Churning merchant gift cards

Buying and selling discount gift cards is a good option if you are looking to increase credit card spending in order to qualify for sign-up bonuses, gain bonus miles or elite status from high spend, or simply to earn credit card rewards (cash back, miles, points, etc.).  In the post “Top 20 best value gift cards” I showed that it is sometimes possible to buy gift cards for the same price or less than you can sell them.  A big advantage of merchant gift cards for buying and selling is that they are usually sold with no shipping or handling costs and with no sales tax.  By wisely buying and selling gift cards it is possible to drive up spending on your credit cards and get most, if not all, of your money back for paying off the bills.

My first stop is always GiftCardGranny.com which maintains up to date buy and sell prices for a number of gift card resellers.  Through careful scouting of this site, it is possible to find cards that you can sell for about the same price as you will buy.

Below are my experiences with buying and selling discount gift cards from several online gift card resellers:

PlasticJungle

PlasticJungle is probably the best known gift card re-seller.  I haven’t yet bought any cards from PlasticJungle, but I did sell one without any problem.  They provided a shipping label which I printed and affixed to a regular letter sized envelope.  I mailed the gift card and received a check in about a week.  If you’re thinking of buying from them, consider going through FatWallet to get an extra 1% cash back from your transaction.  Also note that, while I had no problems, a few readers have complained in the past about issues dealing with PlasticJungle.  There is a reasonable chance that these issues were due to growing pains.  Hopefully they have things running smoothly now.

CardPool.com

Through CardPool.com I ordered a $99.00 Home Depot electronic gift card for $89.89 (9.2% off face value).  After they called me to check my identity, I received the gift card via email.  They told me that the phone call was only needed for my first order.  Overall, the process was simple, fast, and painless.

I also sold a gift card to CardPool.  Like PlasticJungle, CardPool paid for postage and I received a check promptly.  In both cases (buying and selling), I first went through the ShopAtHome cash-back portal.  ShopAtHome offers .8% cash back when you buy gift cards from CardPool.com and 1.6% cash back when you sell gift cards to CardPool.com.  In both cases, cash back appeared as pending within a few days.  The amazing thing was that the cash back percentages turned out to be percentages of the gift card’s face value, not the transaction amount!

GiftCards.com

One of the neat things about GiftCards.com is that if your gift card has a PIN, you can sell them the gift card electronically by entering the gift card # and PIN into their website.  There is no need to mail anything!  The best part is that GiftCards.com doesn’t lower the sale price when you sell to them electronically as some other resellers do.  So, in the same day that I bought a Home Depot e-gift card from CardPool.com, I was able to sell it to GiftCards.com!  By going through the cash back portal, MyDealsAndCoupons, I was able to get 3.2% cash back on the sale of the gift card!  Just like with ShopAtHome, the cash back was a percentage of the gift card’s face value, not the transaction amount.  Much like PlasticJungle and CardPool.com, with GiftCards.com I received a check in about a week.

EBay

Buying and selling gift cards on EBay is very different than with the companies listed above.  When selling on EBay, you need to factor in EBay’s pretty hefty seller fees (EBay + Paypal fees come to about 11.75%) and you do need to pay for shipping or pass along that cost to the purchaser.  I sold one gift card on EBay and it went OK.  I managed to get a bit more for the card than I would have through a gift card reseller, but it was definitely quite a bit more hassle. 

I’ve also bought a few gift cards on EBay.  There are several advantages to buying gift cards on EBay over other gift card resellers: 1) You can pay with an EBay gift card and it is often possible to get points or cash back for purchasing EBay gift cards; 2) You can sometimes get better discounts than from other resellers; 3) You get 2% back in the form of EBay bucks; and 4) You can use EBay bucks to pay for gift cards.  On the other hand, there are serious downsides: 1) You never know if the seller is honest (see Washing Walmart); and 2) It can take a very long time for gift cards to be shipped and delivered. 

So far I’ve been lucky, and my EBay experiences have been fine.  I’ll continue to buy gift cards on EBay because of the significant benefits, but I’ll stay away from selling due to the extra hassle. 

Please share

Do you have gift card buying or selling experience? What has worked well for you and where have things gone wrong?  Please share your experiences in the comments below.


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  1. Wow! What a story. I have yet to see such a motivated person like you.

    I am out of all Sears GC that I bought through Ultimate rewards mall during their promotion of 10 points. Any idea when can I buy more? Their double dip was fantastic but don’t know if I should wait for a better offer or buy now.

