Complete guide to Amex gift cards

UPDATE 8/21/2015: Amex has changed their terms for portal cash back. They now only allow cash back for gift card denominations of $200 and below.  As long as this restriction is in place there is no good reason to buy Amex gift cards through portals.  We will leave this post in place, though, in the hopes that the restrictions will be lifted sometime in the near future.

A number of online portals offer cash back or miles when purchasing American Express gift cards. The idea of buying American Express gift cards just to earn miles or cash back may sound boring to some, but to me it is fantastic. It’s a great opportunity to run up spend on credit cards to meet minimum spend requirements, hit big spend thresholds, or just to earn regular everyday rewards.  For more, please see: Amex Gift Card Strategy.

And now, without further ado,  everything you may want to know about Amex gift cards in the form of Questions and Answers…

Q: What are the best current portal offers for buying Amex gift cards?

A: Portal rates for Amex gift cards change regularly.  Here are examples of offers that we saw in 2014:

  • Barclaycard RewardsBoost portal: 4 miles per dollar
  • Lucky Rewards: 4% cash back
  • BeFrugal: 4% cash back
  • BigCrumbs: 3.5% cash back
  • TopCashBack: 3% cash back
  • Alaska Airlines MileagePlan Shopping portal: 3 miles per dollar
  • Delta SkyMiles Shopping portal: 3 miles per dollar

Unfortunately, Amex gift cards have disappeared from portals a couple of times recently. Since their return, portal rates have ranged from 1.5-2.25%.

The Barclaycard’s portal unfortunately also no longer offers Amex gift cards.  Check this CashBackMonitor page and this one for up to date portal offers.

Q: Will I incur cash advance fees?  Which credit cards are safe?

A: Some credit cards do charge cash advance fees.  For example, readers have reported in the past that Citibank cards incurred cash advance fees, however recently transactions have been coding as purchases. Below I’ve listed cards that are safe, maybe safe and not safe to use based on reader input (so, your mileage may vary).  Please chime in with your experiences and I’ll add to this list:

Safe — No cash advance fee for Amex gift card purchases:
  • American Express
  • Bank Of America
  • Capital One
  • Chase
  • Discover
  • HSBC
  • US Bank
  • Barclaycard
Note:
  • Some banks (such as Discover and US Bank) treat Amex gift cards as a cash advance while authorizing the transaction, but it later changes to a purchase. For this reason, if you have a low cash advance limit, your purchase may be declined.
May be safe — Older reports of cash advance fees but more recent reports of not being charged a fee:
  • Citibank
Not safe — Cash advance fee for Amex gift card purchases:
  • First Bankcard

Q: I read that Chase charges cash advance fees when buying Amex gift cards. How can I avoid those fees?

A: There was a brief period in 2013 when Chase charged cash advance fees for Amex gift cards, but that has been fixed. Please see this post for more: It’s once again safe to buy Amex gift cards with your Chase card.

Q: Is it safe to use a Citibank card to buy Amex gift cards online?

A: Yes & No!  In the past, purchases with some Citi cards were treated as a cash advance.  More recently several readers have reported that their transactions have coded as purchases.  It’s possible that Citi handles this differently with different cards, but my advice is to play it safe before making any large purchases.

Q: Do I have to use a credit card affiliated with the portal to purchase Amex gift cards?  For example, do I have to use a Delta credit card to buy gift cards through the Delta SkyMiles portal?

A: No, you can use any credit card to pay and you should still earn points, miles, or cash back.

Q: When shopping through a portal, do I get the advertised bonus on top of the rewards automatically earned by my credit card?

A: Yes.  For example, when the Alaska MileagePlan portal offered 3 miles per dollar for Amex gift cards, you could have earned those 3 miles per dollar in addition to rewards earned automatically by your credit card.

Q: It has been three weeks since buying gift cards through a portal, but I still do not see any rewards activity on my account.  Am I out of luck?

A: Hopefully not. It’s common for mile earning portals, to take a month or longer before showing any evidence of large purchases like these.  My advice: be patient.

Q: What credit card will earn the most rewards for these purchases?

