My current go-to options for buying Visa gift cards

buying visa gift cardsFollowing Amex’s second wave attack on Bluebird and Serve cardholders, it may seem strange for me to write about options for buying Visa gift cards.  After all, Bluebird and Serve are/were among the best vehicles for liquidating Visa and MasterCard gift cards.  Shouldn’t I be writing more about options for liquidating gift cards rather than options for buying them?

Well, yes and no.  I’ve recently covered options for unloading gift cards in a couple of posts:

As I wrote in “Credit Card Spend in 2016 and Beyond,” the days of free and easy “manufactured spend” (the art of increasing credit card spend without spending more overall) are mostly behind us. We’re left now, for the most part, with two options for increasing credit card spend: 1) pay fees; or 2) incur risk.  After all, someone has to pay the credit card transaction fees involved in manufacturing spend.

In the post, “Connecting the dots: Prepaid cards that allow debit reloads,” I showed how to find Bluebird / Serve alternatives.  One thing that is unfortunately true about most alternatives is that they charge fees.  At a minimum, expect to pay monthly fees and/or reload fees.  For example, a number of cards identified in the post “Reload Cards with Free Bill Pay” have no monthly fees, but unlike Bluebird and Serve* they do charge $3.95 to $4.95 per $500 in-store reload.  Without Bluebird or Serve, we’ve added about 1% to our manufactured spend costs (a $4.95 fee is approximately 1% of a $500 reload).

* Note: Some versions of Serve do charge monthly fees or reload fees.  See: Complete guide to the many flavors of Serve. Which is Best?.

With costs for liquidating gift cards going up, it is important to identify opportunities to reduce costs involved in buying gift cards.  In the Bluebird / Serve world, in which liquidating gift cards was free, many of us commonly paid $3.95, $4.95, or $5.95 for each $500 Visa* gift card we purchased.  In other words, we paid on average about 1% in order to manufacture spend.  Today, if we can buy gift cards for free (or close to it), then we can keep our overall costs down to prior levels.  Rather than paying to buy Visa gift cards, we’ll pay to liquidate them.

* Note: For convenience, in this post I refer mostly just to Visa gift cards even though MasterCard gift cards are equally relevant.

Best options for buying Visa gift cards

The best options for buying Visa gift cards change regularly. Options for buying cards online or in-store come and go.  Sometimes it is possible to recover all or part of a card’s fee by clicking through a cash back portal to buy gift cards.  Sometimes not.  Sometimes credit cards incur cash advance fees when purchasing gift cards. Usually not.  Most Visa gift cards have PINs (useful for liquidating those gift cards), some do not.

To keep up with the ever changing gift card landscape, we maintain the following page on this site: Best options for buying Visa and MasterCard gift cards.  It’s not unusual for us to update this page several times per week.  When major changes happen in this space, we leave a comment on the page as well.  If you’re interested in staying up to date, I highly recommend subscribing to comments on that page.  Write something like “sub” and check the box that says “Notify me of follow-up comments by email.”  Over the weekend, I completely reformatted the page to show key pieces of information more clearly: card fees, how to set PINs, whether or not cash advance fees might be charged, etc.

Among the options listed on that page, my current go-to options are:

  1. I order online through giftcards.com.  At the time of this writing, portal rebates for giftcards.com top out at 1.5%.  If you buy four $500 Visa gift cards, the total purchase price with shipping comes to $2035.25.  A 1.5% portal rebate is based on the pre-shipping charge of $2027.80 and should come to $30.42.  That more than covers the gift card fees and almost covers the shipping charge as well.  In other words, with a 1.5% rebate, these gift cards are very nearly fee free.  Keep in mind that you generally have to wait 60 to 90 days before portal rebates become payable.
  2. I do not buy gift cards from giftcardmall.com because they cancel all of my orders.  Otherwise I would happily use my AT&T card for its 3X online shopping bonus.
  3. I order online from Staples.com.  Staples.com sells $300 Visa gift cards, each with a $8.95 fee. That’s not cheap. And, unfortunately, portals do not pay out for gift card purchases made at Staples.com.  That said, I’m happy to use my Chase Ink Plus card to buy these Visa cards since Chase Ink cards earn 5X points at office supply stores.  Each $308.95 purchase results in 1,545 points.  If I wanted to, I could cash in 895 of those points to reduce my net card fees to zero and still earn 650 points per $300 card (i.e. ~2.2X).  That’s pretty good!
  4. I buy in-person… sometimes.  I haven’t bought many gift cards in-person since my Serve cards were all frozen in January.  However, I can’t pass up easy 5X point opportunities.  Since both Chase Freedom and Discover are offering 5X at gas stations this quarter, I’ve made my way repeatedly to a numerically named convenience store that is conveniently coded as a gas station.  The register allows purchasing Vanilla brand gift cards with a credit card.