    My kohls GC are eating dust as I have no purchase in the near future and dont see any use now. What would be the best way to dispose them?

    • caveman: I haven’t tried to cash out at Kohl’s other than for personal purchases. Have you looked at their electronics? There is almost always a 20% off coupon available. If you combine that with whatever discount or points you got for purchasing the gift cards plus the 10X you’ll get for purchasing items through the UR mall, that will all combine to a very large discount. Then, maybe you can resell the items for less of a loss…

      Kate: MyDealsAndCoupons explicitly offers 3.2% back for selling gift cards at giftcards.com. ShopAtHome offers 3.5% for buying gift cards, but it doesn’t say whether or not it pays out for selling them. I think I’ll run that experiment soon!

      Max M: I don’t think GiftCardGranny is inaccurate as much as it is sometimes slightly out of date. It sounds to me like someone beat you to those gift cards and bought them before you did. That is definitely one of the frustrating things about this approach!

      Reuven: Look at the Top 20 cards I listed in the prior post “Top 20 best value gift cards”. Those are often available for arbitrage. Another good starting place is GiftCardGranny’s home page that shows some of the best current deals. I agree that getting under 1% loss is a good target. My approach is to try to average to no loss. So, I’ll take a loss on some, but make a few dollars on others.

  2. If I am going to sell giftcards on giftcard.com, which is the better portal to go through, shopathome or mydealsandcoupons? It seems shopathome offers 3.5% cashback which is better than 3.2% at mydealsandcoupons. Right?

  3. Unfortunately it seems the data available on GiftCardGranny.com is not always accurate. I looked at 2 different Gift Cards that were supposedly available for purchase on PlaticJungle that were listed on GiftCardGranny. When I was redirected to Platic Jungle the Gift Card merchant that I wanted to purchase from wasn’t available at all. This happened twice to me. :( Gift Card Granny is a great idea in theory, but until they get the bugs worked out, not so helpful.

  4. I feel like I could spend my entire day trying to arbitrage this. Any thoughts about which merchants may give me the best chance?
    I have a 5% cb AARP card, so if I can pay under 1% in total, I would consider it a good deal.
    For example, I’m looking at Home Depot cards. CardPool is selling at a 8.5% discount, and GiftCards is buying at a 14% discount. With the combined 4% cb, I’m looking at taking a 1.5% loss.
    Overall, decent, but I’m hoping to do better.
    Any thoughts?

  5. Be careful when buying and selling gift cards. If the discounted gift card you buy was originally purchased with a stolen credit card and you sell it then you could be liable. Also, people might sell a gift card and keep the number and pin and use it later. You might be accused of fraud if you sell a card and it gets spent by the original buyer. The safest thing to do is only buy discount gift cards that you can buy new gift cards with. Then you sell the new ones and know for sure that they are safe.

  6. I tried to duplicate your experiment and I think it worked. I bought a Home Depot card on Cardpool after going through MyDealsAndCoupons. I then sold it on Giftcards.com after going through MyDealsAndCoupons. I bought at $100.08 and sold at $91.57. The cash back points don’t show yet so I don’t have confirmation of that part yet. I also got a call after the purchase to confirm validity. I did it all electronically and bought and sold the same day. I lost $4.50 on the transaction but should reduce that by something around $3.00 if I did it right. That would be a loss of approx 1.5%. Is that how you see the deal breaking down? I did buy with a new card that I have to use to hit a bonus so that obviously is a benefit.

  7. Have you ever tried the AARP card? With % cb for 6 months, it makes deals like this profitable.
    When I had said 1.5% loss, that was b/f the AARP card. With it, I would come out to a 3.5% profit.
    I’m just a bit concerned about this raising flags with Chase if done too much.
    Also, do you know if there are limits to how many cards can be sold? I saw that GiftCards.com seems to have a $500 limit, but am unsure if that is per transaction, or per day, or s/t else.

  8. Reuven – giftcards.com $500 limit is $500 every 6 months. I’ve not had the Chase AARP card, but there’s a very large thread dedicated to it on Fatwallet Forums- Finance. Folks are reporting that Chase is shutting down accounts of overzealous spenders on the 5% AARP card (and they lose their rewards)

  9. Update. As of this morning my MyDealsAndCoupons account summary shows the following: Transactions reported by the stores but not yet available for withdrawal $3.20. That equals 3.2% of the card’s $100.08 face value. As noted earlier, it appears that the cash back points are paid on the card’s face value, not the purchase price. So now it looks like the $4.50 cost of the buy/sell has been reduced to $1.30. In other words I’ve paid $1.30 for $91.57 worth of card spending. That comes out to 1.44 cents per dollar spent. Does that look right to you FrequentMiler? Any ideas on how to improve the margins?

