Best options for buying Visa and MasterCard gift cards

Updated 3/14/2016

A common practice for increasing credit card rewards is to use a credit card to buy PIN enabled Visa or MasterCard gift cards, and then liquidate those cards by using them to reload prepaid cards, buy money orders, or pay bills.

The first step is to find PIN enabled Visa or MasterCard gift cards that can be bought with a credit card, with low fees, and without risk of incurring cash advance fees.  That’s where this post can help.  Note that this post focuses on options available within the United States only.  Within the US, options vary by region, by county, by store, and even from one cashier to another.

Buy online

GiftCards.com

Order online through a cash back portal in order to recover some or all of the fees.

GiftCards Visa with name

Card Notes: Cards issued by Bancorp (i.e. Vanilla brand gift cards) have been known to have problems at Walmart, but GiftCards.com cards have been known to work normally at Walmart for loading Bluebird/Serve/other prepaid cards and for buying money orders.

When first buying cards from GiftCards.com, it is recommended that you start slowly.  If you buy too many in a short period of time, they may shut down your ability to buy more cards.

 

Max value: $500

Max order size: $2500 (inclusive of fees)

Per card fee: $6.95 + shipping. Shipping is either $1.99 per card for first class mail or $7.45 for an entire order with tracking.

Can include your name on gift card? Yes

Portal rebate available? Yes. Find current portal rates here.

PIN enabled? Yes. After activating online you’ll be given a 4 digit PIN and you can then change the PIN if you prefer.

Cash advance fee? No

Issued by: Bancorp

Credit card category bonus: None that I’m aware of.

GiftCardMall.com

Order online through a cash back portal in order to recover some or all of the fees.

GiftCardMall Silver Visa

Pin-Less Warning: GiftCardMall has been selling two types of Visa gift cards. Gift cards issued by Metabank are pin-enabled (the pin is the last four digits of the card number) and they work fine at stores like Walmart. Cards issued by Sunrise Bank and sold by IncentiveCardLab, though, are not pin-enabled. If you place an order and receive email confirmation from IncentiveCardLab, you may want to cancel the order before it is processed.  UPDATE: Miles to Memories reports that he was informed that if you search for and order the Silver Visa Gift Card (that looks like the one shown above), it will come with a PIN.

Card notes: GiftCardMall is known to have an itchy trigger finger when it comes to cancelling orders.  Personally, I haven’t had an order approved in years. I’m not aware of any work-around for this issue other than asking someone else to place orders for you.

Max value: $500

Max order size: $5,000 (inclusive of fees)

Per card fee: $5.95 + shipping. Shipping fees vary depending on the number of cards you purchase and they often run promotions for free shipping as well..

Can include your name on gift card? Yes

Portal rebate available? Yes. Note though that many portals have a separate cashback rates for Visa gift cards than for other gift cards. Find current portal rates here.

PIN enabled? Depends (see note on left)

Cash advance fee? No

Issued by: Metabank or Sunrise bank.

Credit card category bonus: 3X Citi AT&T.

Staples.com

visa gift cards purchase

Card notes: If you pay with a Chase Ink card, the $8.95 fee is more than made up for by the 5X Ultimate Rewards points earned (5 X 308.95 = 1545 points per $300 card).  In fact, if you wanted to, you could cash in 895 of those points to reduce your net fees to zero and still earn 650 points per $300 card (i.e. ~2.2X).

Max value: $300

Max order size: $2,000 (inclusive of fees)

Per card fee: $8.95

Can include your name on gift card? No

Portal rebate available? No

PIN enabled? Yes (last 4 digits)

Cash advance fee? No

Issued by: Metabank.

Credit card category bonus: 5X Chase Ink, Amex Simply Cash, Discover Business. Other category bonuses can be found here.

