Staples Ink Cartridge Recycling Rewards Program Update

I’ve written about the Staples ink cartridge recycling rewards program a couple of times before.  I detailed both how I make money with the Staples ink cartridge recycling and how I get free stuff from Staples.  I still participate in the Staples ink cartridge recycling program but they have changed how the program works so I’m posting how the changes affect one’s ability to make money from Staples ink cartridge recycling and get free stuff from Staples using the ink cartridge recycling program.

Staples Ink Cartridge Recycling Program

The basics of the ink cartridge recycling program is that Staples will pay you $2 in Staples Rewards for each ink cartridge you recycle with a maximum of 10 cartridges recycled per month unless you are Staples Plus or Premier customer in which case you can recycle 20 cartridges a month.  This means you can get $20 in Staples Rewards a month if you are a basic Staples Rewards customer or $40 a month if you are a Plus or Premier member.  The rewards expire the month after they are issued for base Rewards members and Plus or Premier members ink recycling rewards are good for twice as long

You might be thinking that you don’t have 10 ink cartridges a month to recycle.  Used ink cartridges can be bought cheap on Ebay or Craigslist.  A good price is about 20 cents a cartridge.  That leaves you with a profit of $1.80 for each cartridge you recycle.

When Staples has good sales on toilet paper or paper towels or something else I actually need then I use my rewards to purchase these products.  If I just use the rewards to buy products from Staples then I am getting the products at about 90% off.  One can make even better use of their ink cartridge recycling rewards though.

What I consider the best use of recycling rewards is to use them to buy free after rebate items. When I use the recycling rewards to buy free after rebate items I actually make money.  Free products are nice but cash is even better and gives me more choice on how I want to spend my money.   Since I can and do receive more cash back then I pay for the ink cartridges I recycle, the products I buy with the recycling rewards are basically free.

Staples Ink Recycling Rewards Changes

I’ve been using this program for almost three years and it had been working fine.  Unfortunately, Staples has made some changes to their ink cartridge recycling program that has caused me some problems.  Starting on March 15, 2013 a rewards member can only receive ink recycling rewards if the member has spent at least $30 in ink and/or toner purchases at Staples over the previous 180 days.  The minimum purchase requirement is net of coupons, taxes, and shipping charges.

This requirement is a bit of a pain but the recycling program is still a good deal.  Since I can earn $120 in recycling rewards in 180 days if I have to spend $30 on ink I still come out $90 ahead.  If you actually need the ink you purchase then the entire $30 shouldn’t be deducted from the $120 in rewards.  A more accurate calculation would be to subtract the premium you pay for ink at Staples compared to what you would pay for the ink elsewhere.  In that case you are probably only losing $5 or $10 due to the ink purchase requirement.

If you do not need ink at all then there is another method to keep from losing the entire $30 ink purchase.  You simply buy a popular ink and resell it on Ebay or Craigslist.  Since the ink won’t sell for as much as you paid for it and you also have to pay fees you will lose more money using this method.  If you are lucky enough to sell the ink on Craigslist your loss could be just $10 or less.  If you are selling the ink on Ebay you will probably end up losing $15 or so.  If you don’t think reselling the ink is worth the trouble you can just be nice and buy ink for someone you know or possibly donate it to a local charity.

The other good change that Staples made was that Plus members get to recycle 20 cartridges a month. Before only Premier members could recycle 20 cartridges a month and other rewards members were limited to 10 cartridges a month.

These changes shouldn’t have caused much problems for me but so far they have been quite a pain.  I bought $30 of ink to satisfy the ink purchase requirement but didn’t realize that my recycling rewards counted as a coupon and thus reduced the amount of my purchase.  After I realized the rewards counted as a coupon I made an additional purchase to meet the ink purchase requirement.

I contacted Staples customer service and asked if they would award my April rewards as a courtesy since I didn’t realize the rewards counted as a coupon and the Staples employees assured me my ink purchase would meet the purchase requirement when I asked.  After some resistance, the customer service agent did issue my rewards and I figured everything would be fine for the next six months.

