Beware the Float Rule: Giving Staples a $2000, Interest Free, 45 Day Loan

Update 7/9: We’re now into day 40+ of this, as no one called me back yesterday from Staples. I will continue to update the post title and body.

Update 7/14: After a call over the weekend they finally intiated a refund, and my cash is back as of today. Final Tally: 45 days and 5 attempts to contact Staples before my cash was returned.

In an attempt to showcase what can and does go wrong in  the world of Miles manufacturing I’ve started to be more open an honest about issues surrounding my own purchase and cashing in of prepaid instruments.  You always hear about how easy certain deals are; do X,Y,Z and you’ll earn X,000 miles. This is mostly true, Except when things go wrong. And with enough lines running at the same time things are bound to go wrong at some point in time.

My two most recent chronicles of this have been my 9½ week wait on Incomm to refund me for Vanilla Reloads, and my recent $500 fraud from two prepaid MasterCards. The MasterCard saga continues, with an assurance that my fax will be addressed in the order it was received, and that the process of doing so may take up to 3 weeks. In the meantime I’ve got $500 sitting on the sideline. 

Staples $200 GC

Today we’ll go over another situation where I’ve seen more cash sit in limbo.  In April $200 gift cards became available online from Many of you surely bought into these, especially when shopping portals were still paying out. The deals were just too good to pass up. With cashback portals paying out and 5x UR the rush of orders caused Staples to run out of stock, and pull the portal payments in mid May.

Testing Portal Payouts

I spent some of May trying orders with different portals to see if any still paid out. In late May, well past the most profitable point of manufacturing I put in an order for 10 cards, total out of pocket just over $2,000.  And I waited. I knew orders were processing rather slowly, so I stayed patient.  on June 7th I received activation codes for the cards. “Great,” I thought, “the cards would be here in a day or two.”

Two days stretched into three, and then into 10, and still no cards.  I called Staples on June 17th and spoke with a helpful customer service representative.  My online order still showed the cards were processing, but this phone agent swore they had shipped.

Processing Order

This could indeed be true since Staples doesn’t actually ship these cards themselves. In fact orders for Visa GC’s never get past the “Processing Order” stage on This is because the orders are handed off to GiftCardMall who does the order processing and fulfillment.  As such the Staples agent had to put me on hold while he contacted GCM about the order.  GCM swore they shipped the cards, however they had no tracking information for the cards, and no delivery date.  The Staples agent let me know I could resubmit the order right now over the phone, or cancel entirely.

I’ve been Stapled!

Cancellations Don’t Always Work

With this order stuck I didn’t get to finish my portal tests. I’d also passed my most profitable point of Manufacturing with these cards. For these reasons on June 17th I asked for a full refund.  No problem, I was assured a refund would be processed.  My $2,069.50 would be put back on the card I ordered with.

Except it wasn’t. Or rather it hasn’t, at least not yet.

Hoping to avoid another lengthy phone conversation I chatted with a Staples reps on June 30th. They informed me that they could not help me with this particular issue, and a phone call to customer service was the only way to proceed.

Today’s Phone Call; Third Time’s the Charm?

Today I cleared some time in my day and called Staples again about this issue.  The helpful rep I spoke with listened to the issue, and said that he saw no notes in the account about the refund request. Keeping my cool I asked him what the quickest way to solve this would be, since we’re now well past 30+ days with Staples holding my cash and I holding no product.

Unfortunately the rep I spoke with said he could not offer any direct help, and I’ve been informed that I’ll be receiving a call from a Staples level 2 Customer service representative in the next 24 hours.

I didn’t go into this purchase thinking this would take so long to resolve, and I’m sure if I was in dire need of this cash I would have been quicker in calling and following up. The moral of the story is one we should all obey: Things can, and do go wrong. Floating more cash than you’re comfortably able to do so is a slippery slope to eventually having to pay interest on your credit card balance. This is the basis of Milenomics’ Float Rule.

I’ll update as I hear more from Staples…but have already paid my current IB bill off since this issue might take days to resolve.

About the author

- Written by Sam Simon. All ideas are my own, but I encourage you to see my point of view and I promise I'll try to do the same. Connect with me on Twitter @Milenomics.


  1. My very first deposit of a Money Order was returned to my bank by Western Union as an “altered/fictitious item,” incurring a fee from my bank and requiring a three way phone call. Beginning to end of the drama took about one month to get my funds returned to me.

    Fortunately, before the first one bounced, I successfully deposited multiple MOs without incident. If not, I probably would have been to gun shy to try again, not because I can’t afford to float the funds, but because of the all the hassle and worry involved.

    1. Ouch Kim, what a way to start. Glad it worked out, and good for you to stick with it even after such a rough first experience. You also bring up an important point–the amount of time it can take to sort these mistakes out can all but negate any gains from the deal. I’m down a solid hour on these Staples calls/chats ($25) and I’m not going to earn a single mile on this deal once the refund is processed!