Beginning in April, my Chase Freedom cards will be finding their way to grocery stores:

Chase Freedom 2016 Calendar

Beginning April 15th, my Citi dividend card will make a few appearances at drug stores (note that you can’t sign up for a new Dividend card, but you can product change from another Citi card to the Dividend card):

Citi dividend 2016 calendar

My Discover card, though, will stay home for the rest of the year:

Discover 2016 calendar

I won’t use my Discover card at restaurants, movies, or Amazon.com because my Citi Forward card already gives me 5X rewards for those categories (sorry, but the Forward card is no longer available – you can’t get it by applying new or by product changing).  I may use my Discover card online, though, in the 3rd and 4th quarters.  At that point, I’ll hopefully be able to recreate this fun: Sears Quintuple Dip Results, and why I should have bet more on Discover.

UPDATE: As a reader pointed out, my Discover card is eligible for Double Cash Back for 12 months (through ~July).  So, 5% cash back from Discover really means 10%.  As a result, I will choose Discover over Forward for restaurants and movies in April, May, and June.

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. How long will it take for iConsumer to recognize the purchases I made at giftcards.com. I made some purchases over the past 48 hours, but they’ve yet to show up in my account. If I don’t get the cashback, this won’t work.

      • I haven’t received any emails. I’ve sent them a message/opened a ticket. I can’t understand why they are not crediting me.

        • I checked my junkmail and no luck. Also, iConsumer says they don’t see my purchases, which is dismaying. One data point of note, my store visits at least showed up on iConsumer over the weekend, but now are gone from my records. I can’t use this site (nor recommend anyone else use it) if I can rely on them to credit my account.

      • 🙂 (go easy on yourself, Greg.) As you’ve elsewhere written, this hobby at times can be the source of rough headaches, even for the most thoughtful and diligent. yet great a reader could catch a goof, and you already made the change.

        All in all, this post is especially helpful, Greg. Several ideas and tips herein (and in your posts on liquidation options) that I’ll be considering carefully and testing.

        Going forward, I’m curious about your updated thinking about Nationwide Buxx. (Yes, saw your earlier post about it no longer being as easy or useful for scaled ms…. Yet with costs there being about 1% roundtrip, still seems a viable option, esp. for those of us with more modest minimum spend needs for the year…. We did get two cards here in our family — and that already facilitates 400/wk in “easy” ms…. )

        • To me at 0.4% it was a no-brainer. At 1% it’s a tougher call, so I only use it to top off or for minimum spend. Easy liquidation though at any WM via MO or through ATM, even the ones that verify it’s a legitimate debit card.

  2. The difficulty, around here, is that most of the stores hinted at are owned by the same family, who doesn’t allow gift cards to be purchased with credit cards.

    • I’ve ran into the same thing. Isn’t it against the terms of the credit card agreements for merchants to ban only certain items from being charged to credit cards? If so, how does that store get away with it?

  3. It’s hard to find variable loading to do $500 in grocery now. Local Safeways and Albertsons both stopped selling VGC/MGC of more $100 face value. Even I found a local grocery chain still selling $500 VGC, I think one day they will stop selling it too. I guess i would just buy VGC and buy money order and pay to my landlord, instead of loading my own checking acct.

  4. Does anyone know how the speedway gas station codes their gift cards? Also, I too hope to use my Freedom to purchase at a local station. I do not have one of the ones you are referring to in my town. But they carry a Visa My Vanilla. It says load $20.00-500.00 for $3.95. I’m way late in this game. I just activated my BB today. From everything you know now, how would you proceed?

  5. So there are no problems with ordering VGCs from Giftcards.com and those VGCs having PIN numbers? I assume they are supplied by MB?

  6. Does’t Lowe’s or Home Depot sell Visa gift cards. You could use your Discover card there in the third quarter… correct???

    • They don’t let you buy variable load Visa gift cards with a credit card. I think that the best you could do is buy a $200 Visa gift card for $206.95 (you can do so at Sears anyway — I’m not sure whether Lowes or Home Depot carry them)

  7. I still have a simons mall close and have been abele to by $10,000 at any time. But all my (5) bluebirds got closed this past week. I have no issue buying MO at my local Kroger. But that means I will have to deposit them. If I get 10k a month in gift card to MO, what is a plan for banking them?

    • If you have a large amount in MO, why not pay some of the things you can’t use credit card for, like property tax, rent, mortgage, etc. with some of the MOs, rather than depositing them?

      • Have you tried property tax and mortgage? Will they actually accept multiple MOs or split tender as payment? How about MO + cash if the MO doesn’t cover all?

        • I have done both. In both cases, I can walk in personally, as they are close to my house. Mortgage I’ve used two separate MOs (998 and 997, for instance). For property taxes, multiple MOs. I have done 2 MOs and a check for my Mom’s assisted living facility.

    • Kevin, which Kroger allows you to purchase money orders with VGC? I have tried several in the metro Detroit area and haven’t found one yet.

