Should I report this deal?

A few days ago, TopCashBack raised its payout for American Express gift cards from 1.5% to 2%.  In the past, this would have been big news.  When you can earn money by buying money, that’s a big deal.  There were several reasons, though, that I hesitated before publishing anything.  Here’s the scoop…

American Express gift card $500 limit

It used to be the case that American Express gift cards topped out at $3000 in value for each card.  By buying high denomination cards like this, one could minimize the card fee ($3.95) and shipping costs ($8.95) as a percentage of the total.  That way, cash back earned through a portal more than offset any and all fees.

As I reported in April, American Express changed its website so that if you begin your shopping from a cash back portal, they will only allow you to buy cards with up to $500 in value (see “Amex takes away $3K cash back gift cards“).

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I also reported a simple workaround whereupon you can still buy customized gift cards up to $3000.  Since then, reports from readers have been mixed as to whether or not they’ve received cash back from buying personalized gift cards.  I haven’t tried this myself so I can’t say whether or not the trick really works.

So, I’m at a bit of a loss right now as to what to recommend.  Buying $500 gift cards should work.  You can reduce your expenses by signing up for a free trial of their unlimited next day shipping program.  Another option is to load up your cart with multiple $500 gift cards so that you only pay the shipping fee once (but you’ll still pay a $3.95 fee for each card).  You can also try various free shipping and/or fee free gift card codes that are readily found on the internet, but these rarely work when you go through a portal and they may even invalidate your cash back. 

At the end of the day, you can still make money buying $500 gift cards if you do it right, but is it worth it?  Let’s take a simple example.  Suppose you buy 4 $500 cards.  If you pay for shipping, your total charge will be $2,024.75.  Then, you should get back 2% of the card value: 2% of $2000 = $40.  So, you will have made a profit of $40 – $24.75 = $15.25.  That’s about 3/4 of a percent.  Yawn.

TopCashBack draws ire

Whenever I write about a deal that involves TopCashBack, people write angry comments saying that they tried TopCashBack but never got their money and/or that their customer service never responded to their missing cash back claims. 

In general, I have continued to report TopCashBack deals because I’ve had lots of success with them.  For example, during my Million Mile Madness challenge, I bought many thousands of dollars worth of gift cards and merchandise at Staples by first going through TopCashBack (which offered 5.5% back at the time).  Not only did every single transaction post accurately, but I received all of the cash back within a few weeks.  Some people will argue that my success was because of my blogger status.  They believe that TopCashBack watches what I do and proactively ensures that I get paid.  I don’t believe that for a second.  Here’s what I do believe:

  • TopCashBack (which originated in the UK and is very popular there) has suffered from start up pains in the US.  Each time they add a new merchant there is a potential for things to go wrong.  With American Express gift cards, things went so wildly wrong early on that TopCashBack pulled them off the site for a while until the technical issues could be ironed out.
  • Each merchant is different.  Under normal circumstances, TopCashBack doesn’t pay out until they receive an affiliate commission for a sale from the merchant.  Every merchant is different with respect to how well they track sales and how quickly they pay out.
  • TopCashBack has a confusing approach to customer service.  The way I understand it is like this:  If you file a missing cash back claim, the ensuing process is automated.  Claims are passed along to the merchant for investigation in batches, so your claim may not be passed along for a couple of weeks.  Then, resolution of the claim is dependent upon the merchant and may take several months.  All the while, the TopCashBack customer will most likely never hear from TopCashBack one way or another.  Conversely, if you file a support ticket you will interact with a live customer support person.  I haven’t done the latter, so I can’t say whether or not it is helpful, but its really the only way to ensure that a real person looks at whatever issue you’ve encountered.

Despite all of these difficulties, as I said above, I’ve had mostly very good luck with TopCashBack.  Certainly my own results have been at least as good as with other portals.  So, in general, I’ll continue to report TopCashBack deals.  In this case, though, I hesitated.  I’ve received quite a few reports from readers who have not received cash back for Amex gift card purchases.  So, I’m concerned that there may continue to be technical issues in the connection between TopCashBack and Amex.  To be clear, I don’t know this to be true, I just think that it is a possibility.

TopCashBack increases Amex gift card payout to 2%

There you go.  There’s the headline.  Please read above to see whether this deal is of any interest to you.  And, if you want to sign up for TopCashBack, or other cash back portals, please see my Sign-Up Links page.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Comments

  1. At this point, one month after purchase date, from big crumbs, I have not been credited for the workaround way of buying gift cards. I will update if they do credit but the other way they were very fast to credit. They also took a full week to ship the cards (did not add my name just the std “a gift for you”) over the next day way the old way.