A: I’m not aware of any cards that offer a category bonus for online Amex gift card purchases, so your best bet is to use the card that offers the best rewards for everyday spend.  If you’re working on completing the minimum spend requirements for a new credit card, then that’s a great option (as long as the card is from a bank that doesn’t treat the purchase as a cash advance).  Another great option is to use a card that earns a valuable big spend bonus.  Checkout each of these pages for more information:

Q: Gift cards are limited to a maximum value of $500 (when clicking through from some portals). Is there a way to buy larger denomination cards?

A: Yes, simply log into your American Express account from the gift cards page, and you’ll then see options up to $3000 in value.  If you don’t want to log in, another approach is to simply click “Select a Card Design” under either the Business Gift Cards or Consumer Gift Cards menu.

Q: Will I lose out on portal rewards if I buy denominations larger than $2,000?

Maybe.  Portals introduced language to that effect early in 2015. At this point I recommend buying cards in denominations of $2,000 or less.  Please see this post for more details:  $2K denomination limit on Amex gift card cash back.

Q: Will I lose out on portal rewards if I use a discount code not found on the portal?

A: YES.  Please do not use promo codes unless the portal you use specifically says its OK. See: Promo codes to void cash back for Amex gift cards?

Q: How long will it take to earn cash back or miles from a portal?

A: This varies by portal.  With some portals, I have received miles in about a week to 10 days after purchase.  With the Alaska and Delta portals I’ve had to wait as long as a month.  With cash back portals, I frequently receive notification within a day or less that the cash back is pending, but it can take several months for the cash back to become payable.

Q: Can I buy business gift cards?

A: Yes, but depending upon the size of your order you may be asked to enter your Tax ID.  If you do not have a business tax ID, simply input your social security number.

Q: Do I have to use a business credit card to buy business gift cards?

A: No.  Some people have been told by Amex reps that their orders were not approved because they didn’t use business credit cards to pay.  I don’t believe this.  I use personal Amex cards regularly to buy business gift cards.

Q: What are the purchase limits?

A: There is a $10,000 limit on Consumer Gift Cards and $100,000 limit on Business Gift Cards per 14 days.

Q: Isn’t it risky to have these cards shipped by mail?

A: Yes, there is always some risk that someone will steal your gift cards before you can get to them.  If that happens to you, I’d recommend that you call Amex immediately.  They should be able to help (I imagine this would take a lot of patience on your part, though!).

Q: Why did my order get declined?

A: There are several reasons why Amex may decline your order:

  1. Your purchase exceeds your cash advance limit.  Some credit cards treat online Amex gift card purchases as cash advances.  In these situations, be glad that your order was declined. Cash advances do not result in credit card rewards, but they do result in unwanted fees.  Also, several readers have reported to me that some credit cards treat the purchase, initially, as a cash advance for the purpose of authorizing the charge, but then put through the actual charge as a purchase.  If your cash advance limit is too low in these situations your order will be declined.
  2. The name and address you input in the order (billing info) do not match your name and address on your credit card.  This information has to match perfectly for the order to go through.
  3. Random chance.  It is common to receive an email from Amex stating that they “could not verify your order information and cannot approve your order at this time.”  Sometimes this can be caused by #2, above, but other times it seems to be completely random.  I swear that I’ve entered in the same exact information with the same credit card for payment time and again, and sometimes it is approved and sometimes declined.  I’m sure it’s not truly random, but may be a function of who gets assigned to verify your order, or maybe the cycle of the moon at the time.

Q: Can I use these gift cards to load Bluebird at Walmart?

A: No.  Amex gift cards can be used as credit cards, but not as debit cards.  You cannot setup a PIN.  You cannot use them to load Bluebird, buy money orders, or pay bills at Walmart.

Q: Can I use these gift cards to load Serve online?

A: Probably not. While I’ve heard a report or two of people successfully using an Amex gift card as a credit card funding source with Serve, it usually does not work.

Q: Can I use these gift cards to load REDbird (The Target Prepaid REDcard) at Target?

A: No. Amex gift cards used to work to load REDbird, but that functionality ended on May 6, 2015 when Target stopped allowing credit card loads.

Q: Can I use these gift cards in-store to buy Visa/MasterCard debit gift cards?

A: Maybe.  Many cashiers have been trained to not allow this, but it is still possible at some stores and/or with some cashiers.  You may have to do some experimentation to find a place where this works.