  8. So in the fine print for my new SPG Amex card it said that bonus spend could not be done with cash equivalent cards. Does that mean Visa gift cards? Can I still buy restaurant and grocery gift cards to meet the spend requirements?

  9. To order online through giftcards.com with Yazing portal’s 1.5% cashback, how many $500 VGCs do you usually place in one order? What’s the daily limit or the maximum value you can purchase in single transaction? Can I order one set of 5 $500 VGCs and place another set of 4 $500 VGCs the next day using the same address? I am bit worrying about online orders being cancelled. Thanks.

    • You have to stay under $2500 per order. I usually buy 4 $500 cards. Some people buy 5 cards with smaller denominations so as to stay under $2500 when including fees.

      Yes, you can place additional orders but I recommend slowly working up to that. For example, for the first few times, wait until your order arrives before placing another order.

  10. Has anyone actually gotten the cash back from iconsumer? I know it slow but I hate to put more spending until the pay what is showing in my account portal.
    So asked what the limits for iconsumer. The answer is $2,500 limit per transaction including the fees.

      • Do you feel comfortable in spending more money from giftcards.com through iconsumer portal ?
        Even if we buy 5000 $ worth of gift cards per month , the payout will become approx 220$ after 3 months. And we need to spend 300$ out of our pocket till that time.
        Do you think Iconsumer will be able to payout that much? They may come up with a clause like abusing the system and may deny payments. And its been available from June 2015 , so if we have reliable reports that we are getting good payments from iconsumer it will be huge risk.

  11. A problem with loading Visa Gift Cards that I bought from Giftcards.com on Jan. 29.
    1) My new SERVE One VIP account was opened after the “Jan.8 BB/SERVE Kill”;
    2) Tried two RiteAid stores on Feb. 27, both failed loading one $500 VGC from Giftcards.com (the cashier told the funding failed so it was void. Later, I checked the balance on Giftcars.com, the transaction activity showed -$500, b/c failed funding and void, the balance remained $500.);
    3) Then tried KATE machine on Mar. 4, Sat., failed again and no receipt. Worse, I checked the balance again on Giftcards.com, this time the $500 was gone, the transaction activity was not shown up right away, next Monday, I called Giftcards.com, the Rep. told that it might take 2-3 days to see the transaction activity and unable to tell how soon the $500 will be refunded to the card.
    4) As of Mar.10, today, the transaction shows -$500 at Walmart, balance is still $0, I called Giftcards.com again, I was told that at least it takes 7 business days, weekend excluded so at least 10 days to see the money refunded. I’ll keep updated.
    I hope it doesn’t happen to you. I know such risk is a part of MS.

      • Update – My correction:
        B/C I also did $500 from my PayPal Biz Debit Card, I didn’t know it was reversed/credited back to my PP account until tonight I found out from my PP activities.
        When I loading at KATE, it didn’t print me any receipts. That one transition of the PPBDC loading was not shown on SERVE transactions.
        I never had any problems with PPBDC loading in the past, not even once. I mistakenly thought the missing $500 was from the VGC.
        Luckily, before I left WM that night, I complained about no receipts from the KATE, a staff opened the KATE machine and only one receipt was printed.
        Tonight I checked the receipt again carefully,
        be clear, the VGC $500 loading was actually successful.

  12. few questions:-
    For Vanilla One Visa Debit cards:—-

    1) Which Vanilla should be bought? There is one Non-reloadable with $5.95 fee and there is another Re-loadable version with $3.95 fee. Which one to buy and why that one? Kindly explain.

    2) One Vanilla card, can i use it at WM to Buy MO? I tried but it kept on going to credit as soon as i swiped…..could not do so….any trick around that?

    3) if WM does not work, someone said, PO is good to get MO with Vanilla. But wouldn’t i face same issue at PO where it will keep going to Credit instead of Debit like WM?

    • 1) You should be able to find non-reloadable Vanilla Visas with a $4.95 fee. I’d recommend those. The reloadable versions usually cannot be bought with a credit card. If you can, the downside is that you have to register it before you can use it
      2) No. WM doesn’t like Vanilla Visas as debit cards for transactions of $50 or more.
      3) In my experience, PO works fine.

  13. So I can buy this prepaid Vanilla Visa card using another credit card.and it not being turned into a debit transaction. What $$ amounts can you choose from..Does it work at. WM in Arizona?

  14. Bankcorp One Vanilla Visa and MasterCard work at the Post.Office..But Metabank do not..Make sure to look on the back of the packaging..it will say if Meta or Bancorp….Because package is identical for both

    • Swipe card ..Select debit…Enter any pin for first time use…Easy peasy… One vanilla visa / mc Bancorp only!!

      • I got $500 VGC issued by Sunrise Bank. Where does this one work? at WM or PO?

        I know that:-

        Bancorp works at PO
        Metabank works at WM

        What bout my VGC issued by Sunrise Bank, where can i liquidate this one to buy MO?

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