Best options for buying merchant gift cards

Last Updated: 2/12/15

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.

Note: a post of the same title was originally posted about a year ago, but many of the options presented there are no longer available. + Portal = Up to 11.0% cash back

The uPromise portal is currently offering 5% cash back for clicking through to shop at (find current rates here).  If you pay with the uPromise credit card, you’ll earn an additional 5% cash back.  And, if you have the Sallie Mae High-Yield Savings Account, you can earn an additional 10% annual match on your uPromise earnings.  This will give you an additional 1.% cash back for a total of 11.0%!

Hat Tip: Pledge Pat

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 at office supply stores.

Ink + Staples + Portals = 5X + ??

While most cashback portals do not pay out when purchasing merchant gift cards at Staples, some mileage portals do. It may be possible to earn up to 2.5 additional miles per dollar (current rates) by using a portal to purchase merchant gift cards online from Staples. You will also earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points by paying with a Chase Ink or an additional 5% cash back if paying with an American Express SimplyCash card.

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 are a few cards that offer 5X at drugstores, gas stations, and grocery stores either for a limited time or after meeting certain requirements (see “Playing 5X everywhere Whack a Mole”).  Drugstores and grocery stores tend to have terrific gift card options.

Citi Forward + Bookstore = 5X

The Citi Forward card that offers 5 ThankYou points per dollar at bookstores (and several other categories) is no longer available to new applicants, but if you already have one you can use it to your advantage.  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.

Credit card / bank offers

Sometimes your credit card company or bank will offer automatic incentives for shopping at certain vendors.  A good example of this is American Express “Offers for You” and “Amex Offers”.  Amex sometimes offers deals such as an automatic $15 statement credit when you purchase $75 or more at Home Depot (the exact deals vary. This is just one recent example).  In cases like these, you can go to the store in question and buy enough gift cards to meet the deal requirements and get automatic savings.  For more concrete examples, please see: Maximizing Amex Sync offers. Part 3: shopping elsewhere.

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.  They’ll even let you setup alerts to watch for gift cards of interest.  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 these 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, Staples sometimes offers a $10 promo e-gift card with each $50 gift card purchased.  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.

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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.

Options no longer available:

In the past I’ve written about a number of options that are no longer available today…

Buying gift cards with Staples’ gift cards is no longer available

It used to be possible to buy Staples’ gift cards at a discount (or to get points) and then use those gift cards to buy other gift cards (and get cash back or points again).  Unfortunately, now greys out the option to pay with a Staples gift card if you have any gift cards in your cart.  In-store it might still be possible to buy gift cards with Staples’ gift cards, but most cashiers are trained to not allow it.

Earning cash back at OfficeMax through Amex OPEN Savings is no longer available

Amex used to offer an automatic 10% cash back when you made a purchase of $250 or more at  As of January 1st, 2014, that benefit went away (see more here).

Earning Plink points when buying gift cards is no longer available

There used to be quite a few options to earn Plink Points (which are redeemable for gift cards) when buying gift cards at stores like Sears, 7-11, Staples, etc.  However, all of those options have gone away.  Current Plink options are quite limited

Visa Savings Edge 1% rebate at Staples no longer available

Staples & Visa Savings Edge were partners until the end of 2014. They used to pay a 1% rebate on purchases over $200 when a Visa business card (such as the Chase Ink) was used at Staples.

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      • You have to wait like 45 – 90 days before you can contact them. If you don’t wait, they’ll tell you to wait. Good luck for people just starting now.

  1. Huh…they FINALLY greyed out buying gift cards with Staples gift cards, huh? I had a great run on that (until recently). Starting July 9th…every order I placed was getting cancelled automatically by the computer. They got better at it i suppose.

  2. uPromise alive? How do you cash out of that account? Has Bluebird now passed the dead as a doorknob test and we need to switch over to SERVE?

  3. I just added a Staples VISA gift card to my Bluebird account this morning. I had to delete the previous one, then add this new one. I think there is a waiting period between adding a new card then deleting it for another one, but I don’t know how long that is.

  4. Thanks for the updated post. Is it still possible to buy Amex gift cards at any stores with a cc? I tried at Rite Aid the other day and the guy was quick to say only cash or debit. He said I could buy merchant, store-specific cards though…I ask because I hear from time to time that you can. Is it just luck of the draw, or luck of the cashier?

      • I just use Serve and Amazon, so I’m just happy to buy ANY card at a grocery/drugstore that earns me 5% cash back. Which card (and at what store) will I have the best luck buying with a cc? I tried Amex gc at Rite Aid and that failed miserably. Thanks again!

  5. Did I hear you say the Vanilla Visa card could be loaded onto Bluebird aka debit card? Isn’t CVS still selling Vanilla Visa with a credit card? They sure sell PayPal with a credit card…..

  6. Your Blog outstanding as usual. I`ve seen my MS options quickly dwindle down to nothing. Bluebird seems dead as there is no way to get debit cards in my area Hawaii. Am express GC wont ship here and I`d have to order GC`s from Staples with shipping its not worth it.
    Is there any Visa/master Card that can be had online with a larger denomination then $200 from Staples

    • I am in Hawaii also ! you can get a nationwide visa Buxx to load BB. Also GiftCardMall offers Visa gift cards with values up to $500 each. I use the JCB marukai to buy them. ^_^

      • Awesome advice thanks! I have one last Ace to play there is one lone Chevron Gas station that sells Netspend reloads up to $400 but they charge ugly fees…. they even charge if ya want to know your balance + every transaction & a monthly Fee.

  7. I am really looking for an alternative to for the online purchase of Visa Gift Cards using American Express Gift Cards to purchase. I haven’t been at all happy with Gift Card Mall. Are there any others besides them that you can recommend? Thanks!

  8. Here is a cautionary tale on Bluebird + gift card loads. Bluebird allows $200 daily loads from gift cards. For example, the staples visa gift card loaded online fine until July 20.

    Today, a simple load of $200 to a bluebird led to a big read message saying “you needed to verify your bluebird, if you have received a plastic card, call ….”. The gift card is fine. It registers as a funding source with bluebird (which some gift cards don’t), but bluebird will not take money from it.

    First step: bluebird customer service. At first they want a drivers license and a picture of the card. It tell them it doesnt have a name on it. The say gift debit cards are no longer allowed. This has been detected as a gift card and the system wont let it in.

    Next step: forwarded to “account protection services”. They claim you have bad funding source, so there is a “concern” on the account. I ask them to delete the funding source, “concern” removed. I rant about these “invisible policies” and take my leave.

    Yes, one should not call humans in general. But this needed clarification. Perhaps a policy change for the worse (and technology update now detecting gift debit visa/mastercards as such), so bad news for the techniques mentioned above.

    Anyone with a different experience today?

  9. my local PDX Office Depot has told me they no longer sell Amazon gift cards with a credit card. Cash only. Is this universal?

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