Gift of College gift cards appearing in more stores

For those saving for college, helping others save for college, or paying off student loans, Gift of College gift cards are a way to do so with a rewards earning credit card.  If you load the card with the maximum $500, the $5.95 purchase fee amounts to 1.19%.  Since many credit cards offer substantially larger rewards, this can be a great way to earn points, miles, or cash back.  Full details can be found here: Pay student loans or 529 plans with a credit card!

Now Available

Gift of College gift cards have been available at Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores since November 2016.  Now they are starting to appear in other stores:

Coming Soon

Gift of College gift cards are expected to appear nationwide in Best Buy stores this summer.

Why this Matters

There are a few reasons that I’m excited about Gift of College gift cards appearing in more locations:

  • Availability: Not everyone has Toys R Us stores nearby
  • Category Bonuses: I’m not aware of any credit cards that offer bonus points for toy stores as a standard perk, but grocery store bonuses are common.  Pharmacy bonuses are common with cards that offer rotating category bonuses (e.g. Chase Freedom and Discover It).  See: Best Card for Grocery, Gas, Drugstores, Travel, Dining, More…
  • Store Rewards: Most stores do not give rewards when buying gift cards, but some do.  We don’t yet know if any of the stores listed here will offer such rewards, but we can hope!
  • Linked Rewards: Some rewards programs link to credit cards and automatically offer rewards when purchases are made at certain locations.  We’ll keep an eye out for these opportunities going forward.

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. My wife is finishing her undergrad now and then off to grad school starting next summer. I have no experience with 529 plans. Would I be able to buy these, load to account and then immediately pay the college? Thanks

  2. If BBY gets them, may be worth grabbing a Best Buy card with 5-6% rewards towards tech items. Also good for Amex Offers in-store (unfortunately my current 2X MR is for online only)

  3. You can not only buy these, and deposit the money into a 529 plan, but you can immediately withdraw the money without any tax penalties.

    Only 529 earnings are taxable, with a penalty, when withdrawn for something other than college expenses. If you happen to withdraw principle, there are no taxes on that principle or penalties.

    Essentially, you can use this to manufacture spend. Here is where we have our college savings plans at, with very low minimums and very user friendly. https://www.collegesavingsiowa.com/

    I am not an Iowa resident, you can choose any state’s plan. I chose Iowa since it’s linked to upromise and the state I live in, TN, has no state income tax, so there is no state income tax deduction for contributions.

  4. I just product changed my old worthless rewards US Bank credit card to the Cash+ card with 2x and 5x categories. Educating myself on the different bonus categories I see that Best Buy is listed as a merchant under the Electronics Store 5x category. It has a quarterly maximum of $2000, but this is great for paying down debt or investing in your own or someone else’s education with a 529.

    I REALLY hope US Bank doesn’t see this as abuse and shut down any accounts over it.

  5. If I buy a $500 card and only have 1 student loan account, does it all have to be applied to the loan at the same time?
    Basically, can I use a $500 card to pay $200 per month?

  6. If I were to buy a Gift of College card to pay for my girlfriend’s student loans (and she pays me back) with my credit card, are there any problems with doing that?

        • I would check with my attorney as you could get into some serious trouble if you play a game with this. There are several articles out there for gifting “529” money. Gift tax hits youeven when you do a generational wealth transfer from person to grandchild. After reading this, there is no way I would fund an account that is not in my name or in the name of one of my immediate family members. Definitely not for a “girlfriend”.

  7. For a data point. I tried to purchase a Gift Of College gift card at Fred’s in Hoover, AL. These cards were new to them so there was some concern ab out letting me out $500 on 2 cards but eventually let me try. The cash register was to be hard-wired to let cash only sales. I doubt if they will get many sales that way!

  8. I purchased gift cards at Toys R Us last month and just tried to redeem them online. I’m getting an “Invalid Giftcard or Balance is $0.00” error for both cards.

    I have the TRU receipt, that clearly shows that the cards were activated.

    There are several groups of numbers above and below the bar code on the back. Is the gift card number the 19 digits above the bar code, the 30 digits below the bar code, or the 10 digits at the very bottom right corner? (I want to make sure I’m not entering the wrong digits, but have tried several combinations with no luck). The TRU receipt lists the last four digits below the bar code (with the preceeding numbers xxxxxx’d out).

    It’s also frustrating that there is no number to call in and check balance, activity, etc.

    Mike

      • Thank you so much Nadine! I really appreciate you and Christine getting things straightened out and for your fast, responsive customer service!

        Just to explain for everyone else…the Gift of College gift card system had a temporary glitch yesterday which gave errors when attempting to redeem. By this morning, everything was fixed and my card redeemed for the correct amount with no issues.

        Also, the gift card number is the standard 19 digits above the bar code (next to the scratch off pin).

        Mike

  9. Hi Mike,

    I’m sorry to hear about your difficulty to redeem the cards. Please call our support line 877-244-6630 and leave a brief message with a call back number. I will shoot Christine (in support) an email tonight to let her know you’ll be calling.