Name / LinkOfferFrequent Miler Notes
Dollar DigYou will receive the standard $5 enrollment bonus. I'll earn $2.50 once you have earned a total of $25 or more cash back.I do not yet have experience with this portal
EBatesYou'll earn $10, and I'll get a $5 bonus when you make your first purchase of $25 or more. I may earn additional bonuses when EBates runs special refer-a-friend promotionsThis is a well-established and reliable cash back portal.
iConsumerI'll earn 100 shares of iConsumer stock if you use this link to sign up, plus I'll earn $10 once you make a purchase through iConsumer.In my experience so far, this has proven to be a very reliable portal. With this portal you earn both cash back and shares in the iConsumer business. Requires $25 payable before they'll pay out.
Simply Best CouponsYou will earn a $5 bonus after you register, and I’ll earn 5% of any cash back you earn, up to a maximum of $50.I've had very good luck with this portal.

Buy in-person

None of the following in-person options provide a way to recover fees through portals, nor do they offer gift cards with your name on them.

Grocery Stores
Many grocery stores sell Visa and MasterCard gift cards loadable up to $500.  Unfortunately, in early 2016, Safeway and Safeway owned stores such as Thom Thumb have stopped carrying variable load Visa, MasterCard, and Amex gift cards.  Then, in March 2016, Stop & Shop and Giant stopped accepting credit cards for Visa/MC gift cards.visa gift cards purchaseCard notes: While Visa cards operate normally, U.S. Bank Mastercards do not automatically work as debit cards at Walmart registers. A workaround is to hit the red cancel button almost immediately after swiping so you can change the payment type to “debit”. These Mastercards do load normally at Walmart MoneyCenter Express kiosks.

Max value: $500

Max order size: Varies by store

Per card fee: $5.95

PIN enabled? Yes. PIN usually comes in the package. If it doesn’t, call 1-866-952-5653 to set the pin.

Cash advance fee? No

Issued by: U.S. Bank (usually)

Credit card category bonus: A number of cards offer up to 5% or even 6% cash back at grocery stores (found here).

Also watch for grocery stores as quarterly category bonus with cards such as Chase Freedom, Citi Dividend, and Discover.

Drug Stores

Many drugstores sell Vanilla brand Visa and MasterCard gift cards loadable up to $500.

OneVanilla.jpg
Card notes: Vanilla brand cards do not work as debit cards at Walmart for transactions of $50 or more. In my experience they work fine everywhere else.

Max value: $500

Max order size: Often limited to one $500 card.

Per card fee: $4.95

PIN enabled? Yes (Use any 4 digits upon first use to set the PIN)

Cash advance fee? No

Issued by: Bancorp

Credit card category bonus: Some cards offer up to 5% cash back at drug stores (found here).

Gas Stations / Convenience Stores

Some gas stations and convenience stores (which sometimes conveniently code as gas stations for credit card purposes) sell Visa and MasterCard gift cards loadable up to $500. The ability to pay with a credit card varies from region to region and store to store and is often limited to Vanilla brand gift cards.

OneVanilla.jpg
Card notes: Vanilla brand cards do not work as debit cards at Walmart for transactions of $50 or more. In my experience they work fine everywhere else.

Max value: $500

Max order size: Often limited to one $500 card.

Per card fee: $4.95

PIN enabled? Yes (Use any 4 digits upon first use to set the PIN)

Cash advance fee? No

Issued by: Bancorp

Credit card category bonus: A number of cards offer up to 5% cash back at gas stations (found here). Note that some category bonuses are restricted to payments at the pump — those will not work for buying gift cards.

Also watch for gas station quarterly category bonuses with cards such as Chase Freedom, Citi Dividend, and Discover.

Shopping Malls

Many indoor shopping malls have gift card displays, often near the information desk. Visa gift cards aren’t always on display so you may have to ask for them.

simon gift card

Card Notes: As of March 1 many malls on the east coast that used to be Simon Malls are now operated under the WP Glimcher brand and have stopped selling gift cards.

Max value: $500 ($1000 cards are sometimes available for business accounts)

Max order size: Varies. $10,000 limit (inclusive of fees) is typical.

