Best options for buying Visa and MasterCard gift cards

Updated 9/21/2015

As of April 2013, Visa and MasterCard gift cards became great tools for earning points and miles thanks to the ability to assign PINs (see “Gift card PINs“).  With this ability, it is possible to buy gift cards (to increase credit card spend) and cash them out by using them as debit cards (i.e. to load REDbird, Bluebird or Serve in-store; pay bills; etc.).

To be clear, not all stores will accept gift cards as debit cards for all transactions, but with a little research you should be able to find options that work for you. One example is that Vanilla Visa cards no longer work as debit cards at Walmart for transactions $50 and above, but continue to work elsewhere including to load REDbird.  More information and many useful resources can be found in FlyerTalk’s Manufactred Spending forum.

Gift Cards with a Customized Name

There is one major economically viable method of obtaining customized Visa gift cards and it is Agricultural Federal Credit Union.  Another option is to pay a bit more per card via  Keep in mind that there may be other ways such as through your local credit union, but the methods listed here should be available to most people.

Agricultural Federal Credit Union

Agricultural Federal Credit Union sells pin-enabled Visa gift cards. These cards can be loaded with up to $500 and cost only $3.95 each. More importantly, these cards come with your name engraved on them, so they look like any other debit card. All of the designs do have the words “gift card” printed on them, but some are more pronounced than others.

Like with most credit unions, Agfed does have specific requirements to join. Thankfully you can join the The Friends of City Dance Association for $20 to become eligible. This is still a relatively new method, so it may not be a good idea to join and then go crazy with purchases. You can find out more about the gift cards and how to join here.

For information on setting the pin along with example uses for these cards, see: The beginner’s guide to buying & liquidating Visa & Mastercard gift cards sells pin-enabled Visa gift cards issued by Bancorp. These cards can be loaded up to $500 and will include your name engraved on them. Cards issued by Bancorp have been known to have problems at Walmart, but these cards work normally at Walmart to load Bluebird/Serve and at Target to load REDbird.

The cost of these cards is $6.95 each, plus shipping.  They have a fixed $7.45 shipping option and they will allow orders up to $2500 (inclusive of card fees). If you buy four $500 cards, the total with shipping will come to $2027.25.  That averages out to $508.81 per card.

These cards are also earning 1% back in G-money rewards, thus cancelling out a good portion of the $6.95 fee. (Make sure to opt-in to the rewards program in your account before making a purchase.) The rewards earned on one order can be used on the next, so you can roll your rewards over from order to order.

Unfortunately, you cannot pay with American Express gift cards, but unlike AgFed, they do accept American Express.

For information on setting the pin along with example uses for these cards, see: The beginner’s guide to buying & liquidating Visa & Mastercard gift cards

Gift Cards without a Customized Name

There are still a lot of places to purchase Visa gift cards that aren’t customized. Many people have success purchasing these cards and liquidating them to Serve/REDbird, etc.


visa gift cards purchase

In addition to merchant gift cards, Staples sells MasterCard and Visa gift cards.  $200 Visa cards are available for $206.95 online and are sometimes available in-store for the same price. If you pay with a Chase Ink card, that 3.5% fee, is more than made up for by the 5X Ultimate Rewards points earned (5 X 206.95 = 1035 points per card).  In fact, if you wanted to, you could cash in 695 of those points to reduce your net fees to zero and still earn 340 points per $200 card (i.e. 1.7X).

Visa cards sold by Staples are issued by Metabank while Mastercards are issued by US Bank. For information on setting the pin along with example uses for these cards, see: The beginner’s guide to buying & liquidating Visa & Mastercard gift cards

Staples also frequently runs rebate deals on Visa & Mastercard gift cards in-store which more than offset the purchase fees. For more info see: The complete guide to Staples Visa & Mastercard deals

Grocery Stores

visa gift cards purchase

Many grocery stores sell Visa and MasterCard gift cards loadable up to $500, usually with a $5.95 fee.  Use one of the many credit cards that offer grocery store bonuses to offset that 1.2% fee (See: Best Category Bonuses).  And, make sure to join the grocery store’s loyalty program (many offer fuel rewards) since some stores will pay out rewards even for Visa and MasterCard gift card purchases (but this has become exceedingly rare).

Grocery stores sell cards issued by Incomm, Metabank, US Bank & others. For information on setting the pin along with example uses for these cards, see: The beginner’s guide to buying & liquidating Visa & Mastercard gift cards

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, usually with a $4.95 or $5.95 fee.  Use one of the credit cards that offer gas station bonuses to offset that 1% to 1.2% fee (See: Best Category Bonuses).