    Thank you for your patience,
    Nadine

  10. Thanks for adding this post. I have loans already that I want to pay off with these gift cards. I bought a $25 digital gift card initially just to see if it works and if it was coded as a purchase with Chase’s Sapphire card. It was!

    I just have a question — is there any limit to how many gift cards you can redeem? For example, if I wanted to make a payment fo 2500, can I get 5 gift cards of 500 from Toys R Us and redeem them all at once?

    Thanks for all your help!
    Ezra

  11. @Nadine, when will Gift of College gift cards be available for purchase at H-E-B Texas Grocery? It has not yet available at our local HEB in Pearland, Texas. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Katie,
      Only 40% of the stores in Texas have received shipments. I am told that all the stores should be stocked by the end of the month.

      Thanks for your patience and have a wonderful weekend.
      Nadine

  12. Hi Nadine,

    Thanks so much for your prompt response. Would you please also check the status for HEB store in Friendswood, Texas? Thanks so much and have a great weekend!

  13. Glad to report the Gift of College technique is working perfectly for me! I am now able to hit my minimum spend to get the 50k miles on my new Chase Sapphire Preferred card (I probably should have gotten the Reserve card instead).

    But moving forward, I have a question which requires some financial savviness. I have been able to save up (and some family helped) around 25k to pay off my student loans. After using my CSP card to pay 4k of that, I now need to spend the remainder 21k to pay down the rest.

    SOO what should my strategy be? Take out one more card and hit a the minimum spend to get the bonus points? Do that a few times? Don’t take out another new card? Help?

    – E.S.

    • thank you for your fast reply Nadine. can you tell me how much the fee would be? i see that the maximum amount we can get from the website is only $200

    • I am from California. I have not gone to a store to check if you have them yet but I was looking at the online and see that you only have up to $200

  14. Hi Vanessa
    The $500 gift cards are in all the ToysRus and BabiesRUs retail stores in California. They are the cobranded version w/ ScholarShare 529 BUT you can use them for any 529 plan or student loan account.
    Hope that helps,

    Nadine

    • Hello Nadine,
      Do you happen to know where the cards are stocked in Arkansas? I was unable to find them at babies r us.
      Thanks!

      • Hi Ian,
        I have contacted our operations team to work with TRU to deliver inventory to stores that have sold out.
        In the meantime the only way to find out if a store has any in-stock is to call the store manager at the store directly and mention that they would be at the register, in the gaming area or behind the customer service desk.

        I will reply back with more information to the community when I hear back from TRU.
        Nadine

        • Hello,
          I checked at the financial center pkw location in little rock and the manager said she could not accept credit card.
          Do you know any other retailers in little rock that do accept credit card?

        • Hi Ian

          I haven’t heard any TRU that doesn’t accept credit cards for gift card transactions. This is a first. Let me send this ? over right away….cause this seems unreasonable. People do not walk around with hundreds in cash.

          Nadine

  15. Hi Nadine,
    Could you tell me where in Albany, NY I can buy physical GOC cards? I have visited Toys R us many months ago and could not find any stock. Would I be able to purchase them with credit cards as well? Thank you.

      • Hi

        I will check in with operations on locations in/near Albany and why they aren’t available.

        Back at you soon!
        Nadine

      • Hi
        I just spoke with Dawn at the Clifton Park ToysRUs and she confirmed that she has the Gift of College gift cards in stock!

        Address: 17 Clifton Country Rd, Clifton Park, NY 12065
        Hours: Open today · 10AM–9:30PM
        Phone: (518) 383-0188

        Success 🙂

        Groovy Tuesday,
        Nadine

    • Hi
      I just spoke with Dawn at the Clifton Park ToysRUs and she confirmed that she has the Gift of College gift cards in stock!

      Address: 17 Clifton Country Rd, Clifton Park, NY 12065
      Hours: Open today · 10AM–9:30PM
      Phone: (518) 383-0188

      Success 🙂

      Groovy Tuesday,
      Nadine

        • Also I should mention, each store carries appx 50 cards and could be out of them OR the store manager has put them behind the customer service counter. So there ya go.

          N

  16. I cant find the cards in Pittsburgh (I live just north of the city). I stopped in Best Buy and also Toys “R” Us and babies R us. When I asked for the gift of college gift cards people looked at me like I had three heads! Any idea if they’re gonna be offered in my area anytime soon?

    • The cards are definitely in Pittsburgh — never seen them at Ross Park or Monroeville but have had success at Cranberry and Robinson.

      • Really? I was looking at those stores in Cranberry. Which ones did you see them at? Now that I think of it, one of the women at Toys R Us said they had them a while back and shipped them all back to the company a few months ago.

        • Interesting – it’s been a few months since I was at Cranberry but they were near the video game section in the front. I was at Robinson more recently and definitely saw them there.

