Is this the next big thing? Probably not, but it has its uses…
When Office Depot recently stopped selling $500 Visa cards, the hunt was on to find the next big “5X everywhere” opportunity (see “In search of the next big thing“). At first blush, the Home Improvement gift card looked like it might fit the bill.
The Home Improvement gift card is intended for use at stores like Lowes, Home Depot, and Sears. It can be found at Office Depot, so its possible to earn 5 points per dollar when buying these (by paying with a card that earns 5X at office supply stores… see “Best Category Bonuses“). The card can be loaded up to $500 and, unlike Visa gift cards, it has no fees. Most intriguingly, it is treated as a Discover card at stores that accept it for payment.
I’ve been doing experiments with this card myself, but I’ve also heard from several readers who have done their own experiments. Here is what we’ve found so far…
Use the card at non-sanctioned merchants?
The Home Improvement card has a web site that can be used to search for retailers that accept the card (see this page). Many of us have wondered if the card can be used elsewhere. Since it acts like a Discover card, can it be used anywhere a Discover card is accepted? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be no. At every non-sanctioned place we’ve tried, the payment has been declined. Even Lands’ End, which is owned by Sears, was unable to process the card for payment (it works fine at Sears, though).
For several months, the MyPoints portal offered 50 points per dollar when shopping at OpenSky from their portal. Surprisingly, OpenSky is one of the vendors that accept the Home Improvement card. So, I found that it was possible to double dip when making OpenSky purchases: first buy the Home Improvement card with a Chase Ink card for 5X, then go through a portal to OpenSky and pay with the Home Improvement card. Its nice that this works, but now that no one is offering 50X at OpenSky, it’s hardly worth the effort.
Sears Triple Dip
Here’s a nice opportunity that worked successfully in my tests:
- Buy the Home Improvement card and pay with a Chase Ink card. Earn 5X.
- Go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to Sears.com and buy a Sears physical gift card. Pay with the Home Improvement card. Earn 5X (or whatever the current bonus rate is through the Ultimate Rewards Mall).
- Go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall again to Sears.com and buy merchandise. Pay with Sears’ gift cards. Earn 5X (or whatever…)
Through this triple dip, its possible to consistently earn about 15 points per dollar (depending on current Ultimate Rewards Mall rates) for Sears’ purchases. One big gotcha: Sears puts a $1 hold on the Home Improvement card to verify it, so you may not be able to completely drain the Home Improvement card this way. You will find, for example, that a $500 purchase (using a $500 Home Improvement card) will be denied, but a $499 purchase should go through.
Lowes / Home Depot
While I haven’t tried it, a simple double dip should be possible at either of these merchants. First, buy the Home Improvement card for 5X, then go through an online portal to Lowes or Home Depot to place your order and pay with the Home Improvement card. While I fully expect that this would work, its not really any better than just buying a specific Lowes or Home Depot gift card at an office supply store. A better option would be if a triple dip worked (like with Sears). I haven’t tested this yet, but it doesn’t look promising. Past reader reports have said that Home Depot and Lowes do not pay portal points or cash back when buying their gift cards online. If anyone tries this again, though, please let me know how it turns out!
Buy gift cards at Lowes
Lowes stores have huge gift card racks. I’ve successfully bought a gift card (a Shell gas card) at Lowes and I paid with the Home Improvement card. This isn’t any better than just buying gift cards directly at an office supply store, but it could be a good option if the particular card(s) you want are only available at Lowes. In my case, I did find a better selection of gas cards at Lowes than at any of the office supply stores I looked at. Sadly, Lowes does not carry $500 prepaid cards.
Find interesting sanctioned merchants
Are there any merchants that accept the Home Improvement cards and also carry $500 prepaid cards? If so, that would be a big win, but I have yet to find any. How about you? Any luck in your hunt?
TravelerMSY: Yeah, it doesn’t seem to work anymore
Consistently getting “error 506” when trying to buy Lowes GC at Lowes.com using HIGC. A call to Lowes revealed that 506 is “unable to authorize payment.”
I bet alot of people wish they missed the boat on that one. Some people were stuck with alot of those that they had a hard time getting rid of. Glad you were able to get the information you needed from that link. You will be well in this game if you like to read and absorb information.
Thanks for the link Steven. I guess I missed the boat on that one! Still with some clever bill paying, I am at 10% for the purchase. Not bad for a newbie!!