    • Piecerate: Thanks for reporting back! There are various ways to buy bank gift cards and get cash back. Some of those options would more than offset the 1.44 cent per dollar cost. If you are building spend on a business Amex or a Chase Ink card, there are good options. See this post for more.

      Steve: Thanks for the reminder about the $500 limit at giftcards.com. I can’t believe I forgot to put that in the blog post! I’m curious whether they’ll really enforce that limit, though. I’m tempted to do more and just see what happens.

      Reuven: Which Fat Wallet thread are you referring to?

  10. Piecerate – Try to find a card that has better rewards.

    Steve – That kinda sucks. Causes a significant decrease in opps, even if I open an account for my whole family. Is the limit per household, or person.

    With regards to the Fat Wallet thread, I’ve been following it carefully. I have lower goals than they do. Putting between 5k-8k a month on it would go good for me.

  11. I’ve been cranking out some numbers on this one, and think I’ve figured out a way to make a small amount of cash on this while accumulating miles/points of your choice. Ironically the best options for arbitrage is to go with the less valuable gift cards (ones that are discounted heavily) because the spread between what you can buy and sell them for is smaller. Here’s how it works out (please correct my math though if I’m missing something):

    1) Purchase 25% off gift cards on CardPool.com (thru ShopAtHome.com). Some examples are Ann Taylor, Gymboree, Jamba Juice, and Sports Chalet. (These can only be sent as physical gift cards, so no pure electronic arbitrage is possible here, fyi.) I would suggest buying five $100 GCs for $375 with the rewards credit card of your choice (YMMV). This will also give you $4.00 from ShopAtHome.com.

    2) Sell these same GCs (thru MyDealsAndCoupons.com of course) to GiftCards.com who will pay you $72 per $100 GC. So you get $360 for your GCs,and earn $16 rewards from MyDealsAndCoupons.com.

    It’s not a lot of points because you are limited to doing this for a maximum of $500 every six months, but they are free points. Better than free actually because you make $5 each time!

    Thoughts on this idea?

  12. Oh, and of course you could start this off by buying VISA GCs at OfficeMAX with an AMEX OPEN card to knock another 5% off the top, then using those to buy the GCs from CardPool.com….

    • MidnightMiler: Yep, you have the basics down. Nice find with those cards! A couple of nuances: The Visa GCs at OfficeMax won’t save you 5%: Once you account for the visa card fee, you’re down to 1.7% savings, but it’s still a nice way to help bridge the gap between the buy and sell price. Also, it is true that the specific example you gave is limited to $500 per 6 months, but it is often possible to find similar arbitrage deals that don’t require selling to GiftCards.com. That will let you drive up spending much higher.

  13. Frequent Miler – I’m in a situation that I’m typically overseas, so it’s best to do e-code gc’s so that I don’t have to have family start mailing them.
    Once the 3.2% is lost at giftcards.com due to the $500 limit, are there any other ways to receive cb for selling to a website? I see 2% for Plastic Jungle, but am unsure if that’s for buying only.

    • Reuven: I don’t know. It might simply be that they think they can resell physical cards more easily. Or, more likely, they might be trying to take advantage of people who need cash in a hurry.

  14. I see that cardpool sells gift cards to themselves. Possible double dip opp if you buy it with the .8% cb, and then make your normal purchase using the gc?

  15. I’ve noticed that cardpool will only allow a cash back percentage on the first $1000 worth of gift cards bought or sold. I’m not sure if you use a different email address if you can get around that.

  16. If you look under “cash back guidelines” for cardpool at shopathome.com it will tell you that only your first $1000 worth of transactions will receive cash back. So at 1.6% you could only make a maximum of $16 right?

  17. I’m with a lot of you on here, fed up with Cardpool and Plastic Jungle. A friend recently told me about GIftcardo.com. I’ve sold a few hundred dollars worth of cards to them and they treat me great. They get me the money within a day (often within hours!!) and actually respond to emails when I have problems. I love it.

    As for Cardpool and PJ, they’re both big faceless companies that never respond to emails. I’ve tried buying cards from them and it took a week to show up. And when I sold cards to them it took three weeks to get my money. What a bunch of crap.

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