Learning Amex gift card rules the hard way

Buying Amex gift cards through cash back portals such as BigCrumbs is a great way to time-shift your spending (usually to meet minimum spend requirements) or to offset costs involved with manufacturing spend.  Unfortunately, the process of buying gift cards online is not always as easy as it should be.  Reader Charlie S shared his experience with me and agreed to let me publish his story.  If you’re new to buying Amex gift cards, you might find this helpful:

I went to BigCrumbs to purchase Amex gift cards, ordered a $3,000 using my Fidelity Investment Rewards Amex. No issues.

One week later, I went back to order another $3,000 Amex card with the same credit card. The order was accepted, but about an hour later I got an email saying that my purchase was declined. I called the 800 number in the email to ask why, and the rep told me that the limit is $5,000 per credit card in a 14-day period.

After hanging up with them, I immediately went back to BigCrumbs to purchase an Amex gift card with my Chase Sapphire Preferred. This order went the same way — the order was accepted, but then an hour later I got an email saying the purchase was declined.

I called customer service again, and a different rep told me that the $5,000 limit applies to the individual, not the credit card.

I waited 15 days before going back to BigCrumbs to purchase Amex gift cards with my Fidelity Amex. This time, I tried to order one $3,000 gc and one $2,000 gc. The total order came to $5,000 + shipping and fees.

Again, this order went through, and then I got an email saying it was declined. I called customer service, and they told me that the limit is $5,000 TOTAL per order. Ordering $5,000 worth of gift cards is not allowed because the shipping and fees will put you over the $5,000 limit.

So I go to try one more time, this time ordering one $3,000 and one $1,000. The total for the order is $4,000 + shipping and fees. Same thing happens — order goes through, but then I get an email saying it was declined.

One more call to customer service, and this time the explanation baffles me. They tell me that even rejected orders get applied to your $5,000 per 14-day limit. My $3,000+$1,000 order got declined because the system already had me in for the $3,000+$2,000 order from earlier that day. Even though that order got declined, it was still in their system, applied to my name, and precluding me from purchasing any more gift cards for 14 days.

By now, I think I’ve learned the hard way what the rules are. Hopefully sharing this story can help the next guy avoid some of the pitfalls (and phone calls from my credit cards’ fraud department!).

Charlie S

It’s worth noting here that American Express Gift Cards for Business have higher limits.  American Express’ FAQ says “There is maximum order size of $5,000 for personal Gift Cards and $75,000 for business orders.”  Note that the $5K and $75K limits are per-order limits.  The FAQ is silent about monthly limits.


What’s your story?

Have you tried to order $5K or more of Amex gift cards at a time?  Have you tried to order more per month?  What happened?  What did you learn?

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  1. Ordered two $3000 business gift cards in separate transactions with separate credit cards with no problem at all. I needed minimum spend plus additional points to cross threshold for award. I have heard of no problem when ordering the gc’s from the business side…..

  2. I made a business order for a 3K customized card. After it has been sitting in “Processing” state for over three days I called them to find out why. They told me that customized cards take 5 days to process. There is still no movement (5th day). Anyone had experience with that?

  3. From the personal card side something in the last 6 mos must have been tweeked. It didnt “used” to be like this. Their rules seems arbitrary and uneven to say the least.

  4. Not too many hiccups with buying AMEX cards, but let me say this, their customer services is absolutely horrible. I tried calling about a gift card order a few months ago and they routed me to a rep for a product that was totally unrelated. Of course, I had already been on the phone 10-15 minutes waiting for that to happen.

    AMEX itself is a great company, but if any AMEX corporate types are reading this, you guys need to invest more in training your customer service reps. The outsourcing has gone way too far and it really cheapens you as a company. Thankfully, your website is pretty good.

  5. You have to understand that surprize and fear are the tools of the Cardinals of the Spanish Inquisition (ie the fraud, loss prevention, risk closure, etc. folk). If rules are arbitrary then you have the element of surprize. If you lock down accounts from purchasing by including cancelled orders in dollar limit amounts you have the element of fear. If you consider that some may intend to use a gift card for a time sensitive transaction, say a tax payment or such, then you get the full reign of terror from the Cardinals of the Spanish Inquisition. 🙂

    “From the personal card side something in the last 6 mos must have been tweeked. It didnt “used” to be like this. Their rules seems arbitrary and uneven to say the least.”