Drug Stores

Drug stores tend to have great options for Visa and MasterCard gift cards with fees ranging from zero (rare, but they exist) to $5.95 for $500 cards.  Use one of the credit cards that offer drug store bonuses to offset that fee (See: Best Category Bonuses).

Credit Unions and AAA

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.

Another option is to check your local AAA office to see if they sell Visa gift cards. Often they’ll run no-fee promotions.

Shopping Malls

visa gift cards purchase

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.  Usually, fees are $3.95 or less for cards with values up to $500 each.  Simon Mall Visa cards are now $3.95 unless you register as a valid business.

There have been recent reports of gift card purchases at Macerich Malls (not online) being coded as cash advances when paying with Visa & Mastercard gift cards. At this time it seems wise to hold off making purchases with those cards in order to avoid fees. American Express cards still seem to be showing up as purchases. You can find out more here.

The Visa gift cards sold by both Simon & Macerich malls are issued by Metabank. For information on setting the pin along with example uses for these cards, see: The beginner’s guide to buying & liquidating Visa & Mastercard gift cards

A few other data points:

  • There has been at least one verified report of Glimcher cards now working successfully at Walmart as debit cards.
  • Some Simon Mall’s carry business gift cards loadable up to $1000.  Use the last 4 digits as the PIN.
  • Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any credit cards that earn a category bonus for generic shopping mall purchases.

Reader suggestions

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. Has anyone had a problem loading with the Giftcard mall Visa GC onto Redbird? I tried to load two $500 cards yesterday. One went through no problem. I got an error message “Unable to contact issuer” on the second card at two different Targets. Hmm.

    • Did you try reloading the other card next day? Sometimes the redcard takes only one card a day, although the loading limit is $1000.

  2. I’ve been having issues with Chase CCs being declined for VGC purchases at Walgreens and Office Depot. Is anyone else having the same issue?

  3. Hi, I am newer to this, please answer it for me….

    A) Can i buy the Visa GC’s FROM, and use them to Load Bluebird at WM Stores? Or these GC’s are only valid to load Redbird at Target?

    B) Do Giftcards have to Under my name when i order them, which then i load at accepting store, or I can order under another person’s name and then can use them to load? In short, does it matter under whose name the Visa GC Is WHEN Loading at either Target or WM?

  4. SHIPHAPPY code no longer works for Can someone explain if the $1500 for which is the apparent limit for this code a one time limit or cumulative? Thanks.

    • There’s a new code. On the page where you activate your cards, after you activate a card, the screen displays a shaded box with one of two offers. One of the offers is for free personalization on your next order, and the other is for free USPS shipping. Both valid thru 9/30/15.

    • kroger’s variable load cards work great. when you open the package, it includes the pin code for the gift card. i bought 2 $500 gift cards & went to Target in Nashville & it went great.

  5. I asked my credit union if I could buy Visa gift cards using a credit card not issued by the credit union. They said, “Sure, we’ll just run it as a cash advance.” Good question to ask before buying!!!

  6. Not only have they scratched/cancelled the free shipping (they said people abused the code for free shipping), but now card fee is increased by them by $2, i believe. ($4.95 to $6.95).

    Now believe me, they will bring back free shipping, which will be cancelled by their processing fee hike.

    Time to move away from this money sucking company, if there is any other better option.

    Any ideas/comments?

    • Are you aware of their rewards program their cards are practically free what could you complain about? In the past with free shipping you actually made a few cents now $500 card cost you a buck something. Good luck finding something cheaper!!!

      • Dude, looks like you are personally offended….you work for that company?

        I was just stating the facts… could still be the best option out there, but never hurts to ask and explore other avenues…….it is a fact that they hiked processing fee, and considering the no. of orders they are getting (said their free shipping was abused badly with multiple such orders), am sure they are making a fortune………..small but snazzy and cunning hike by them……..again just stating the facts………if you are their CEO or partner, do not feel bad bout this……….Mate!!!!!!

        • If I am offended by anything it’s distorting the facts. The fact is with free shipping it’s still almost free to get a $500 Vgc

  7. I loaded one $500 VGc From at Target to my redcard. The transaction went through initially but then got declined and i got both receipt of intial transaction and decline that the agent at target gave to me.

    Now my Target redcard account does not show that balance of $500 added, as well as when i dial to check balance on my 4500 VGC, it shows balance as ZERO DOLLARS. Meaning those $500 have disappeared somewhere in virtual world…………what is the BEST WAY TO GET THAT MONEY BACK?

    Did anyone else have this kind of situation? Who do i call and what do i do?

    Will appreciate a prompt reply.

    ALSO I GUESS FREE SHIPPING CODES ARE not there anymore to buy VGC at

Leave a Reply

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