  2. I got paid on one of my first deal AMEX GC purchases and a third got logged that I clicked through, so that should work. The first one did not get logged, so might have been an issue on my side. $3k personalized worked for me in late May (on the second purchase that was recorded).

  3. eh, i meant I got paid on one of my first two deals. No luck on first, not even a click through, second got logged/pending (for 3k), third I just did the other day…

  4. Topcashback is fools gold, they stiffed me on multiple avis and hotels.com reservations. Love mrrebates, anytime they miss something the second you report it they manually adjust it.

  5. I have been only credited once for the workaround way of buying gift cards for my last three purchases from BigCrumbs. Filed the claim and was told that $3000 was not eligible for the cash back.

  6. I got my cashback from Top Cashback from American Express gift cards and My Gift Card Mall. No problems yet with them, they have always tracked correctly for me.

  7. I tried to buy 3k gc at gcmall using amex gc but I was unable to do it. It seems that gcm matches the personal information they have on files with the info associated to the card. In the case of my sapphire and other chase cards worked well. Once I used my personal spg but the email associated to my card was diferent than the email I was using to order and didn’t go through until I changed the email. In the case of amex gc ……. I don’t even know how to change the information as I register the amex card. And definitely they don’t match. Now I’m waiting to receive my second target amex to unload that Amex gc. Do you know how to register the amex gc to have your own information (not only written on the card)? Do you have any better option to try to make that into cash?

  8. Last month I bought customized Giftcard it wasn’t credited but I opened a ticket and couple of days later it was credited. Yesterday I bought 2 3k cards I was supposed it was 2x not 1.5x thought it was a glitch or something

  9. Miler,

    Glad you posted this. I have had 2 $3k purchases not track and I had not realized it! (bad on my part) I just filed a claim with TCB on the first; the other is not 2 weeks old yet, so I will hold off. I had been using the Target Amex trick to unload, but the math no longer works if you can’t get $42 back a crack with only $6 in fees. I could move to GCM to do multiple of theirs, but that then burns up my BB for Vanilla. Perhaps I will have get that new unload card you mentioned and abandon Target? (as an fyi, i was using this trick to mileage run from home on Delta)

  10. Thanks for the update FM, everything changes so often it’s hard to keep up. I’m working on a post that explains how to get points/miles for 0.00299 cpp/cpm by using Target AMEX, BB, and WM.

  11. Data point: I have done 2 $3k AMEX GC transactions through TCB. One was on their one day 2.5% special. It tracked but didn’t post. I lodged a missing CB claim, then after a couple weeks when nothing happened I sent a message. The full 2.5% was credited within days and was even available for cash-out immediately, which is much faster than if it had been tracked properly. The second $3k went through fine at 1.5% and is pending now. I will try another one with 2% and see what happens. By my calculation, TCB -> AMEX GC -> TCB -> GCM -> WM -> BB is a MM. It takes about two weeks to cash out, but free points are free points. Is the benefit of the Target card that you don’t have to wait for GCM and don’t eat up your BB allotment for VR?

  12. I just want to speak about TopCashBack. I’m pretty sure that I used FM’s referral link when first hearing about the site (so FM may be making some money from my CB!).

    Anyway…I think my first transaction with them was with Travelocity, I followed that up with a very small Tanga transaction. Then, even though I hadn’t been paid yet (months later) – I decided to use them for some Staples purcahses (again at 5.5% as FM stated). A lot of those Staples transactions didn’t track correctly, but I kept on using them for smaller transactions at Target, Diapers.com, and a couple others.

    This whole time I was opening up missed claim tickets and following through on one over-arching support-ticket I opened letting them know I was having problems with a lot of these.

    I probably spent about 1-1.5 hours total entering in missed tickets and following up with support. In the end however all my transactions posted – most well below the 2-3 month interval that stated would normally have to be waited. The one exception was the Travelocity CB for about $40 that took about a year to go through.

    I think FM’s observations above are pretty accurate in that TCB deals with merchant’s who have different systems and much of their process is automated. When/if you have an issue you need to raise a ticket and follow through with it every few days/week until it is resolved.

    I went from being highly skeptical to becoming a believer as I have had about $500 in payouts over the past year. For the higher rates they usually offer (which is almost always) I prefer the slightly extra hassle that might come along with it. If however I see a better CB deal from another site, I will likely try for that instead.

  13. just my own experience:
    TCB has been great, i have been buying heavily in the past two months, more than few hundreds CB so far. I had to only report 12$ worth of missing CB, got 10$ fixed by now.
    In AMEX part, BG declined my because of ordering 2000$ card. Even with 2% TCB, it doesn’t worth the hassle of getting rid of those 500$ card.

