How To Scale A Single Card for Eight $311 tickets to Europe


So, we can currently get a great many points from the Ink Plus credit card and pretty much go anywhere in the world for $100 – with 70,000 Chase UR points for the sign up offer.  How many points can we get from just this single card if we spend a year to TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT!!!??

Simple jist – this card gets 5x on anything bought from office supply stores – such as Staples.  It’s a Visa – so it can be enrolled in the Visa SavingsEdge program which returns 1% for Staples purchases.  $200 Visa gift cards are available at Staples, which act as debit cards – although one can’t get cash.  A purchase at Staples is $6.95 in activation fees per card – at it appears to be 5.95 activation fee + 1 shipping – same thing.  Other differences – setting a PIN requires a call to the automated Visa line – those sent via in the mail have the PIN set default to the last 4 digits of the card, although all require a short form to be completed to activate the cards online.  The bonus of going through is that a portal can be used to navigate to first – some pay cash, some pay points.  The Chase portal is currently paying 4 points per dollar extra.  I’m waiting for my statement to see if these get rewarded – hopefully so.  This site shows point rewards and this cash rewards.  For the purpose of this calculation I will show no portal, the current 4x points on the Chase portal, and although the current max cash back return is 5% via uPromise, they may exclude gift cards.  So I’ll just pick a safe 2% and assume we’ll get that from at least one of these portals.

Amex BlueBird (or the Serve could be used but my comments are on BB since I have one) can have $5000 loaded per month, and be used to pay bills (credit card, mortgage via online checks, whatever.)  Up to 2400 can be loaded into an account in a day.  Debit cards can be used to load BB at Walmart for free – this is where the PIN will be required.  The Point of Sale system allows for only 4 card swipes per transaction – both the money center and normal registers can do them (something called a code 70 as I recall.)  So logistically, ask the register person to load $600 on the card, it will get swiped (1) then ask to break the transaction up into 3 $200 swipes.  They will need to key in the 200 before each debit card swipe, after which it will prompt for a PIN.

Logistically getting the cards online is easy – else one will have to drive around and find Staples card inventory.  The Walmart trips are not avoidable to liquidate.  For the purposes of this calculation I’ll use 2 $600 load transactions so $1200 a visit.  The Chase 5x bonus only works on the first 50k run through a card, so let’s say we’ll do this for 10 months.  This is a visit to Walmart once a week for 10 months, basically.  Which perhaps some people are already doing.  I assume a 1:1 transfer of Chase to United points and just make a simple trip rather than one to turn 1 trip into 1.5 and really pull some extra value out.


  • Fees to acquire points are cheapest (no surprise) at $1780 (paid) for about 328k points.  0.54 cents per mile – not much off of no portal and straight purchases.
  • With the 4 extra portal points they really rack up quickly to over 535k points at only 0.34 cents per mile.
  • Redemption rates for an arbitrary Chicago to Paris trip returned over 1.3 cents for economy and over 1.9 for business.  We could do better taking more advantage of United’s flexible routing.
  • This is enough for 2-3 seats or trips in business class to Europe.
    • Worst case: 140k points at 0.56 cpm + 166 fees = $950 business class ticket.
    • Best case: 0.34 cpm + 166 = $642
  • This is enough for 5-8 (almost 9) seats or trips in economy.
    • Worst case: 60k points at 0.56 cpm + 107 fees = $445 economy class ticket.
    • Best case: 0.34 cpm + 107 = $311

Worth the effort?  Up to you.  To me, certainly!

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