Gift Card Upgrade Results

Frequent Miler Laboratory experiments continue to roll on with a surprising amount of success.  In the post “Laboratory Preparations” I described a number of experiments that were being launched.  In each case, the goal was to see if I could take a merchant gift card and use it in-store to buy a different merchant’s gift card.  In other words, could I effectively upgrade one gift card to another?  One reason for testing this is to be prepared whenever discounts or points are offered for gift card purchases.  If we know a card can be easily upgraded, then we can take advantage of gift card deals even if we don’t want to shop at that particular merchant.  Since posting the details of the experiments, I’ve reported the results of a few of them, but not all. Here now, are the complete results…

Marshall’s: FAIL

Marshall’s doesn’t seem to sell gift cards from other merchants at all.  Instead, I used my $25 gift card to buy a pair of $25 Nike sandals.  They’re comfy!


Best Buy has very few gift cards for sale other than their own, but they do sell Amazon Kindle gift cards which are really general purpose Amazon gift cards.  I used my Best Buy gift card to buy an Amazon gift card without any problem.  No questions were asked by the cashier.

Bed, Bath & Beyond (BBB): SUCCESS

As I reported in the post “Bed Bath and Far Beyond,” BBB has a large selection of gift cards, but few interesting ones (to me).  I used my BBB gift card to buy a Visa gift card without any problem.  No questions were asked by the cashier.


Just like Best Buy, ToysRUs has very few gift cards of interest, but they do sell Amazon Kindle gift cards.  In my case, the Kindle cards were sold out, but they were offering a deal to get $5 back on $30 worth of iTunes gift cards.  I used my ToysRUs e-gift card plus $5 of credit to buy the iTunes gift cards and they gave me a $5 ToysRUs gift card in return.  Bonus: I went through uPromise to buy the e-gift card from ToysRUs and I earned 5% cash back (at least, that much is pending).

Michaels: FAIL

This was the only store in which I brought a gift card to the register, but was unable to buy it.  The cashier tried, but the register wouldn’t allow it.  She even called over a manger to see if she could get an override, but no luck.

OfficeMax: SUCCESS

Technically, the OfficeMax experiment included one failure and several successes.  The one failure was (as expected) when I went through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to buy OfficeMax gift cards, I didn’t get any points.  This is consistent with the Terms & Conditions.  On the other hand, by paying with my American Express business card, I automatically earned cash back (see the post “10% off everything and 7% off everything else” for details).  And, in two separate visits I was able to buy both an Amazon gift card and a $200 Visa gift card using my OfficeMax gift cards.  In both cases, no questions were asked.  Next week I’ll discuss some exciting ways to leverage this discovery.  Until then, dust off your Amex business cards and have them ready!

Other upgrades

Here’s how to find a complete list of upgrades that we have found to work (or not to work):

  1. Browse to the Frequent Miler Laboratory.  For those who haven’t memorized the URL, you can always look under the “Resources” menu on any Frequent Miler page.
  2. Find the “Completed Experiments” table and type “upgradegc” (without the quotes) into the table’s Search box.  The table will automatically filter to gift card upgrade experiments.  To limit to successful experiments search for “upgradegc success”.  Similarly, you can view failed experiments by searching for “upgradegc fail”.


If you have gift cards lying around unused, please visit the store in question and see if you can buy a more useful gift card with that one.  Let me know the results and I’ll update the Lab results table.  Thanks in advance!

Chase's 5/24 Rule: With most Chase credit cards, Chase will not approve your application if you have opened 5 or more cards with any bank in the past 24 months. Some exceptions that are NOT subject to the 5/24 rule include: British Airways, Hyatt, IHG, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Marriott Business, and Ritz Carlton.

To determine your 5/24 status, see: 3 Easy Ways to Count Your 5/24 Status.
Chase 5/24 semantics ("Subject to" vs. "Count towards"): Most (but not all) Chase cards are subject to the 5/24 rule. That means the rule is enforced in making approval decisions. In other words, you probably won't get approved if your credit report shows that you opened 5 or more cards in the past 24 months. Meanwhile, most business cards (such as those from Chase, Amex, Barclaycard, BOA, Citi, US Bank, and Wells Fargo) are not reported on your personal credit report. These cards do not count towards 5/24.


