Best options for buying merchant gift cards

UPDATE 7/29/14: Please see the updated version of this post here.

If you’re in the market for gift cards, you’re probably interested in finding the best options for saving money and/or earning extra points.  Or, if you’re planning big purchases, you might want to consider buying gift cards first in order to increase your savings or rewards.  Either way, here is a run down of the best options (I know of) for buying merchant gift cards.  If you’re interested in buying Visa or MasterCard gift cards, see “Best options for buying $500 Visa gift cards.”

Ink + office supply store = 5X

Staples, Office Depot, and OfficeMax all carry a wide selection of gift cards in-store.  If you purchase these gift cards with your Chase Ink card, you’ll earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar.  Backup plan: pay with your American Express SimplyCash card to get 5% cash back.

For reference, Dans Deals lists all of the gift cards that he found at each office supply store here.

Ink + portal + = 8X sells a wide variety of gift cards online.  They charge a shipping fee for most physical gift cards, but no fee for e-gift cards.  The key is to start your shopping in the Ultimate Rewards Mall (which is currently offering 3 bonus points per dollar for Staples), click through to, then pay with your Chase Ink card.  If all goes well, you’ll earn 8 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar.


Backup plan: go through ShopDiscover or uPromise portal for 5% cash back.  Pay with Amex SimplyCash to get 5% cash back.  Total savings with backup plan: 10% cash back.

SimplyCash + = 14% savings

OfficeMax sells a variety of gift cards online.  They charge a 99 cent fee for each one, so you can minimize that expense as a percent of total by buying larger denomination cards.  Many cards have a top value of $100, so there is basically a 1% fee for ordering online (note one current exception: Nordstrom gift cards go up to $200).  If you use an Amex business card with OPEN Savings and buy over $250 worth of stuff at once at OfficeMax, you’ll automatically get 10% cash back from Amex.  With the Amex SimplyCash card, you’ll get another 5% cash back for making a purchase at an office supply store.  In total, you’ll save 14% (10% from OPEN Savings + 5% from SimplyCash – 1% fee).


Backup plan: use any Amex business card with OPEN Savings to save 9% plus earn credit card rewards.

Advanced plan: Buy no-fee OfficeMax gift cards and use them in-store to upgrade to other gift cards (Amazon, gas cards, etc.).  Warning: many cashiers will not allow this.

Portal + Plink + Sears = up to 16% savings

Now we’re getting into the finer art of gift card churning.  First, find the best online portal for Sears.  Currently, ShopDiscover offers 10% cash back.  Lately, the AAdvantage eShopping portal has been running frequent Sears’ 9X promotions as well.  Pick whichever rewards credit card you want to use and register it with Plink.  Add Kmart (yes, Kmart, not Sears, but it can’t hurt to add both) to your Plink wallet.  Go through the online portal to and buy a $50 physical gift card.  You’ll earn up to 10% cash back from the portal plus you’ll earn Plink points worth 6% back towards gift cards such as Amazon and Walmart.

Now for the hard part (yep, you thought you were done, didn’t you?):  Take your Sears’ gift card to Sears or Kmart to upgrade to the gift card you really want.  At Sears, this can be difficult because it can be hard to find the secret gift card rack.  At Kmart this can be difficult because many cashiers won’t allow buying gift cards with gift cards.

Category bonus + Plink + 7-11 = up to 15% savings

There are many credit cards that offer bonus points or cash back of up to 5% at gas stations (find the best options here: Best Category Bonuses).  And, many 7-11 stores are categorized as gas stations even if they do not sell gas.  So, register your credit card with Plink, add 7-11 to your Plink Wallet, and buy gift cards $25 per transaction.  You’ll earn up to 5% cash back in credit card rewards and 10% back (in the form of Amazon or Walmart gift cards) from Plink.


Blue Cash Preferred + Grocery store = 6% savings + fuel points

Grocery stores tend to have huge selections of merchant gift cards.  Some stores even offer extra rewards (fuel points) for gift card purchases!  So, buy gift cards at such a store with the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card to get 6% cash back (up to $6K of grocery spend per year) and hopefully earn fuel points as well!


Backup plan: Use one of many other credit cards that offer grocery store bonuses.  See: Best Category Bonuses.

5X card + drugstore (or gas or grocery store) = 5X

There used to be an offer available for a Citi ThankYou card that earned 5X at drug stores, gas stations, and grocery stores for 12 months.  That offer has become almost impossible to find, but a new offer cropped up for a Wells Fargo card that offers 5% cash back for 6 months within the same categories.  See this post for details.  If you manage to get one of these cards, take it to any drugstore, gas station, or grocery store to buy gift cards.

Citi Forward + Bookstore = 5X

The Citi Forward card offers 5 ThankYou points per dollar at bookstores (and several other categories).  Find a bookstore with a gift card rack (try B&N campus bookstores) and pay with your Forward card to earn 5 points per dollar.

Second hand gift cards

There is a thriving resale market for gift cards.  It is often possible to buy merchant gift cards at a significant discount through one of many resellers.  The site does a pretty good job of aggregating the options for you.  You can sometimes even increase your savings by going through a cash back portal to the gift card resellers site.  Once you pick a reseller, go to to see if you can get cash back when buying gift cards.