Per card fee: $3.95 (usually)

PIN enabled? Yes (Last 4 digits)

Cash advance fee? Usually not, but in Feb 2016 there were a few reports of cash advance charges at Simon Malls.

Issued by: Metabank (at Simon and Macerich malls)

Credit card category bonus: None that I’m aware of.

AAA

Check your local AAA office to see if they sell Visa gift cards. Often they’ll run no-fee promotions, especially late in the year.

Card Notes: Some people have reported that buying gift cards from AAA is a cumbersome and time consuming process.  Others have had no such problems. We’ve received at least one report of a customer being charged a cash advance fee when buying AAA gift cards.  Make sure to lower your credit card’s cash advance limit below the amount you plan to spend.

Max value: $500

Max order size: ?

Per card fee: ?

PIN enabled? Yes

Cash advance fee? Usually not. See Card Notes.

Issued by: ?

Credit card category bonus: Some cards that bonus travel (found here) may give category bonus for AAA gift card purchases.

Credit Unions

Credit unions often sell Visa gift cards to their members sometimes with no fee at all.  When they do charge fees, they’re often lower than elsewhere. One example of a credit union that offers Visa gift cards can be found here.

Many credit unions only allow credit cards to be used if you pay with a credit card from that credit union.  Ask your credit union whether they accept 3rd party credit cards for these purchases.

Card Notes: There is always a risk of being charged a cash advance fee. Make sure to lower your credit card’s cash advance limit below the amount you plan to spend.

Max value: $500

Max order size: ?

Per card fee: Varies. $3.95 is typical.

PIN enabled? Yes

Cash advance fee? Possible

Issued by: ?

Credit card category bonus: None.

Reader suggestions

Did we miss any particularly noteworthy options?  Please comment below.

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Pingbacks

  1. […] Buy Visa/MC online and then pay bills online or via phone:  It is sometimes possible to buy Visa or MasterCard gift cards online with little or no net fee (or to earn a nice category bonus).  Then, you may be able to use those gift cards for bill payments where debit cards are accepted, but credit cards are not.  For example, you may be able to use gift cards to pay rent with RadPad, or to pay taxes for a small fee. To learn the best ways to buy Visa and MasterCard gift cards, please see: Best options for buying Visa and MasterCard gift cards. […]

Comments

  1. Jewel (which is part of the Albertsons chain) has also pulled all variable load gift cards. One of my favorite store CSRs does not think they’ll ever be back.
    Everything is drying up!

      • The answers to these questions can be found in this post which we actively update.

        1) Yes. GiftCards.com gift cards are pin-enabled and they do work at walmart
        2) giftcardmall is a crapshoot: to some they send gift cards from Incentive Card Labs. Those do not have Pins. Others get the kind with pins. If you order from there and get a confirmation email showing incentive card labs, then call and cancel the order.

        • I have a $500 Visa GC from giftcards.com issued by Bankcorp Bank. But i cannot load it to my BB at WM, despite multiple attempts by the courtesy WM service person.

          What is the problem, in your opinion? Coz you said they work to load BB at WM (VGC from giftcards.com).

          Eager to read your response, do reply ASAP.

        • Thanks. However both your websites posted on this page do not provide ANY CASHBACK for Gitcards.com purchases. Kindly reconfirm and remove or do not post nonworking links or wrong information that can misguide your followers HERE. Thank you……………………

        • Bob: It’s possible that things have changed. Many people have reported success in the past.

          Manish: There was a note saying that the portals were temporarily not working. However, since that note wasn’t obvious enough, I took out the portal options entirely from the post for now.

  2. Hello do the visa and master cards from kroger that say US Bank still work when uploading to bluebird at Walmart. I live in texas and I have a few of these from Christmas still. They do allow me to change pin when calling to check balance. Also they have a site to registry them at. I’d like to load them all onto my bluebird. Is there any update from anyone that is still doing this successfully at wakmart? Thanks

  3. All, a few people have recently reported problems using giftcards.com visa gift cards at Walmart when trying to load Bluebird or Serve. Has anyone had success recently using those gift cards as debit cards at Walmart at all?