Q: I’ve heard that there’s an option to sign up for free shipping for 90 days. How do I find that?

A: Make sure to log into your American Express account during the gift card check-out process.  When you get to the screen offering shipping options, you should see the offer.

Q: How can I cash out these gift cards once I get them?

A: Here are some ideas:

  1. Buy stuff you would buy anyway.
  2. Buy Visa or MasterCard gift cards and then use the gift card PIN to cash out.
  3. Make Kiva loans.
  4. Buy merchant gift cards through online portals in order to earn extra points or cash back.
  5. Pay federal taxes.  You will incur a 1.89% fee, but that can be partially or wholly offset by cash back earned when buying Amex gift cards.
  6. Pay bills with Plastiq.  You will incur a 2.5% fee.

Audience participation

Do you have additional questions about Amex gift cards?  Or, do you have more information that can be added to one of the answers above?  Please comment below.

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.

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  1. I bought gift cards from American express totalling 3500 I received the cards and they don’t work I call in and the balance is there but once I talk to the customer service rep they say that the balance is 0 they said they never charged me for the cards so I need to provide proof that they took the money from my cc. I sent it to them they said wait 7-10 days which I did nothing happened and when I call they say your order is cancelled so I disputed the charges with my bank (boa) and for done reason they fought and won the dispute and now I am charged twice for 3500 what do I do

  2. What about the Discover It card? I see you list the Discover More as a card NOT to use, but where does the Discover It stand?

    • Sort of – you cannot “load” your Google wallet with Amex GC but you can send to someone else and incur the fee (2.9%). I just did this recently with $1,000 AMEX I had because I was just tired of liquidating through other means.

      I don’t advise this, because I am sure eventually Google would shut me down, but I sent funds from my email address to another personal email address and then simply put in my bank information once received and pulled the funds out that way. I only did this as a test but normally I would sent to my girlfriend with a separate account or a trusted family member.

  3. I am sure this has been answered somewhere before, but I can’t find it. Can I load an AMEX GC to serve(softcard) via the online credit card load option of up to $1,500 a month?

  4. Someone posted on a forum that discover 5%cb Oct-Dec DOES work with these amex gift cards. Agree/disagree?

    I was under the impression they didn’t count.

  5. Warning: Here in Dallas, Texas, there are so so many places that don’t accept AMEX gift cards and almost no places in other countries.

  6. I need to meet 10k spend for the Amex BGR card. Will I earn points, will it count toward min spend, and will Amex have a fit or do a FR if I’m buying Amex GCs with my new Amex CC?

    • Amex terms & conditions say that purchases of gift cards don’t count, but in practice they do. You should earn points and it will count towards min spend. That has been my experience. I don’t think a FR is likely.

  7. So I have experimented using AA Business through Citi and I have not been charged as a cash advance twice. Anyone else have any similar stories to business cards being treated differently than personal cards?

  8. I never noticed before, but the terms on topcashback state not eligible for denominations over $2000. Any word on if that is enforced? I first heard about this as a new term during the befrugal 2.2% the other week, yet my $3k order shows cashback pending on befrugal.

  9. UPDATE: I just added a section warning against buying gift cards in denominations higher than $2,000. To be safe, only buy $2K or $1K denominations. It’s OK to buy more than $2K worth of cards at once, though. In other words, it should be safe to buy two $2K cards, but not safe to buy one $3K card.

  10. To clarify:

    If I purchase an AmexGC online with my credit card then I can upload to google wallet and then transfer that money to a friend?

    Trying to find the best way to reach my 3000 in 3 months.

  11. Discover appears to be a cash advance now (I never tried it in the past).

    I tried to purchase two $2000 business AMEX gift cards and the purchase was declined by Discover. I called to find out why and the representative told me it was because it exceeded my card’s cash advance limit (plenty of available credit available).

    Beware!

  12. Oops I missed the note above that Discover initially shows it as a cash advance but then actually processes it as a purchase.

    Can anyone confirm this still on a recent transaction?

  13. Has anyone tried using the new Discover IT Miles card to buy AGCs? I realize they originally show as a cash advance, but do they eventually become purchases, as the other Discover cards did? Thanks.