Chase IHG Card is not subject to 5/24 so it's easy to get. But after approval it will count towards your 5/24 total.

Chase Ink Business Preferred is subject to 5/24, so you likely won't get approved if over 5/24. If you do get approved, it won't count towards 5/24 since it won't appear as an account on your credit report.
Amex 5 credit card limit: If you apply for a new Amex credit card, you may get turned down if you already have 5 or more Amex credit cards. Both personal and business cards are counted towards this limit. Charge cards, though, are not counted. You can apparently get as many charge cards as you’d like, and the number of charge cards you have does not affect your ability to get up to 5 credit cards. Authorized user cards are also not counted towards the 5 credit card limit. See also: Which Amex Cards are Charge Cards vs. Credit Cards?
Applying for Business Credit Cards

Yes, you have a business: In order to sign up for a business credit card, you must have a business. That said, it's common for people to have businesses without realizing it. If you sell items at a yard sale, or on eBay, for example, then you have a business. Similar examples include: consulting, writing (e.g. blog authorship, planning your first novel, etc.), handyman services, owning rental property, renting on airbnb, driving for Uber or Lyft, etc. In any of these cases, your business is considered a Sole Proprietorship unless you form a corporation of some sort.

When you apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietor, you can use your own name as your business name, use your own address and phone as the business' address and phone, and your social security number as the business' Tax ID / EIN. Alternatively, you can get a proper Tax ID / EIN from the IRS for free, in about a minute, through this website.

Is it OK to use business cards for personal expenses? Legally, it's fine. And, anecdotally, almost everyone I know uses business cards for personal expenses. That said, the terms in most business card applications state that you should use the card only for business use. Also, some consumer credit card protections do not apply to business cards. My advice: don't use the card for personal expenses if you're not comfortable doing so.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are super valuable and super flexible. At the most basic level, points can be redeemed for cash or merchandise, but you'll only get one cent per point value that way. A better option is to use points for travel. When points are used to book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, points are worth 1.25 cents each with premium cards (Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred, for example) or 1.5 cents each with the ultra-premium Sapphire Reserve card. Another great option is to transfer points from a premium or ultra-premium card to an airline or hotel program when high value awards are available (see this post for details). If your points are tied to a no-fee "cash back" Ultimate Rewards card, then first move those points to a premium or ultra-premium card before redeeming them in order to get better value.
Amex Membership Rewards points can be incredibly valuable if you know how to use them. In general, if you use Membership Rewards points to pay for merchandise or travel, you won't get good value from your points. One exception is with the Business Platinum card where you'll get a 35% point rebate when using points to book certain flights. This gives you approximately 1.5 cents per point value, which is pretty good. If you don't have the Business Platinum card, then your best bet is to transfer points to airline miles in order to book high value awards. More details can be found here: Amex Transfer Partners.
Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by the same guy who showed you how to fly round trip to Africa (DC to Senegal) for 50,000 points. You can find John’s website and award booking service here:
-Greg The Frequent Miler

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.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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33 Comments on "Gift Card Upgrade Results"

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Used Sears at Kmart for BP. Going to try Lands End in the same way. Whew! They also have Southwest and Visa but in small denominations so the fee is exorbitant.


Thanks Irishtiger. Do Sears gift cards work at Sears itself? T&Cs seem to indicate they should. I have a boat load to unload


Phil: yes, if you can find non-Sears gift cards at Sears, you can use Sears gift cards to buy them.

Grant: Rats! Maybe try a different cashier next time?

Ken in Phx: Ouch, I can’t believe Plastic Jungle dropped BP so far down. I wonder if you can use BP gift cards at BP to buy other gift cards…


My office max wouldn’t let me use my gift card to buy other gift cards 🙁

Ken in Phx

Its a shame that Plastic Jungle has dropped the BP GC rate to the mid 80’s for the sellers side.


Oh Miler,

If the final cost of the Visa gift card is $186 at officemax, why not then take these right to Walmart website or in person and buy Walmart cards. Then sell on PJ. For each $200 card, PJ should pay $184 and TCB will give you back another $8, so $192 net. You actually come out ahead and rack our MR points. Am I missing something? Seems too easy…..


THEsocalledfan: You have it right. I did almost exactly that last week. The only difference is that I took my new $200 Visa next door to Target and used it to buy a $200 Target card. Then I sold it on PJ for $184 + $7.36 TCB. Target and Walmart cards are always in high demand so hopefully PJ won’t lower their buy price for these.

awg137: Thanks for the warning. Of course, THEsocalledfan could simply buy two $100 Walmart cards instead if that becomes an issue.


I don’t. Understand how you are making money


Be careful with PlasticJungle. They see to have recently imposed a MAXIMUM limit of $100 for many cards they buy. The catch, is they don’t tell you the limit until you try to actually sell them the card. I’ve tried to ask them to publish a list of which cards have limits, but so far, no response.


I did have a devil of a time unloading those Lowe’s cards. I could only do 5 at a time for $250 Lowe’s retail a shot. I found that if I waited a day, then put in a complaint, it moved it along faster. If not, it took an awfully long time.

Walmart are mail ins, so hoping the limits are not as tough…..I was already planning on buying $100 cards.


It’s arbitrage. It’s good you’re always thinking of finding ways to apply it, and also generous enough to detail your experience. Thank you !!1


JoC: Arbitrage: yes, definitely. Glad you like it!

Key Y: Oh boy. Save the Border’s gift card as a collector’s piece?

al613: Thanks for the tip. I need a Discover card!

Ken Y.

What do I do with my Borders giftcard???


discover shopping mall offers 5% extra on the top of regular earnings till sept. 6 at many retailers. sears, macys, lands end, kmart, kohls, tumi, homedepot, target are all at 10% back now.

Guest are 20% back. do they sell gift cards?

Guest and @ 15%. if it works @ for git cards it could be 30% back plus double drugstore dollars.


Lowe’s does not let you buy gc with gc. Cashier tried and the register would not accept it.


al613 : I don’t understand what you are saying here. and @ 15%. if it works @ for git cards it could be 30% back plus double drugstore dollars.


@ayya 15% cashback to buy a gift card, 15% cashback to use a gift card. 30% total.


I have been to KMarts and some have sold some lucrative gift cards (Southwest & American Airlines). Unfortunately the employees there were not exactly the brightest crayons in the box, so just paying for the 2 merchandise (not gift cards) was enough of a struggle.

I wonder if I took unregistered gift cards from a different store (say a grocery store) and tried to activate them / load them at a KMart if that would work.

Any thoughts?


al613 – I still don’t understand the / deal. You’re saying you can buy giftcards online and get 15% back with discover. Then turn around and do what with them to get the other 15%? I’m missing something…


Doesn’t add on a hefty shipping charge for any order that includes GCs (even if otherwise your order qualifies for free shipping)?


[…] BoardingArea describes another gift card and rewards card buying strategy: use the (discounted) gift card for one store to buy a different gift card you might actually use. For example, you might get a Toys R Us gift card (which you can get 5% cash back through uPromise) and then use that card to buy an Amazon gift card. If you buy an OfficeMax gift card with a credit card that rewards you for shopping at office supplies stores, then you can use that OfficeMax gift card to buy a different gift card. Check out Boarding Area’s full chart of gift card hacks. […]


[…] BoardingArea describes another gift card and rewards card buying strategy: use the (discounted) gift card for one store to buy a different gift card you might actually use. for example, you might get a Toys R us gift card (which you can get 5% cash back through uPromise) and then use that card to buy an Amazon gift card. If you buy an OfficeMax gift card with a credit card that rewards you for shopping at office supplies stores, then you can use that OfficeMax gift card to buy a different gift card. Check out Boarding Area’s full chart of gift card hacks. […]


Can no longer buy Amazon gift cards at Toys R US using discounted Toys R US/Babies R us gift cards. I have checked in multiple states with no success. Found cards in one store, but when they rang up the register says card had been discontinued please delete all inventory.


[…] last night that a certain store is now carrying Vanilla Visa gift cards loadable up to $500.  I knew from experience that this store often accepts their own gift cards as payment for other gift cards (I call that […]


you should refresh this!


Hi FM. In the Terms & Conditions of most gift cards, upgrading gift cards is not allowed although it may be possible. I have done it. But I think technically it violates the contract between the individual and the issuer hence illegal. What do you think? What could be the consequence? I want to hear your opinion. Thank you very much.