  4. No mention of buying vGCs at WM? I tried to buy a Sunrise GC yesterday at WM with my Aviator Red card using the chip reader an dit was immediately canceled. Not declined. Some have said it’s due to using the chip for the first time, so I’ll try again another time.

  5. I bought some $500 gift cards on the giftcardmall before I came across your article. It’s been a few hours since I ordered, and I haven’t received a confirmation email for my order yet. My question is, how did you know that your orders on giftcardmall were cancelled? I kind of hope they are so I can get the 1.5% cash back on giftcards.com instead!

  6. About paying Citi CC with a debit card .. I purchased a Metabank issued VGc at a grocery store and registered with my name and address at giftcardmall.com/mygift – made sure everything matched my CC info. Then I called Citi to pay, but the agent said that she got an error message – ‘do not honor’ or something along those lines.

    Don’t these cards work at all for this liquidation method? Thanks !

    • There are many places in which companies try to only allow “real” debit cards for things like bill payments, money transfers, money order purchases, etc. For that reason, I believe that Citi bars most gift cards from being used for debit payments.

  7. You say to start out slow on giftcards.com. Can you elaborate? What constitutes slow? What sort of monthly volume is possible (I’ve not placed any previous orders with them)? Also, if my SO and I were to place separate orders, would that help assuming we use different CC numbers for the orders, or would the identical address be caught?

    • I wouldn’t separate orders to the same address. I don’t think that will help. Orders are limited to $2500 at a time. When starting out, I recommend placing an order of maybe $500 or $1000, then wait until it arrives. Then go for maybe $2000 and wait for it to arrive. Once you’ve built up your buying relationship with them it should be safe to place additional orders while still waiting for the previous ones to arrive.

  8. So what to do after buying the visa gift cards? How to liquidate them now that Bluebird is not an option anymore? (Bluebird sent me an email that I cannot load money with debit card anymore in my account)

    Please detail all options on liquidating the GIFTCARDS/Visa debit cards and COSTS associated with those options (if any)

    • In the middle of the post I referenced he has a link named, “Connecting the dots: Prepaid cards that allow debit reloads.” He describes alternatives to liquidating GCs.

      Good Luck!

  9. how to buy MO? from where? any charge/fees associated with buying MO? can it be bought with my VGC’s i have? and can MO be deposited to my Bank account?

    • It’s hard to answer where since the answer depends on where you live. Many stores sell money orders. Some of those allow you to pay for the money orders with debit cards. Some of those allow you to use Visa gift cards as debit cards to pay. Try the Walmart in your area, for example. Fees vary but are usually less than $2 for up to $500 or up to $1000.

      Yes you can deposit MOs in your bank account, but if you regularly do many thousands of dollars worth, your bank may shut down your account for suspicious activity. You can also use MOs to pay bills that can’t otherwise be paid by credit card. Use them just like a check.

  10. Hi, I am new to this website, but looks like a great one, very helpful.

    One question, i have about $6000 in Visa GC’s that i cannot liquidate as my BB account has lost the option of adding funds via Debit Card upload.

    What are my options? I see the option of MO. But wouldn’t that be expensive, paying fees to get MO in addition to fees I’ve paid to get the GC’s?

  11. brought a bunch of those pre-designed visa gift cards from giftcards.com, Today tried to use them at WM to buy MO, all got infamous “debit not available error= 51”. is something going on?

    • According to the FT Wiki, this is the error you get when you haven’t activated your cards. Sorry if that’s overly obvious, but you should double check. It’s relatively easy to activate the cards and change the PIN through the app. Scan the front of the card, type 3 digit number on back, change PIN, liquidate.

      • 1) Fee/Cost to buy each MO?