  6. I’m a little dense. So this is an Amex issue specifically related to gift cards. I assume big crumbs doesn’t care.

  7. I tried to order business GC several times, all got declined. The representative told me that they could not verify the business. But my personal GC orders are always approved I order personal GC every 15 days.

    In a different topic, I have $140 big crumbs cash back for this month, but I only got $139 transferred to my PayPal account. I am wondering where is the $1? Is there transaction fee I have to pay?

  8. Hate to be an ass, someone thinks its worthwhile to make $60 on $3000 amex gift card purchase (plus perhaps a bit more through big crumbs)…. really!!? wow.

  9. @john, you have made an ass of yourself – the cash back is the icing on the cake, not the raison d’etre as you foolishly assume…

  10. @john- $60 is $60. Besides, it’s a game and since you obviously don’t get that I’m not sure why are you even commenting?

  11. There is a long FT this issue. Unfortunately, it seems to be happening more frequently these days. Here’s the thread:


    The short version, though, is that it seems to have picked up pace recently. Anecdotal, but it had never happened to me until about a month ago. Then, it happened on 2/3 of my orders. I had always ordered multiple business cards, with my business Amex, <$5K and never had a problem until recently. It's also happening frequently to people with personal cards.

    The rules are, well, frankly, that there seem to be no rules. Call Amex 10 times and get 11 answers, and truthfully, I wouldn't believe anything that any CSR tells me.

    • Mike: Thanks for that info
      bluecat: Ouch
      Chris H: If you’re using a business credit card to pay, then use the same business name as the one on your card. If you have a sole proprietorship without a business name, you can use your own name or make one up.

  12. My experience of ordering amex gift cards with my new Amex card: Financial review. Enough said. I’ll never push it with Amex buying Amex GCs again.

  13. Good information, but I didn’t think this news was new. I’ve always known those were limits and have never run into a problem buying one $3,000 card every 15 calendar days.

  14. I’m currently in the back and forth with CSRs right now, ugh!! My error was clicking on a personal card and then trying to pay with a business card. Didn’t even realize that I’d clicked Personal and I was logged into my AMEX account. So the order got declined and the $2k was on hold for upto 8 days. CSR just called the auth. dept to get the hold released.
    Lesson: buy personal gc’s with personal cc’s and Business gc’s with business cc’s

    • Karen Gretz: Hmm, I never heard that rule before, but its worth trying!
      Pat: Yes, sort of. If the $5000 of gift cards you reference is intended to mean Visa gift cards, then Yes, that’s right. If you meant Amex gift cards, then no. You would have to add a step in which you would buy Visa gift cards with your Amex gift cards.

  15. Hi. So, you are able to:
    -Buy $5,000 of gift cards per month using a rewards card
    -Put them on your AMEX bluebird
    -Pay back the CC balance
    That is still a valid strategy?

  16. To the doubters: if you use a 4% rewards card you get $32 net for the AX / BC gift card plus you get the $120 in rewards from the purchase. So +152 in gains and -24 in fees to buy your manu spend. Netting +128. That $32 in BC profits that add up when you do this 40-50x’s a yr.

    • MileageUpdate: Where did you find a 4% rewards card?
      Pegasus: Yes you can use Amex gift cards to buy Visa gift cards. I’ve done so via giftcardmall.com and at Kroger.
      Marathon Man: Thanks for sharing your experiences!

      • I’d need 15-20 mins to talk and endorsement from the FTU leader to do so with a slotted time, and a few days to prepare it. Then I will reveal what I know of such matters.

  17. @FM – Sorry if it already been said, so I can buy Amex gift cards with my Amex CC then use the Amex gift cards to buy Visa gift cards. I didn’t know there’s a way you can load Visa gift cards to Amex Bluebird. Is the Visa gift cards as in VR or something else?

  18. I had this same experience many moons ago and at the time i learned from amex if one sets up a business acct one can go over the $5k limit and not have to worry about the 15 day rule. I have a small biz and I did it. Their limits were something like $75k but I began ordering about $5-10k a clip so nowhere near that.
    This business process required me to have a separate address from that of my home office so to accomplish this I actually had my local post office give my business a unique 4 digit code at the end of my zip code. This met the requirements of amex gc who used an internal system to access postal records. I had confirmed things with a supervisor i had reached in the amex gc salt lake hq. (good luck trying to reach them-at the time it was more accessible but not by much)
    I was able to order months and months of +$5k orders and even wove the free shipping plans into this. Something got messed up with that and they began charging me for shipping even though I was paying for the plan (not just canceling it and starting a new free ship promo or anything). I had to call in multiple times to get it sorted and then one day I was shut down again. It escalated to an uber supervisor and then sadly they banned me from all things amex gc. In fact it appears they banned my household and last name and address. No recourse. Ive tried to get back but no..
    Lesson 1) when you have more than one issue with company x, you bubble to the surface, human eyes (instead of just automated systems) look at your activity and if they feel it is beyond what they enjoy, yer out. What is “too much?” Depends on who you ask and their mood on that day.
    Lesson 2: following the rules or t&cs gets you nowhere is the entity is shady or small or only accessible by email or in some hard to reach office. Amex gc is not small but they are an offshoot and hold nowhere near the integrity of amex proper. We are dealing in plastic bitcoins in my opinion. Ymmv
    Lesson 3: i posted that i got shut down by amex in a thread in ft last year. I got shut down by a fee things and what ive found is that people kinda suck. I got shunned by so many it wasnt even funny. They believed it was all me and by no means the ways or means of the entities i was dealing with. “Well mm you must have screwed them because i use them and i never got shut down”, or, “you abuse systems and do ‘too much’ of xyz” etc. What I have found however is that lately all kinds of people are getting shut down from this or that out there. I dont hope that on anyone but I learned to refrain from sharing my most detailed experiences on public forums and others have learned to shut up and count their blessings.
    There are ways to avoid shut downs and come back from the dead too. Thats for another time though…

  19. I’m sure this has been answered somewhere, but I couldn’t find the info. Why does Amex require SSN for purchases > $1000? What do they do with this info?

  20. These amex gift card rules are made up as each rep wants. So fat this month I had 2 personal orders and 3 business orders done. No limits.

  21. Seems obvious AmEX won,t award MR points for GC bought with AmEx card.. How do you guys liquidate $5k plus GC every month? Using GC to buy VR seems redundant since you might as well use the actual CC to begin with.. What am I missing?

  22. Ok thanks for that information.. 2nd part of my question thou is, what’s the best way to liquidate 5k Amex giftcard besides using it to buy another giftcard / VR.

  23. FM, would you mind sharing how many giftcards from Amex do you buy in a typical month and how do you spread your purchases on the various cards?

  24. Hi All, I got the Amex business Gold card 2 months ago for the 75K points but the $10K spend is tough. I managed approx $7.5K and then put $3k on Amex GC – it sounds uncertain if Amex will honor the minimum spend but as there is still time left is it possible if I have made it. I probably don’t want to ask the directly – any advice?

  25. As of May, it appears that bigcrumbs only returns cashback on small denominations of up to 500 gift card values.

    which means, for each $500, you’re netting 0.6%, which does not include the 8.95 for 2nd day shipping.

    so if we purchase the max of $5000
    total w/fees: 5039.5
    total w/ship: $5048.45
    cashback @ 1.4%: $70
    net: 21.55

  26. I went to Bigcrumbs with the intention to buy AMEX gift cards, and nothing is coming up when I did a search on gift card or american express or AMEX. Has the page disappeared, or is it just me?


  27. FM,

    If I buy these 3k amex GC with Barclay Arrival card, do I run the risk of being charged cash advance fee? or, it is just a Citi card thing. Thanks.

  28. Lihong: I don’t have experience with using a Barclay card to buy Amex gift cards so I don’t know for sure. Best bet is to call Barclays and lower your cash advance limit as low as it will go (ideally to zero) before ordering gift cards.

  29. If I purchased $4500 in AmEx gift cards on December 2nd and got the confirmation email on December 3rd when does my $5000/14 day limit refresh?

    Can I make another purchase on December 16th or should I wait until the 17th or 18th to be safe?

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