  14. Does anyone know if the Citi-At&T card code as a CA for Amex online gift card purchases? Related: do you get the 3x points for an Amex online gift card purchase using the Citi-At&T card?
    Thanks

  15. Have you heard of individuals being banned from buying Amex gift cards? My purchase triggered a financial review and although my review cleared, I am now unable to buy Amex gift cards online. Have you heard about how long these bans last?

  16. Greg–have you encountered an order going into “processing” status after being placed and staying that way for more than 48 hours?

      • Thanks. I’ve never had trouble with them but an order I placed on 7/2 has been stuck in processing since then. The cards never shipped and even the temporary authorization has fallen off the credit card I used. Not sure what is going on.

    • No. You can only use cash or debit cards at stores such as Walmart and Family Dollar. Often it is possible to use Visa gift cards as debit cards for this purpose. So, what I do is:
      1. Buy Amex gift cards to get cash back and earn credit card rewards from the purchase.
      2. Use Amex gift cards to buy Visa gift cards
      3. Use Visa gift cards to load REDbird, Bluebird, or Serve in-store

      • Frequent Miler, where can I use AMEX GC to buy VGC? Nobody around here where I live will sell ANY GC for anything other than cash or Real Bank Debit cards. Are there ANY websites that I can use?

  17. When you buy Visa GC at the store, do you tell them you are using/paying Amex GC? Do they ask for PIN #?

    what kind of store does it usually work? I have not tried CVS yet(little far), is it worth to try?

    • At most stores you can swipe the Amex card yourself. It is treated as a credit card. They usually ask to see the card so that they can type in the last 4 digits. Try CVS. Also try grocery stores

  18. data point
    I bought 2 x $200 AEGC through befrugal, first one I did not use my AE code to get the 3.95 fee waived fearing I would not get the cashback, 2nd one I realized that 3.95 is better than 1.5% so i used the code. Today both tracked at befrugal

  19. Would Visa Gift Cards purchased (at Simon Malls/Staples, etc) with Amex Gold Business Delta Skymiles card be coded by Amex as cash advance? Thanks!

  20. I have tried twice today to purchase amex gift cards through the top cashback portal. Amex has sent me an email twice saying my order has been declined because they cannot verify my order information. Capital One says the issue is not coming from them. Ideas? I dont want to raise flags.

    • I purchased a consumer $2k AGC using my PRG but not through a portal site so I can get the free shipping membership started since I didn’t see an option when I went though the TCP portal. This order was approved by AMEX.

      I then used TCB to purchase a business AGC for $2k using my CSP so I can get the 2.25% cash back. That order was declined by AMEX. I just re submitted the order so hopefully it goes through this time.

      • I’ve tried every card in my arsenal, I could not successfully order through tcb for 2.25%. The same cards worked for 1.5% onnpersonal

        • I was able to order with a personal and a business AmEx today but got a decline on my Barclays Arrival even though it works fine for personal cards. Very irritating.

        • My personal amex worked fine too. But I don’t earn anywhere near what I would with the others. Again, amex has no valid reason. The rep I talked too said she would email a reason within 3 days. I’ll be fine with the 1.5 as I’m just in it for the miles not the dollars really.
          Still frustrating

  21. Yesterday I tried twice with getting a $2k business AGC using my CSP. Both were declined when I used the 2.25% TCB portal.

    I gave up, so today I used TCB 1.5% on consumer AGC to buy $2k using my CSP. Still declined by AMEX.

    Any other tips other than waiting a few weeks before I try again?

  22. Anyone have any data points to share regarding the Citi DoubleCash card and cash advance fees when purchasing Amex gift cards?

    • I haven’t tried it myself, but here’s what I’ve read:
      1) It does not result in cash advance fees
      2) you earn the initial 1%, but not the second 1%
      If #2 is true, then its not a good option to use the Double Cash card

  23. Need help to learn about portals, cash back and fees from Amex. Can someone help me? Been reading all the articles but very confused.

  24. I used to order Amex GC on Ebates with Ebates credit cards. The portal has 1% cashback. The CC has 3% cashback. It all went smooth every month until this month. The Amex GC disappeared. I got the following response from Ebates customer service:

    Thank you for your email. They are no longer an active merchant on our site.
    We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding in this matter.

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