        2) Can i buy 1 $500 MO per one $500 GC or i can combine 3-4 $500 GC’s to buy one single MO of $1500-$2000?

        • You directed this at me. Maybe that was a mistake as I’m not an MO-er (yet).

          1) depends on vendor
          2) max amount = $1000, multiple swipes depends on vendor. Time to go to some reading.

      • Thank you, Bullfrog, I do did activate the cards by my computer, but I went to WM right after. I re-activated them by phone app ( thank you for the tips, it is fast and easy), Let them rest overnight, and use them tomorrow.

        • Hi Will, you mentioned a phone app. Do you know if the Android version of the GiftCards.com app allows Visa Gift Cards to be activated by scanning the front? Thanks.

  12. What about using an actual Amex (Amex Hilton HHonors) cars for giftcards.com? I remember hearing Amex is more selective about what they would code to count towards minimum spend…

  13. after successfully put two 1K orders(3/8 and 3/15), today’s 1K order got cancelled. is it dead for me? or I have to wait a while to start it again. it is not for Mser.

  14. FYI: GiftCards.com disappeared from portals yesterday (and on iConsumer it says that the purchase can’t be tracked). This happened in February. It then took about 2 and a half weeks for giftcards.com to return to portals. It will be interesting to see if the same happens again.

  15. Do the BankCorp cards from giftcards.com take any four digit code at first use as PIN like the vanilla cards? Thanks

  16. GiftCards.com and GiftCardMall.com have returned to portals again. iConsumer hasn’t updated giftcards.com yet to show that it is tracking, but I’m sure they’ll fix that today or tomorrow. Yazing shows 1.5% still for giftcards.com

  17. Safeway Grocery Stores in my area of Denver no longer sell the $500 M/C or Visa Gift Cards.
    They are only selling the $200 variety.

    • I haven’t seen a $500 at a Safeway around Denver in ages. When was the last time you saw one? I’m out by the airport so pretty much middle of nowhere.

  18. Two days ago I tried to buy a $500 gift card at QFC with the Chase Freedom card. The bank would not allow the purchase. Has anyone been denied when trying to buy a gift card at a grocery store? I really want to spend $1500 for the 5x points!

  19. Bought $2K worth of Vanilla gift cards at CVS today at $500 each + $4.95 fee using AmEx SPG card. They scan your license – the daily limit is $2K. Worked great and paid off bills a few hours later that only took VISA / Mastercard. Didn’t love paying the fee, but worked great. Thanks for all of the advice in the blog & website!

    • may I know what type of bill payment you could pay by vanilla cards? I was trying to unload my one vanilla cards. thanks.

      • I used mine for a regular online bill where their payment system accepts Visa & Mastercard. Vanilla does say that the business must be US-based. As a precaution, I registered my zip code first before I paid the online vendor.

  20. Just ordered 5k of Silver Visa Gift Cards from giftcardmall.com. Pending charge on Amex shows as “GIFT CARD MALL (CARDLAB)”. I made an order of Silver Visa Cards last week and got PIN enabled ones, but I see the warning here about Cardlab. I wonder if this is different from “Incentive Cardlab”?

      • They ended up cancelling the order… Possibly because I went up to $5k from my earlier $3k order? The cancellation email did come from Incentive Cardlab

  21. Just got 3 New Jetblue, Hilton Surpass, Regular Hilton and now Amex Platinum , get off work drive to cvs, purchase 1000 in onevan, go across street to Publix buy two money orders, drive 500ft to Suntrust deposit mo,drive 6 min home jump on computer pay cc. Worth the fee IMO

  22. Just received the vgc from giftcards.com and went to Walmart cs to load it to serve, but it didn’t go through, tried two time one 500 and the other time 200, not sure if this is just my local Walmart or nationwide, any one has similar experience recently ?

  23. Correct me if i am wrong, but loading GC’s to serve/redbird/bluebird has stopped since last few months, right?

    Am i missing something here?

    Moderator, please share your expert opinion and thoughts.

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