  2. Currently I’m going through a similar situation I bought 2 vanilla reload cards at a gas station 3 weeks ago. The clerk activated one and then mistakenly activated card 1 again thinking it was card 2. He invalidated card 1 by trying to load more than 500 and never activated card 2 and 1k was charged to my CC. I tried to resolve this trough income but Vanilla had me on hold for 2 weeks after I sent them everything they requested and than said go to the store we never received the money. Store said after giving them all they requested exactly 5 days after I approached them, call to corporate we can’t refund that much money. Now I’m unsure if I should go trough their corporate office calls or just call my Card and open a dispute… What do you recommend? I’m very glad I can float those 1k but still I hate to waste time on this things.

    1. Ivan: Thanks for sharing another good example of what can go wrong. For me I’d only resort to a card dispute as a last and final option–there’s just far too much risk involved with coming clean about the purchase and having someone from the CC issuer look into things. As part of a dispute process most CC issuers will ask if you’ve reached out to the company yet–they’re actively wanting you to follow up with corporate prior to a dispute anyway. I’d give corporate a call, and let them know you need results asap as they have your money and you have nothing. If you don’t get a satisfactory answer try the next person up, or call back and ask for a supervisor. Results come from making noise 😉

      **The method of payment is irrelevant this instance, since the issue was with how the sale was processed. Had you paid with 10 crisp, new, $100 bills you’d be in the same situation, so if they start down that road tell them to pay up, and it was the cashier’s fault, not anything related to your CC payment.

  3. Ok I was hesitant on a dispute as that would probably kill the deal there. I’ll be going through corporate and keep taking advantage of the vanilla there while it lasts! Thanks again!

  4. I recently had a similar issue:

    Attempted to buy a Green Dot Moneypak for $500. When the cashier attempted to activate it, a message “invalid amount” displayed, & the receipt said “activation failed.”

    We tried a different GDMP using a different credit card, thinking the one I was using may be the culprit. We got the same results, so gave up on the GDMPs & I bought a One Vanilla instead. Scrutinizing my credit card statements, I found I was charged $500 x 3, but left with just one $500 One Vanilla card. $1009.90 (with fees) overcharged!

    I’m in the process of sorting this out. Because I buy gift cards of all stripes from various sources, I’m now concerned that I may have overlooked these types of anomalous occurrences. I’m going to have to be more vigilant about keeping track of purchases & reconciling receipts with credit card statements. The more volume one does, & the more cards involved increases the potential for these issues. Do you have a system in place for this, or any tips?

  5. I would partially disagree about the dispute process. While I agree that you may not want too many eyes on your account statement, the dispute process can also save a lot of time if they end up making all these phone calls instead of you. Case in point: I loaded my Amex for Target and the receipt printed out that it would take 24 hours for the load to post (this is unusual). Pulling up my Amex for Target account I saw the load was voided. Credit card was charged (also an Amex card). Over the next couple of days I: Called Amex for Target CSR, was asked to fax in receipt, did this, called back and CSR said they never received the money (unlikely because credit card charged had officially posted by now), then told to dispute with my CC. Rather than waste any more of my time trying to escalate and fix this, I went the dispute route. Let them deal with the rest of the hassle.

    Though it has been about a 6 weeks and still no resolution yet. Though I do not have to pay off the charge in the meantime. I figured this would be an easy fix for American Express to resolve since an American Express issued card was used to load another American Express product. The big loss is that I am unwilling to use that Amex for Target card again until this has been resolved.

    1. Vin: You bring up a good point, it really should be a case-by-case decision for most. For me so little of my spending is *real* on the majority of my cards, I’m very hesitant to “open up the books” so to speak. As you’ve experienced even real disputes usually take time, and while your money is not tied up you’re still left wondering if/when the dispute will be resolved.

      A final reason I’m against disputing this: A small part of me is hoping for a corporate check to be issued for this refund, which would preserve the CC spend, and net me 10k UR.

  6. You have a pretty useless blog. One post every week, and the latest is simply a request for other people to reach out to you over some problem you’re having and won’t discuss? Removing this from my points/miles bookmark list.

  7. Ouch, Bob!

    On the contrary, I find Sam’s blog is refreshingly different in this crowded area of bloggers. He’s really thorough in how he plays the game & provides a lot of helpful information…FOR FREE!

    It’s a matter of preference, but I find frequent blog posts hard to keep up with, especially since this is one of many blogs I follow. Less frequent posts usually mean the person is only blogging when they have something worthwhile to say, & not just hawking affiliate links.

    Sam must have his reasons for not wanting to discuss private matters with Green Dot in public. Perhaps he’s trying to find a common thread so he can HELP others prevent transgressing their rules, or experience a similar fate.

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