Unfortunately, when it came time for my May recycling rewards to be issued they were not issued.  I contacted a customer service agent through chat and she kept trying to insist that my April rewards were my May rewards.  After I repeatedly pointed out that this was not the case she eventually referred me to their customer service number.  The telephone customer service agent was much more helpful even though she initially stated that I had not met the ink purchase requirement.  After pointing out my two ink purchase transactions that were listed in my rewards account she agreed that I had met the purchase requirement and stated that she would issue my rewards.  She also promised to notify another department that I had met the ink purchase requirement so that I wouldn’t have any future problems.  We will see how that goes.

If I continue to have to contact customer service every month to receive my rewards then I’ll most likely give up on the rewards program when I run out of my current supply of ink cartridges.  If I get really aggravated I might just sell the rest of my ink cartridges.  I hate to give up the free money but with the time and aggravation needed to get the rewards I’ve earned issued the past couple of months the rewards are no longer “free” money.  Prior to the changes I would have recommended the ink cartridge recycling program as an easy way to get a little extra money but until they have all the issues with the change straightened out I can’t recommend the recycling program.

Do any of you use the Staples ink cartridge recycling rewards program? Have you had any problems since the change?

22 thoughts on “Staples Ink Cartridge Recycling Rewards Program Update

  1. We take advantage of it. I print a fair amount of stuff for mystery shopping so having to buy my ink from Staples is only a minor inconvenience. We both bought $30 worth of ink in March; oddly, I received 5% back for buying the ink plus the $20 reward but my partner only received a $20 reward without the 5% back for the ink. I use a UPS mailbox so we are able to use two addresses.

    • That is smart using the extra mailbox to get an extra account. I got my girlfriend to start recycling too. Since we are two different households it is a legit extra account.

  2. I gave up on the Staples ink program. Too many rules, restrictions, dates to keep track of, misunderstandings, etc. In the end, I don’t like programs where you feel like the company is dictating when/where/what to buy just to save a few bucks.

    But ink is quite expensive. I think I’ll try having the cartridges refilled at Costco and see how well that works.

  3. I do well from this, I usually stack the rewards with a $100 off coupon for a Laptop then sell it on eBay… which is a great idea in theory, until the buyer flakes on you! Still a great way to get cool products for free or at great discounts.

    • It is a good way to get free or almost free stuff. I usually just get things like paper towels or toilet paper or get a free after rebate item to monetize my rewards.

  4. I would go for remanufactured ink cartridges over refills every time. They are about the same price but remanufacturing is a lot more comprehensive process than simply refilling – centrifugal cleaning, vacuum filling etc.

  5. I turned in 8 cartridges for recycling on10/12/14, sale#1702994 3 003 07771 0277. I purchased another package of four cartridges HP the same day. Will I receive any value for this recycling? Gary

    • You would have to contact Staples to find that out. Generally, you need to have met your ink purchase requirement before recycling cartridges though.

  6. I have taken in empty ink cartridges but in asking for a discount when I came in to buy a new cartridge was told a coupon should have been sent to my email address for the discount and I would have to print it and bring it in. I have never received any coupons from Staples for this. I think this is very poor advertising!


    • Randy – If you brought in 25 cartridges you should have received $20 in rewards. If you are a basic Staples Rewards member then you can get $2 per cartridge for a maximum of 10 cartridges a month. They will allow you to recycle more than 10 cartridges but they won’t pay for more than $10. I have no idea why you only got $5 instead of $20. You might want to contact Staples about that. I’ve always been able to get paid correctly for my recycling.

  8. I hate to give up the free money but with the time and aggravation needed to get the rewards I’ve earned issued the past couple of months the rewards are no longer “free” money.

  9. I have not yet received my ink rewards. It has been a while since i turned them in. Was hoping I would have gotten before Christmas so I could have used it. Hope to get it real soon.

    • Diane – You can check in your Staples account whether you received credit for your ink. You should have already received your rewards for any cartridges recycled in November. If you recycled this month then you won’t receive the rewards until next month.

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