Hi there! Can you please help me? I bought 2 – $500 Home Improvement cards, and am trying to go through a portal to buy Lowe’s GC. I’ve tried Barclay, UR, shop Discover, and Sears. None of them will let me check out with my Home Improvement card! I have tried buying one at a time, buying only $499… I intend to make a big Lowe’s purchase (new windows – YAY!) and really want to maximize points. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you! 🙂
[…] person can see, our only remaining option is to leave this world. We still have a few hundred Home Improvement Gift Cards, which we believe should be enough to buy sufficient rope for a noose. We also believe that getting […]
[…] The Home Improvement gift card […]
RH: I’m not qualified to judge your mental state, but regarding the HI website, I saw the same problem. I guess they haven’t fixed it yet.
Am I crazy or is it no longer possible to see or search the list of merchants where this card can be used?
Randy: No, Lowe’s won’t let you use a Lowe’s gift card to buy another gift card. If you pay with a Visa/MasterCard/Amex gift card, then yes you should get points.
Can you go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall, and when payment time comes use a Lowe’s debit card to buy another Lowe’s debit card? Will you get Chase points? The Chase website claims you won’t get any points unless you pay by using your Chase card. The author here says you will in fact get Chase points by paying with the Home Improvement card. I am wondering if you can get Chase points, when you pay with other gift cards.
[…] may be an alternative to the short lived Home Improvement card frenzy of late, […]
[…] Miler has more information on the Home Improvement card. In short, the Home Improvement card is a gift card which you are supposed to use at home […]
[…] others. It’s a very useful gift card in itself, and is a Discover card. Frequent Miler wrote about it previously here, but at that time it did not have the new feature I’m about to […]
Was not able to buy GC from sears, looks like it is coded as a Kmart transaction that prevents HI from being used. Too bad that the deal is dead now.
BTW, I was really hoping to get a sears gift card at 5x or higher so that I could get 5x on ebay gift cards. If anyone else knows a way to do that, let me know please.
Here is another data point. I was just unable to buy a gift card at sears five minutes ago. However, I did buy a gift card yesterday at Lowes. I also was able to buy a gift card at Home depot, after talking to their customer service people. Neither transaction looks like it yielded points.
HI seems like a bust to me. I guess I’ll liquidate it by buying gift cards in-store at lowes.
Bryanport: I had that happen to me too when I called their regular support line. It wasn’t fixed until I called their gift card services number (which I think is the number I gave you above)
They said try again in 24 hours. Which I did and received the same error message. I think buying GC with HI card has ended.
HSinAz: It’s getting harder and harder to use these HI cards anyway. I’d recommend looking for other opportunities.
Bryanport: I’m sorry to hear that. What happened when you called?
My local CVS has them.
I called Lowes and still can get my purchase to go through.
Is there any other source than OD for these? In Phx there is none and we are not having any fun with this just like to old ice creams. Plus I have zero trips planned where I could find an OD. Have you heard from any “scientists” of another source?
Bryanport: That sounds like the same issue that hit me. It didn’t clear up until I called Lowes at 1-877-665-6937. Someone did some magic on the back end to fix things.
Here is the exact error message:
We cannot process your transaction at this time. For further assistance, please call 866-654-6870 and reference data entry error code 237.
I get an error message (error 267 call 1-800…) I didn’t follow up with a phone call yet. I tried with Two different HI cards and both get the same error. I had added a 495.00 gift card to my cart and I have 500.00 on my HI card and I did add my zip code.
Bryanport: What happens when you try?
Cant get gift card purchases to go through using HI card at Lowes anymore. Am I doing something wrong?
Same here — no luck using HI card to buy Sears Gift Cards. Bummer.
I am having the same problem as Karen. I was trying to purchase a gift card with the Home Improvement card and the transaction will not go through.
Karen: I don’t know. Maybe they’re cracking down on that.
@Greg The Frequent Miler,
It looks like HI changes. I was able to buy Sears GC before through Ultimate Malls. But today, transaction does not go through any more. Any thought?
[…] gift card. If you want to get creative with this gift card, then read the comments section on this post by Frequent Miler. I believe he has since had some issues with shopping online at Sears with this card. I’m […]
Neel: I don’t know why your transaction didn’t go through. It has always been the case that physical gift card purchased from Sears show up on the credit transaction as Kmart, but it has worked anyway.
