meeting the minimum spending on that card and in the meantime getting Costco gift cards that he will put to good use.
    @gpapadop, ha ha, good to know. I have not seen those gift cards yet, but good job getting your bills moved over! The points will come pouring in. 😉

  25. @gpapadop

    I’m all over speedy rewards. That was the gas station I was taking about. I get the card that is good for merchandise and gas. Right now you get 500pts for every $25 spent on gift cards. I buy $500 worth, good for 10000 pts. Then I use the card and get pts. I use my hilton card or discover when gas is %5 cash back

  26. Stupid phone… I wanted to say I use my cc to buy the cards during %5 cash back.

    @mommy points, I think you are awesome btw. I hope my wife will come around on the points game soon. Anyway do you buy gc where you set the limit at gas stations? Great way to get points past the promotions

  27. Here in Mn, we have Rainbow (Roundy’s) grocery stores. I have a Roundys reward card that gives me cents off for gas. It just keeps accruing until you use it. I have recently got a Chase Freedom card. I’m excited about it. I just bought a $50 BP gas card at Rainbow using my Freedom card. Yesterday, I filled my car up. Using my Roundys Reward, it took off .65 off per gallon plus I used my BP gift card to pay for it. Filling my car has never been so much fun knowing that I’m getting 5 points. I also do Holiday gas. On Tuesdays in Mn, it’s double coupon day. I have their reward card. Once I get so many points required, I redeem it to get a .50 cents off coupon which doubles up to a $1.00 off per gallon!

  28. Congrats on your new INK card. I am also waiting for mine to come in the mail. says Ultimate Rewards have a 10x click thru portal for Office Depot. I wonder if you could buy gift cards online too to further your gains. 10x + 5x + 1x = 16x That’s a multiple I can live with!

  29. @ari, yeah, the Penfed card is the most underrated, underdiscussed card out there. 5% back in cash on any gasm anywhere is hard to beat. But I think I know why most bloggers don’t mention it much….

  30. @Tim2, thanks and good plan!
    @Shelia, that is awesome!
    @Frank, thanks! I wish it worked like that, but I can’t remember what gift cards they sell online off hand (if any), but it doesn’t award portal points…..sadly!
    @blucat, it is a good card. I don’t really talk about it because while 5% back on gas is certainly awesome, it isn’t really related to miles and points. Maybe in the context of road trips it would be a good card to post about in the future though. 😉

  31. So, 5% back in hard cold cash really “isn’t really related to miles and points”? I dont want to belabor the issue but I think this sort of comment is indicative of the loopy decision making that this hobby induces—and that we all have to be vigilant about. (ME INCLUDED!!) We need to remember that the “bigger picture” of our hobby is not really about “miles and points” but about, how does another blogger put it?, “seeing the world at prices we can afford”. Miles and Points are just a means to the end–like US Currency is. So, it’s kinda silly to defend getting 5x points on gas (especially when you are limiting yourself to just one vendor, Shell), when you could do better with 5% back in cash.

    In all honesty, do you think that if bloggers were getting referrals for PenFed, they would start to see things more they way I’m thinking about them? Just asking…

  32. Are there potential problems from buying gift cards with credit cards? Do any of the cc issuers consider this to be a cash advance instead of a purchase? Or can the bank even tell that my purchase of a gift card at a grocery store, or Costco online, is for a gift card? I’m asking mainly about Visa, MC and AMEX, as I don’t have any Chase Ultimate Rewards cards yet.

  33. @bluecat, I love good deals and saving money, don’t get me wrong, I just try to keep the scope of the blog to primarily miles and points deals (and family travel). I can barely keep up with that stuff, and there are tons of rewards credit cards I don’t/haven’t posted about and those are clearly within the scope of the site. I also haven’t posted much about PenFed, Discover, and other cash back options. There are tons of cards that offer affiliate payments that are good deals that I don’t post about because they are outside of my scope, so I’m not sure it would be much different if that card happened to be within the affiliate network. It doesn’t mean they are a bad card to have, but this blog just can’t cover all deals and ways for a family to save money.

    It is important to always keep an eye on the bigger picture when looking at obtaining miles and points, but this one site can only cover so much of that big picture. However, I do see how that card could be relevant on a post about road trips/family travel, so I hope to post some about it one day. Not sure it that helps at all, but that is where I am coming from.

    @Robert Hanson, there are some issues with buying the Amex type gift cards online and some issuers do view that as a cash advance. However, buying them in the store hasn’t really been reported as an issue as far as I know – certainly not when you are buying retail gift cards like Shell. I would recommend a test purchase of anything to see how it is processed before going “all in”. I also would not go overboard on any one type of purchase so as not to raise red flags.
    @Dayswim, I wouldn’t do anything to raise red flags. There is no set number, but I would just have them blend in with the rest of your purchases if it was me.

  34. @ Dayswim

    I think it could be difficult at a gas station. My local GS has the $100 vanilla’s. I recharge their gas and merchandise card. I think I may cool it on the $500 spends. However, the grocery store is fair game. I don’t think it’s out of the ordinary to spend 500 there. I am gonna max out on the $300 max spend for discover card’s %5 cash back at grocery stores.

  35. Remember 1 point on Chase is worth 1.67 cents on Southwest, so if you used the card to buy Shell gift cards you are effectively getting $4 x 5% x 1.67, or 33 cents off per gallon! Usually Shell may be 5-10 cents more without a membership like Sam’s, so getting 33 cents in value per gallon is huge!

  36. This quarter the Barclay’s US Airways Premier Mastercard is offering 5x bonus points at gas stations, grocery stores and (I think) hardware stores. Might have been a targeted offer. I had to register after they sent me the offer.

  37. I don’t know if this will work as apparently there are no Office Depot’s in the Phoenix Metro area where I live,but you can purchase Office Depot gift cards through the UR mall using your ink bold card and either get them in the mail or pick them up at the store and then turn around and purchase the shell gift card to use for gas. In theory, you should get the 5% off for office depot plus the additional 4 points per dollar for going through the UR mall. Just a thought.

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