Buy from merchant

Last, but not least, sometimes the best savings or points come from buying gift cards directly from the merchant for which you want a gift card.  For example, Marriott often offers bonus points or extra value gift cards when you purchase Marriott gift cards directly from them.  With some stores, you can earn extra points by starting with a shopping portal before clicking through and buying a store gift card.  This does not work with all stores.  Please see the Frequent Miler Laboratory to see what works and what doesn’t.

Subscribe to QuickDeals

On my QuickDeals page, I frequently post limited time gift card deals.  Subscribe to QuickDeal alerts or follow me through social media: Follow me on Twitter, Like me on Facebook, Find me on Google+.

Reader suggestions

I know that I didn’t present every combination of solutions available, but did I miss any particularly noteworthy options?  Please comment below.

Follow me on Twitter / Like me on Facebook / Find me on Google+

If you are new to collecting miles, click here for the free newsletter
If you are new to Frequent Miler, start here



  1. I’ve never played the gift card game. Seems like a lot of work when I can cycle 10k/month with mine and my wife’s bluebird account. I am going to look into this further. Good resource!

    • Mike: Yep, earning fuel points when purchasing $500 Visa cards seems to be dead at Kroger (I need to update that post!), but it is still alive and well for buying merchant gift cards.

  2. The best deal of gift cards is probably finding the gift cards on Gift Card Granny, then winning the items on Ebay. If you know your way around Ebay and can do pretty well.
    Couple that with buying Ebay gift cards at grocery stores using the BCP and you can do pretty good. I haven’t seen any Ebay gift cards at grocery stores for the last few weeks though.

  3. Donnie, GC are only worth it when you want numbers much higher than 10k a mo. I think you are doing everything right at the 10k level but you need GCs when you get to that 10k-50k/mo level.

    Grant, Problem w Ebay GCs is that you are only allowed 5k per 6mos. Which makes it not worthwhile IMO.

  4. Hi FM,I missed out on the American Airlines gc on the Quick deals. Do you know anyone who carries AA gcards? It would be wonderful if AA shopping mall carried them but they don’t.MJ

  5. 8x points? But the portal says that it is not valid on gift cards- “Not eligible on gift cards, gift certificates or any other similar cash equivalents.” Are the e-gift cards different than the physical card re points?

  6. Has anyone else had Sears removed from their Plink wallet choices? My account still allows for both KMart and Sears to be added, but my wife’s account has Sears nowhere to be found.

    My local Krogers are still giving 4x Fuel points on gift card purchases, but only had $100 and lower gift cards left. Variable load gift cards were rejected at both stores when trying to pay via cc.

  7. The reason why I am scared to try gift card churning is that Cardpool is notorious for screwing over people who try to sell their gift cards. Because of that, I am also wary of trying to sell on other online gift card exchanges as well. It’s too bad, seeing that according to Gift Card Granny, it’s possible to sell Sears gift cards through several sites for 84% of their value, or potentially upgrade it to a Sears gift card that sells for even higher. If you buy Sears gift cards at a 16% discount via Plink and a shopping portal, as well as earn points from the credit card used, it’s possible to earn points for free. Anyone have any thoughts on which gift card exchange sites are reputable? Even if it’s a relatively reputable site, I still don’t know if gift card churning is worth the risk.

  8. @FM or amyone: Have you found a portal alert site that is consistently updated for short term bumps in portals? ie: when sears goes to 9x, or when went to 15/21x? I know you prefer cashbackaholics. I use them, but it is not very good about the specials. each time a blog has told me sears is at 9x, I go to cashbackaholics to check, and it does not reflect the temporary bump. Which, of course, makes it useless for finding the short term deals. Sometimes I get an email from the portal, but sometimes I don’t. That, and it’s not like one has the time to click on (and read thru) all the avalanche of emails we get from all the various portals to find hidden nuggets. 1 accurate/up to date aggregator is what I need…

    Any alternatives?

  9. I think the Kmart cashiers have wised up and won’t allow gift card purchases with gift cards. Do cashiers at sears care? Thinking of venturing there this message weekend to get out of $500+ of gift cards. BTW Kmart will now only allow purchases of gift cards with cash.

  10. haven’t found any office supply or drugstores in the Portland, OR area that let you buy Amex or Visa gift cards with a credit card. All require cash. Am I missing something?

  11. Brandon: I agree that buying and selling gift cards is dangerous and, in my experience, frustrating. That’s why I don’t, personally, buy and sell merchant gift cards anymore. I’d rather get Sears gift cards at a huge discount and then upgrade to cards I would use (Visa, BP, etc.). If you want to sell gift cards anyway, I’ve had good luck with Raise.

  12. abby: No, I’m not aware of such a thing but it’s a great idea!
    hdawg: I’ve never had a Sears’ cashier care whether I pay with a gift card.
    dan ray: I don’t know. Anyone else from the Portland area?

  13. Abby try evrewards usually has the most recent rewards updated for most portals.
    FrequentMiler I will definetly try Sears this week. Any idea what the largest denominations of visa or mastercard gift card they sell? (kmart is $100) Do they carry Amazon gift cards?

  14. Is Plink still alive? I entered it for the 1st time just now. There are only several offers I can choose, and all the reward card were marked sold out.

  15. “If you use an Amex business card with OPEN Savings and buy over $250 worth of stuff at once at OfficeMax, you’ll automatically get 10% cash back from Amex. ”

    Is this offer still valid?


  16. The 8X at Staples from the portal also shouldn’t work because it’s says not valid on gift cards. Is that right? Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *