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!

    • Hi Craig,

      We’ve contacted Fred’s and requested that they accept credit/debit cards for payment toward gift cards. ‘Cause peeps don’t walk around with 1k of cash in their pockets.

      Seemed like a no-brainer to us. Sorry for the crazy.

      Nadine

  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

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