        • Hi Elinor,
          They should have received a new shipment by now. It’s best to speak to the store manager and they are usually located at the register, near gaming gift cards, or at the customer service counter.
          Best,
          Nadine

  17. Nadine was it the Toys R Us or the Babies R Us in Cranberry Township? Can you please confirm before I go up there again?
    Thanks!

  18. Hi Elinor,
    I have contacted our operations team to work with TRU to deliver inventory to stores that have sold out.
    In the meantime the only way to find out if a store has any in-stock is to call the store manager at the store directly and mention that they would be at the register, in the gaming area or behind the customer service desk.

    I will reply back with more information to the community when I hear back from TRU.
    Nadine

    • Hi Nadine,
      Update on my search for the cards. I stopped at TRU this afternoon and, just like you said, the cards were sitting in the gaming area. I would suggest that you guys see if they can be more visible for folks to purchase. I would never go back to that section to look for a gift card. And when I checked out, i asked an employee if she knew about the cards and she had no idea what I was talking about….

      • Yes it’s unfortunate that TRU only has a couple of places for our card to be placed. And a lot of the employees are not clued into the gift cards for sale since that is usually something handled by the manager or assistant manager in the store.

        And we are working on brand awareness everyday. Thanks for going back to look and I am glad you found them.

        🙂
        Nadine

  19. Nadine,
    I live in West Los Angeles and just came back from the TRU store off La Cienega where they told me they stopped selling the cards within the past two months because of some problem with them not ringing up properly on their cash registers. Do you know anything about this? Is there any place in the West LA area to purchase the cards?

  20. Hi
    In your state we see a card that has been cobranded with “California ScholarShare 529”. Although you may use the card for any 529. We also cobrand in CT, and VA now.

    A couple of months ago less than a dozen stores out of 200+ received a shipment of generic cards and had to send them back. This may be what they’re referring to.

    All the California stores are stocked with the cobranded version of the card by now. You shouldn’t have any problem finding them there.

    Best,
    Nadine

    • Thanks for the quick response. Perhaps you need to double-check with the Toys ‘R Us/Babies ‘R Us store on La Cienega in WLA, however, because they aren’t carrying the ScholarShare card, either. I was just there yesterday. The next closest store is miles away, so there are no other outlets nearby, unless you are actually going to be able to get the Best Buy stores to stock the cards anytime soon.

      Frank

      • HI Frank,
        I am passing your note along to ops. California stores carry the cards but more than likely have sold out. ScholarShare has had a huge impact with their marketing campaigns and promotions of GoC.

        And yes BestBuy is onboard and we are waiting on delivery dates.

        Nadine

  21. Hi Nadine,

    Any updates on availability at HEB and Toys ‘R Us/Babies ‘R Us stores in Houston, Pearland and/or Friendswood, Texas? Thank you!

  22. The best way to find out if the TRU store has the card is to ask the store manager if they have inventory. They are placed at the register, or in the gaming area, or behind the customer service desk.
    If they are sold out — they should receive a shipment in the fall.

    All H-E-B stores are expected to carry the cards, I am checking in to see what % of stores have received them to date. Those placements are at the register with special signage 🙂 /happy to say/

    Nadine

  23. Since this seems to be the only place around discussing GoC cards and their availability in the wild, I thought I’d add this data point:

    Stopped in to the TRU store in Bel Air, MD and looked for the cards, but couldn’t find them. Asked at customer service, but she had never heard of them. She did walk me over to the gift card rack though, and voila! there they were! I was allowed to charge the full $500 to a credit card with a current spending bonus. (It seems that any GC over $150 needs manager override, but the mgr didn’t blink at my transaction 😎 )

    Took it home and applied it to my loan about 20 minutes later. I plan to return, so please, Nadine, make sure the Bel Air store gets a shipment of cards… TIA!

  24. I noticed you mentioned TRU has hard coded their registers to not allow TRU gift cards to be used to purchase other gift cards. Is this also true for BabiesRU stores as well?

  25. Hi Shanon,
    We are not in BestBuy yet…but when we land Greg will happily shout it out to the community.
    I am not privy to the sales policies regarding card purchase yet.

    Stay tuned,

    Nadine

  26. Does anyone have any information regarding whether a gift tax would be assessed on the purchase of GoC cards? I’ve been reading that the excess of any gift over $14k is subject to taxation (on an annual basis), but I’m not sure how it applies in cases like these where you are both the purchaser and beneficiary of said “gift”. Would you only be able to purchase $14k worth of gift cards each year before being subject to this tax?

    • There are special rules when it comes to paying for a child’s college that allow you to get around the annual $14K rule but I don’t recall them. And I think that would only apply if you’re actually paying for someone’s college. If you’re buying the cards for your own use, its not really a gift. Even so, the term “gift tax” is a bit of a misnomer. Its not really a tax you pay now. Its purpose is to prevent folks from giving away assets to avoid estate taxes upon their death. If you were to give away more than $14K, you would simply need to report it to the IRS. After your death they would add your reported gifts to your estate. Estate taxation only becomes an issue if a single person’s estate is over 5.5 million or $11 million for a married couple – or something close to that.

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