Recently, Visa and MasterCard gift cards became great tools for earning points and miles thanks to the new ability to assign PINs (see “Gift card PINs“). It’s now possible to buy gift cards and cash them out easily by loading them to your Bluebird card or other means. In other words, buying debit gift cards is now like buying cash and paying with a credit card. One can earn points and miles and pay only the fee associated with the gift card (if any).
Size Matters: When buying gift cards in order to earn points & miles, the best cards are those with the lowest net cost as a percentage of card value. High value gift cards tend to have the lowest fees (as a percentage of their value) and they are easier to deal with. For example, a Bluebird card can be loaded up to $1000 per day at Walmart (via “Swipe Reloads”) for free. With $100 gift cards, you would have to do 10 swipes to get to $1000. With $500 gift cards, it takes only 2 swipes. And, while $1000 gift cards exist (at least, they used to!), they’re very hard to find. So, currently, $500 gift cards are the sweet spot to look for.
Visa vs. MasterCard: While it is now possible to set PINs with both Visa and MasterCard gift cards, people have reported more issues in trying to use MasterCards with PINs than Visa gift cards. Until that changes, I’d recommend favoring Visa gift cards whenever you have the choice.
Here is a roundup of the best options I know of for buying $500 gift cards:
UPDATE: Since this was written, cash back at GiftCardMall via TopCashBack has dropped to .5%.
Until recently, GiftCardMall offered $1000 Visa gift cards which were perfect for loading to Bluebird. Sadly, they recently lowered the top Visa gift card amount to $500 and they raised their fees slightly. Even with those changes, though, GiftCardMall can be a good deal, especially when you start your purchase from a cash back portal.
TopCashBack offers .5% cash back for GiftCardMall Visa purchases. If you click through from TopCashBack to GiftCardMall and buy two $500 Visa cards with standard non-trackable delivery, your credit card will be charged $1,015.38. If all goes well, you’ll get back $5 from TopCashBack, so your net cost will be $10.38 which is a net fee of 1%.
Note that GiftCardMall sends the Visa gift cards in one envelope and sends activation codes in another. I think that this helps make delivery of the cards more secure and so I would be willing to accept non-trackable delivery. If you prefer trackable delivery, the total price goes up by $2.
- Pay with any credit card accepted by GiftCardMall.
- With GiftCardMall gift cards, you do not need to set the PIN in advance. Simply use the last four digits of the card number a the PIN.
- Your purchase through TopCashBack (or any portal) may not track correctly, so you might not get paid.
- GiftCardMall often holds up orders as they investigate them. This can be a hassle.
- It’s not hard, but you do need to activate the cards online once you receive them.
- It’s unclear whether any credit card companies would treat these purchases as cash advances. I’ve never heard of this happening with GiftCardMall, but the possibility does exist (especially with Citibank cards).
OneVanilla Prepaid Cards
Certain OneVanilla cards can be loaded up to $500 with only a $4.95 fee each. This is $1 cheaper than most competitors. $500 OneVanilla cards can be found at certain gas stations, drug stores, and grocery stores. In my experience you can use these cards without ever setting up a PIN. The card simply uses the first PIN you type in.
- Pay with any credit card accepted by the store. If your credit card earns bonus points at the store visited, then you should earn bonus points for these purchases as well.
- Banks will generally treat these purchases as store purchases so you do not have to fear the purchase counting as a cash advance.
- No need to set the PIN in advance.
- The $4.95 fee amounts to approximately 1% of the card’s value. This is not a bad price, but it is more than the options presented above.
Have you found any better deals than those listed above for $500 gift cards? Have you had any experiences to add to (or contradict) what I wrote? Please comment below.
Last updated on November 4th, 2013