I recently found HI card in OD and loaded it with $500;registered the zip online and tried using it on Sears (going through UR)to buy Sears GC. The transaction for $400 didnt go through. Called HI ccare and looks like they are seeing attempted transaction from Kmart and not Sears and that is why these are not processed. I re-checked and see that all the Sears GC on Sears.com are offered by KMart. How are you able to buy physical GC from Sears through HI ? Thanks !
jaegt: Not any good way that I can think of
Yo: 1) No, not online anyway; 2) Yes, you can use many Sears gift cards at once
1. Can you use more that one HI to purchase sears GC in one transaction (e.g., $1000 sears GC purchase using 2x$500 HI cards)
2. Can you use more than one sears GC for one sears transaction/purchase?
Any way to use this to load BB?
[…] OD nearby? http://boardingarea.com/freque…ent-gift-card/ __________________ The affiliate game can be a dirty […]
Does the story change much now that we can put a pin on it?
econjon: Great question. I can’t think of any good way to use a HI card PIN, but if you can please let me know!
@FM @econjon How do you put a PIN on HI card?
[…] is the background about the Home Improvement Gift Card from Frequent Miler who discovered and introduced that to […]
Alice: I’ve never seen points from a gc purchase be taken away like you described, but I have heard stories like that before. I can’t imagine why it would work differently between the SP and Ink
I didn’t know about the HI card until reading this post recently. In the past, I have been using UR Mall to purchase Lowe’s gift card with my Chase credit card. I always got the 5X bonus points with my Ink Bold card. However, when I used my SP card, it was different. I initially got the 5X bonus points on my statement. But the exact same bonus points were removed on my next statement. When I checked my UR Mall summary, it was marked as a return so they subtracted the bonus points. I know that I didn’t return my gift card and my statement didn’t show any return credit for it either. I didn’t ask Chase because I know that they would just simply tell me that my gift card purchase was not legible to earn any bonus points. I have ordered Lowe’s gift cards (physical and e-card) with my Ink Bold many times and I always got the bonus points. So my question is does Chase treat the Ink card differently than the SP card? Do any of you have similar experience?
[…] cards at Office Depot. Pay with a Chase Ink card to earn 5 points per dollar. See “The Home Improvement gift card” for more […]
ODs near me have had nothing worth buying lately, gift card or debit card wise. One actually said they will only be selling actual gift cards from now on.
Thanks! I should check it before I bought home improvement gift card.
What is the current bonus rate through the Ultimate Rewards Mall for sears.com? I only see 3x, is that right?
karen: Yes 3X at Sears. The best current option is 6X at AA, but that is ending soon
abby normal: Yes, you can use them at Lowes.com. First register your zip code, then use them like a Discover card at Lowes.
hinaz: I haven’t seen these at any other office stores, but please let me know if you do!
Not having OD nearby is really bad for us Phoenicians. I tried to browse through OMax but could not find these. Does anyone know of any other office store that has these?
is there any way to use these things on lowes.com?!?
they really are not worth much unless you can use them online. lowes.com is 5x points thru UR mall. lowes gift cards at OD etc bring it to 10x online.
they will give 5x @ lumber liq. and the like (which is great)- but for the big boxes with their own cards and UR points… no.
Mark: Sounds right
AP: Usually about 4 or 5 business days
I tried the HI card and then using it through Lowes UR portal, how long does it take to show up on pending rewards?
Looks like it stands for Lowe’s accounts receivable card. A Lowe’s branded business charge card.
MR: what’s an AR card?
Paid muy Lowe’s AR accoutn today with the Home improvement card, so 5% off on the AR Card, and 5X from OD with the INK…
Landlord type here.
Mark: yes, I bought a Lowes gc. The main point isn’t really to liquidate it but to get 15X for Lowes purchases (5X HI card, 5X Lowes gift card, 5X merchandise)
In post 59 you mention buying a physical gift card through UR. Was that a Lowes GC? If so, how are you liquidating it?
@FM can you buy GCs at Lowes using a Lowes GC
Kadence: yes, that’s true. For people who don’t have an ink card or can’t find a Home Improvent card at OD, that will be a great alternative.
Andrew: the Freedom card has Lowes as a 5x option in the second quarter (along with restaurants and movies) so you could buy Lowes gift cards via the UR mall and pay with the Freedom card (starting in April) to get 5x + 5x rewards.
Kadence I don’t understand your post you can really double on this with the freedom
This will be even better in April when we can get an additional 5x with the Freedom card by shopping at Lowes! Thank FM!