  14. TCB is horrible, i’ve made two transactions with them with smaller, more arcane merchants. The largest purchase was about $700 and was made with that merchant specifically b/c i factored the rich cash back into my purchase decision. It has been over 8 months and I still have not been paid. Every month or two I go and give it a ‘bump’ but that seems to do diddly. I don’t have the patience to follow up on all this stuff, would rather go through Ultimate Rewards for less and know it will track.

  15. TopCashBack has been great. For about the last 6 months, customer service has been very helpful and payments have been extremely timely (for one recent transaction, I was paid in less than 2 weeks after purchase!). Not like it was terrible before, but it really seems like their US network is now established.

    For Missing Transaction tickets, “Nudges” never work but a quick message always gets a reply within 24 hours.

  16. My jaw still dropped. Not sure how to reply the email back.
    Losing $70 bicrumbs + fees, buying 5k amex card.

    REFERENCE NUMBER: LTKXXXXX021483235X
    SUBJECT: Missing Credit – American Express Gift Cards – Business

    Hello xxxxx,

    Thank you for contacting us.

    We’ve received your inquiry and are happy to help but, as of 4/25/2013, American Express Gift Cards added the following information to the ‘Details & Exclusions” portion of their BigCrumbs Retailer Page:

    “American Express will no longer offer Business or Consumer Gift cards in the following denominations: $700, $1000, $2000 and $3000. In addition, Customized and Personalized Gift Cards will be limited to maximum denominations of $500.”

    This information can be viewed here:

    http://www.bigcrumbs.com/crumbs/retailerDetails.do?id=1660#payoutTiers

    Unfortunately, your purchase is not eligible for cash back.

    We sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding or inconvenience.

    Regards,

    Efia
    BigCrumbs.com

  17. i made 3 purchases with giftcardmalls, all purchases showing on the tracking, but estimate payment is 14 weeks. Is this normal?
    Will it every once it tracked and TCB doesnt pay out?

    thks!

    planning to move my business to TCB (amex gift cards)

  18. I have had nothing but issues with TCB. I had transactions that did track but never paid out. It took over six months and several emails back and fourth to get it resolved. Too much work. I am giving them one more chance. If there are any issues this time I am steering clear and advising everyone else to do so too.

  19. Chris,
    I got the same email from BG, lost 70$ too.
    500$ gcs have more hassle cash in, I closed my business milking amex gcs.

  20. I purchased a 3k and 2k personal card about 10 days ago via BC. I got the email earlier this week that it is has tracked.

  21. Interestingly, it looks like Amex shipped me 1 $3,000 card instead of 6 $500 cards. I wonder if I can get them to refund the card charges if I really do only get one card.

  22. If you want to save your reputation, don`t report any “deals” from those scumbags Topcashback. I know you get referral money (I signed up via your link), but I wouldn`t apply to anything via your links anymore since TCB are not paying me anything and buying time with excuses. If it`s too good to be true, it is usually is when it comes to topcashback. But as long as there are naive people out there, topcashback will get richer out of your money paid by AmEx and such.

  23. So now I have one of my $3k purchases from May posting; so one missing. I filed a claim on the other one, but not hopeful based on above. This makes little to no sense. I will try TCB once and see how it goes.

  24. It’s interesting to see how experiences from one person to the next are so wildly different with TCB. Just FYI, when people signup and use TopCashBack with my link, I get a one time bonus of $5 or $10 (depends on whether they are running the $10 promo). I don’t get anything additional when they spend more. BigCrumbs is different. With BigCrumbs I get a very small percentage of any cash back earned by anyone who signed up with my link.

  25. Using your $2000 example above with $15 profit is indeed a ‘yawner’. Use your Discover Escape (or other 2X) card for an additional $40 reward and it gets a little more interesting. Still a lot of hassle and tracking – and not sure it’s worth it at the end of the day.

  26. So I buy these gift cards…then what? Can I turn around and buy Visa prepaid cards which I can loan on to my BB card at Walmart?

  27. Is there a working code that will negate the $3.95 fee out right now? GIFTFG3 and GIFTFG1 are not working for me?
    OFFERSSHIP works for free shipping but I want to do the premium trial for 3 months free so shipping should be free.

    Can I combine the free shipping trial and a code that will get me $3.95 off so I can pay $500 for a $500 card?

  28. Ordered the $3k GC from amex through TCB. Still waiting on the card but charges have posted on both my amex blue cash and TCB. Will I be able to get 1% cash back on my amex blue cash for the GC purchase? I guess it’s a wait and see but was wondering if others have been able to get CB on their credit cards on top of the TCB cash back.

  29. I did not receive any points for a 3k amex GC ordered in June, though TCB did track. The math on my June statement shows that I received no MR points for the transaction. Can anyone else verify? I have heard whispers of this elsewhere but would like to know conclusively.
    Charlotte – based on my experience, I do not belive you will receive 1% cash back as well.
    FM- Any input?

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