Best ways to use $200 Visa gift cards

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StaplesDotCom200Visa

I doubt this will last long, but for now it is possible to earn 5X points and a profit from buying $200 Visa gift cards online.  Please see these posts for details:

In this post, I’ll suggest various ways to make use of those $200 Visa gift cards once they arrive…

Activate

Visa gift cards purchased from Staples will be sent to you by GiftCardMall.  They will send activation codes to you separately.  You must activate each card before use.  Note that activating cards is different from registering cards.  The first is necessary, the latter (registration) is needed only if you make a transaction with the card in which your name, address, and/or zip code will need to be verified.  In most cases you won’t need to register.  Once the gift card is activated, it can be used as a credit card or as a debit card (using the last four digits on the card as the PIN).

Pay mortgage, rent, etc..

UPDATE: Evolve Money has shut down services

As I’ve written before (see “Pay bills online with debit and prepaid cards”), the service Evolve Money can be used to pay many types of bills that can’t usually be paid by credit card.  If you need to make regular payments to a student loan, a mortgage, an education savings program, etc., it makes sense to check to see if Evolve Money supports your situation.  If so, follow these guidelines:

  1. You can make up to $1000 in payments per day per Evolve Money account.
  2. When paying a mortgage, the payments will most likely go to principal rather than to your monthly payment unless you pay the entire monthly bill in one day.
  3. If you need to make more than $1000 in payments in one day (see #1 and #2, above), then consider simply setting up multiple Evolve Money accounts with different email addresses.
  4. When making payments with multiple Visa/MasterCard gift cards of the same denomination, always wait 5 minutes or more between payments.  If you don’t, the payment is likely to result in an error because Evolve Money will think it is a duplicate.  In that case, it will take many days for the money to become available on your gift card again.

What if you don’t have a loan, mortgage, etc. for this?  If you earned 5X rewards when buying these gift cards, it may make sense to pay other bills even if you can usually pay those bills with a credit card, as long as you usually earn only 1X on those payments.  Yes, you would be losing out on those extra 1X rewards, but in exchange you have a dead simple way to use up these gift cards.

Use for everyday, non bonus spend

Visa gift cards can be used for day to day purchases within the United States.  You would lose out on earning credit card rewards when doing so, though, so use these cards only when you would not otherwise earn a credit card category bonus.  If you have a smart phone, I’d recommend using an app like GoWallet to keep track of your current balance on each card.

Some uses are more difficult than others: hotels, restaurants and gas stations (at the pump) usually will look to authorize a higher amount than you intend to spend.  If your card doesn’t have that amount available, your transaction will be denied.  There are work-arounds to these issues, but it may be easier to simply avoid them.  Also, at many gas station pumps you need to verify your zip code, so you would have to register your gift card first.

Use for online purchases

To use these cards online, you will have to first register each card with your name and address.  Some merchants will put a $1 hold on your card before charging to it.  In those cases, you won’t be able to use the entire balance.  Some merchants allow you to use multiple credit cards in one transaction.  With those merchants, you can specify how much goes to each card and so you may be able to cleanly liquidate your gift card (consider using a regular credit card as the second form of payment assuming it is for an odd amount). If you find an online merchant that you want to buy from, you could try going through a portal and buying a gift card to that merchant.  That way, you’ll (hopefully) cleanly empty your Visa gift card and you might even earn portal rewards (see the Frequent Miler Laboratory to see which merchants pay out portal rewards for gift card purchases).  And, most merchants allow multiple gift cards to be used with each purchase.

Reload at Walmart

Bluebird, Serve, and a few other prepaid cards can be reloaded at Walmart, and you can pay with debit cards. Keep in mind that Bluebird and Serve are limited to $1000 per day (and $5000 per month) in reloads.  Use the last four digits on each $200 Visa card as the PIN.  If you use the in-store kiosk (assuming you can find a functional one), you’ll have to load $200 at a time.  If you reload at a cashier or at the store’s money center, you should be able to load up to $800 at a time by splitting the payment across four debit cards.  You can use the same procedure at the money center to buy money orders or pay bills as long as you account for the fees appropriately.  Please note that some cashiers have been trained to not allow gift cards for debit purchases, so these suggestions are not foolproof.

Use as debit card for everyday purchases and get cash back

At many stores, when you make a purchase with a debit card (as opposed to a credit card), they’ll let you take cash out with the transaction.  Even though Visa gift cards are legitimate debit cards, this doesn’t work at all such stores.  However, it seems that there are some places where selecting debit as your payment type will result in the ability to get cash back.  For example, please see this comment by ChessMaster1 regarding Costco.

Miscellaneous other ideas

  1. Use Visa gift cards to buy reload cards.  Unfortunately, few stores will let you pay with a credit card any more, but some still do.
  2. Send Amazon Payments to friends or family.  No longer available.
  3. Make Kiva loans.
  4. Buy merchant gift cards through online portals in order to earn extra points or cash back.
  5. Load the American Express for Target card and then withdraw money from ATMs and/or load to Serve as a credit card (max $1K per month).  UPDATE 1/12/2016: The American Express for Target card has been discontinued

Do you have other good ideas?  Please comment below.

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