Great news: 4 days ago I ordered a physical gift card from Lowes after going through the Ultimate Rewards Mall. I paid with my Home Improvement gift card. Success! UR Mall shows 5X points pending!
I didn’t bother trying to order an e-gift card because I saw that when I selected it, the URL had changed. No chance of getting points that way.
Where else do you buy home improvement gift cards from to earn 5 points? I am unable to find it at office supply stores.
Rajinish: If you sign up for the Citi ThankYou Preferred offer that gives 5X at drugstores for a year, then you can get 5X buying HI cards or Visa cards or Reload cards…
The other thing to note is that the Sears giftcard you buy can also be used at Kmart. Useful if you shop at Kmart a lot.
My Sears hasn’t had $100 Visa GC restocked since before Christmas. Plenty of $50 MC though. No thanks. K-Mart supply is still fresh, but whether or not you’ll be allowed to buy is up to cashier.
Bored Russian – which part of the card number is considered the credit card number? The Home Depot card itself has 4 digits then a space then 12 digits then a space then 7 digits. Then there is a number on the plastic bottom attached to the card which is 30 digits long. And is the security code the 3 digits on the bottom right of the back of the card or is it the 4 digit PIN that you scratch off? And what do use for expiration date?
ahhhhh, I see the $1 hold trick. never mind.
How do you pay with this card at sears.com ? I selected discover card at checkout because I don’t see anything about this card specifically, but my order has been declined.
What am I doing wrong?
Question about the Sears Triple Dip. Does Sears sell gift cards from other stores, which you could pay for with that Sears gift card that you purchased in step 2 of the triple dip? This would just be a double dip of course, but I could actually use something like Amazon gift cards, as opposed to Sears merchandise.
Timmy: Yes, but… see this post: https://frequentmiler.com/2012/10/24/the-mysterious-case-of-the-sears-gift-card-rack/
my wife thinks flowers on the table are a huge home improvement
The funny thing is that 1-800-flowers is on the HI list, which makes no sense, but if you’re looking for flowers, it’s a nice little 5X add-on.
@zonker … Hey this zombie is flying business to UK nowadays instead of being stuck in coach! Never thought that would be possible. “A whole lot of work for not much return?” I think not.
Ill take ideas like these any day of the week and twice on Sundays… thanks FM
am a step ahead of you with this card, the bad news was my family and I stripped clean of this card in S California area OD and they dont restock the card, period. that was before christmas. OD gift racks looked depressing in my area, nothing worth buying anymore.
Thanks, I glossed over that it gets you 5x + UR Mall 5x. That’s fairly decent, translating to 13% CB using fair trading value of 1.3 for UR. Will keep this in mind if the UR mall ever gets back to 10x.
john: I don’t think you can get a cash advance.
HikerT: That’s true that often buying gift cards at a discount would be preferable to buying them this way. That said, you’ll get 10X buying Sears gift cards this way so depending on how much you value UR points, that is probably better than a discount. And, it looks like it might be possible to get 10X at Lowes as well. We’ll see…
AJM: Yes, you can buy anything from Sears using the card
thrashsoundly: No, Home Depot doesn’t carry gift cards other than their own.
IAD-Addict: That’s good news that you were able to get points buying Lowes gift cards. I’ll have to try that! That means you should be able to use these HI cards and double dip your way to 10X for Lowes gift cards.
Can you get a cash advanced at the bank with this card?
Us Zombies have to get our fix somehow.
The blogs roused the zombie hordes with circles & arrows, and step-by-step instructions for endless, effortless points. Of course, that quickly killed the deal. Now the zombies rush from blog to blog, looking to be spoon fed the Next Great Thing. Bloggers need clicks, so they continue to post increasingly ridiculous schemes for obscure plays that yield little. The suckers don’t realize that the game is over specifically because they killed it themselves.
So go ahead, buy a stack of Home Improvement cards (hurry – while you can…), then go to Sears and try and convert them to something useful. Might be great if you need a set of wrenches or are remodeling your bathroom. Sounds to me like a whole lot of work for very little return, but the zombies must be placated and the bloggers need clicks, so the gold rush is on…
Maybe I’m missing something but this seems a horrible proposition vs. obtaining Sears, Home Depot, Lowes, etc. GCs from cardpool. For example, you can buy Sears GCs from cardpool at 10% discount + 1x on spend. That’s 11% worst case if you don’t leverage AMEX GCs or TCB, and north of 14% if you leverage another 3.5% via via AMEX GCs from BC/TCB and cardpool TCB. I’ll take that all day long vs. 5x UR.
