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 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 Serve at Family Dollar. More information and many useful resources can be found in FlyerTalk’s Manufactred Spending forum.
Gift Cards with a Customized Name
There are now two major avenues of obtaining customized Visa gift cards. While both of these methods should work, the fees vary depending on how many cards you purchase, portal cashback if applicable and whether or not they are running a free shipping promotion. Unfortunately, you cannot pay for either of these options with American Express gift cards.
GiftCards.com 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.
The cost of $500 Visa gift cards is $6.95 each, plus shipping. Shipping is either $1.99 per card for first class mail or $7.45 for an entire order with tracking. The maximum order size is $2500 (inclusive of card fees).
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.
The Portal Option
NOTE 2/4/16: Portal options are temporarily unavailable for giftcards.com
iConsumer currently offers 1.6% cash back for Visa gift cards purchased from GiftCards.com. Similarly, SimplyBestCoupons often offers 1.5% cash back for Visa Gift Cards. Either way, these cash back rebates eliminate almost all fees for these gift cards!
|Name / Link||Offer||Frequent Miler Notes|
|iConsumer||I'll earn 100 shares of iConsumer stock if you use this link to sign up. Also, through 2/14/16, I'll earn $10 once you make a purchase through iConsumer.||This portal lets you earn both cash back and shares in the iConsumer business. Requires $25 payable before they'll pay out.|
|Simply Best Coupons||You 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.|
Portal rebates for gift cards come and go. If you can’t find a way to earn cash back through a portal, please consider using my affiliate link instead: Click here to shop for Visa gift cards at GiftCards.com. I will earn a small commission if you use this link.
GiftCardMall offers Visa gift cards with values up to $500 each. With each card, there is a $5.95 purchase fee and a shipping fee. Shipping fees vary depending on the number of cards you purchase and they often run promotions for free shipping as well.
The Portal Option
GiftCardMall pays cashback through many portals for the purchase of Visa gift cards. Cashback generally ranges from .5%-1% and can change regularly. Many portals have a separate cashback rate for Visa gift cards compared to other gift cards. It is important to read the portal terms carefully to see their Visa gift card rate and what exclusions apply. I have found that each portal handles things slightly differently and some do not pay out for Visa gift cards at all.
As of 1/29/2016, the best portal option I’m aware of is 1% cash back through EBates.
|Name / Link||Offer||Frequent Miler Notes|
|EBates||We’ll each earn 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 promotions||This is a well-established and reliable cash back portal.|
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), while cards issued by Sunrise Bank are not pin-enabled. GiftCardMall has told several people that they are only sending out pin-enabled gift cards as of now, but there aren’t enough data points to know if this is true. Be aware that the cards issued by Sunrise Bank cannot be loaded to Bluebird/Serve since they do not have pins.
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/Bluebird, etc.
In addition to merchant gift cards, Staples sells MasterCard and Visa gift cards. $300 Visa cards are available for $308.95 online and $200 Visa & Mastercard gift cards are available in store for $206.95. If you pay with a Chase Ink card, the fee is more than made up for by the 5X Ultimate Rewards points earned (5 X 308.95 = 1545 points per $300 card for example). 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).
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.
Click here to shop for Visa gift cards at Staples.com (this is technically an affiliate link, but I don’t earn a commission for gift card sales at Staples).
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
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
UPDATE 1/20/2016: There have been many reports that Safeway and Safeway owned stores such as Thom Thumb have stopped carrying variable load Visa, MasterCard, and Amex gift cards. Unless that changes, this chain of grocery stores will no longer be a good option for buying Visa / MC 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 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.
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. Both Simon and Macerich Malls sell Visa gift cards issued by Metabank for $3.95 each with denominations up to $500.
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.
Did I miss any particularly noteworthy options? Please comment below.