I have purchased Lowes GCs through the Ultimate Rewards portal using my Ink card. Despite the fact that it said I would not get 5x points for the GC purchase, I did. I have done it twice on small amounts (2 $50 cards). I have not gone back in with the double dip through UR yet.
I tried using my Lowes card to buy a different GC from their rack but was told I could not use one GC to buy another. This was verbal and I was not stopped by the actual register so not sure if it is “policy” or programmed into their cash registers.
I have been able to exchange Sears GC for Visa GC at K-mart. Not all K-marts allow. One would not that I tried.
I tried the card at CVS, Ralph grocery store, target, didnt work.
Let’s hope OD makes a profit on these….
Can you say breakage?
good idead – let’s publish another backdoor option for getting miles so it can get pulled and ruin it yet again, just like you people did with the original VRs and then the gift cards at OD. These will be gone from the rack shortly…you think OD management isn’t watching all of these blogs now?
This question isn’t directly related, but it involves Home Depot, so I figured it’s applicable. You mentioned that Lowes has huge gift card racks, but does Home Depot too? I got a $200 HD card for Christmas, but I was hoping to find a way to change it out by buying another gift card for something more useful for me right now. I searched my local HD and only found racks of HD cards, not other retailers. Am I out of luck? I guess I could always get ~80% cash for it online.
@frequent churner…I tried using it at my local CVS drug counter with no success. I saw it on the list, too. Seemed promising…
It would be so helpful to get a list of all merchants that you can pay for with HI card
It seems like they have tons of merchants
CVS is on the list…hmmm…wonder if it’s THE CVS.
For real this time…
… It would appear that the search will only return a maximum of 600 retailers, so my empty search isn’t even returning all of the possibilities.
I just got a list of 600 retailers that accept that card by going to the page mentioned above, and hitting “search” without entering anything into the search box.
This might be a silly question, but can I purchase anything at Sears? Does it have to be home improvement stuff? Can it be clothes or sporting goods or electronics, etc?
So these cards are different than the regular HD GC you can buy at Staples and grocery stores?
Here you go, search away!
FWIW, I saw these at a CVS this morning…
I look at this as getting another category of bonus spend on our favorite cards. Obviously 5x everywhere is less lucrative at the moment, but having the home improvement card allows you to get 5x on those quick trips to the store that are always necessary when doing renovations. Portals are nice but not always practical.
I wonder if there’s a way to look up all stores that Discover classifies as “home improvement”.
@Chris, very helpful……
Good way to buy some home appliances for %5 off. Or Landscaping.
There is an interesting play here…not sharing but you’re close 🙂
I have checked several office depots on my area and haven’t had much luck finding these. How have your searches panned out?
This has some interesting uses. I’ll be back in the comments section with info if my ideas pan out.
Looks like it is restricted by MCC code for merchants. So yah there are some guys who will use this method now but not sure if it is going to be popular like the prepaids. Could have done a few more lab tests, but not going to post about it in open 😉
I know my KMart has GDOT MarketPaks at their cash registers.
How can those be best used. I currently buy my marketpaks at Rite Aid and load on a AMEX prepaid up to $2K per month. I buy there to get the 6X on the Hilton Surpass card, but with the hilton devaluation, I might have to rethink that
Justto be clear – I can buy these cards at Office Depot and use them in person at any Home Depot, correct? Is it possible to use a partial balance left on the card and supplement the rest if a Home Depot purchase with cash or another credit card?
I am a real estate developer and I spend over $50 k per year on Home Depot. This could be a big bonanza regardless of any triple dipping opportunities.
If there isn’t $500 gift card, can we buy a bunch of the smaller ones? Am I missing something ?
Jrey: Yes, you can buy smaller denomination bank gift cards, but they have much higher fees (as a percent of total). Office Depot used to carry $500 cards with fees of 1% or less. The current cards have fees of at least 3.5%. That wipes out much of the benefit of buying them.
Erik: Yes, you understand it correctly. Yes, in person, you can pay partially with the Home Improvement card and the rest with another credit card (or with another Home Improvement card).
Bob S: In my experience KMart won’t let you buy moneypaks with a credit card (and therefore wouldn’t allow these cards either).