Gift Card Upgrade Results

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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: SUCCESS

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.

ToysRUs: SUCCESS

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”.

Contribute

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.

To determine your 5/24 status, see: 3 Easy Ways to Count Your 5/24 Status. The easiest option is to track all of your cards for free with Travel Freely.
Chase 5/24 semantics ("Subject to" vs. "Count towards"): Most 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.

Example: 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? 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.
Manufacturing Spend Caution: Many, many things can go wrong when manufacturing spend. If you suddenly increase credit card spend, your accounts may get shut down. If you cycle your balance often (e.g. spend to your limit, pay the bill, repeat) within a billing cycle, your accounts may get shut down. If you repeatedly pay your credit card bill from an anonymous bill payment source, your accounts may get shut down. If you buy lots of gift cards you may lose money due to gift card fraud, theft, loss, or simply mishandling those gift cards (e.g. maybe you thought you already used a gift card and tossed it into your “used” bin). If you rely on only one method to liquidate gift cards, you may be stuck unable to pay your credit card bill when that method gets shut down. In other words, don’t try this at home unless you know what you’re doing, and you understand and accept the risks..
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. Another exception is with the Business Gold Card where you'll get a 25% point rebate when using points to book certain flights. This gives you approximately 1.33 cents per point value. If you don't have either 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 Membership Rewards Complete Guide.
Marriott points can be redeemed for free night awards, travel packages, airline miles, or experiences. 5th Night Free Awards: When redeeming points for free nights, the 5th night within a single reservation is free. Airline miles: Points can be converted to airline miles at a rate of 3 points to 1 mile. A bonus is added on when you transfer 60,000 points at a time, such that 60,000 points transfers to 25,000 miles. Also, you'll get a 10% bonus when transferring points to United Airlines.

Everything you need to know about Marriott's rewards program, Bonvoy, can be found here: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide
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, how to book business class to Europe for 80,000 miles roundtrip, and more. You can find John’s website and award booking service here: theflyingmustache.com/awardbooking.
-Greg The Frequent Miler

Amex Application Tips



  • Safe to Apply: Amex is the safest bank for trying your luck at a new welcome bonus. They don’t usually issue a hard pull when denying your application. Plus, they’ll now warn you during the application process if you’re not eligible for the bonus.

  • Lifetime Rule: If you've ever had the same card before, you are most likely prohibited from getting a welcome bonus for the card if you apply now. Fortunately you'll be warned during the application process if this is the case. Amex is known to "forget" that you've had a card after about 7 years.

  • 5/90 Rule: In general, you can get at most one credit card within 5 days and 2 within 90 days. The 5 day limit is not enforced when your applications are automatically approved. Neither rule is enforced for charge cards.

  • 5 credit card max:Amex usually won't approve applications for new credit cards if you already have 4 or more Amex credit cards or 10 or more charge cards.

  • Better Offers: You may be able to get a better offer than the best available public offer. Details here.

  • Hard inquiries combine into 1 when approved same day


Check application status here.
If denied, call reconsideration: 877-399-3083 (new accountholders); 866-314-0237 (current accountholders)


Chase Application Tips

  • Shut-Down Caution: Signing up for new Chase cards can lead to Chase reviewing your accounts. This may lead to Chase shutting down all of your accounts if you appear to be a credit risk. See this post for details and recommendations: Why Chase shutdowns have increased and how to avoid them.
  • 5/24 Rule: With most Chase cards, you won't get approved if your credit report shows 5 or more cards opened in the past 24 months. Details here.
  • 24/48 Month Rule: With most Chase cards, you can get the same card and bonus again 24 months after having received the bonus as long as you no longer have the card open. With Sapphire cards, you must wait 48 months. No wait is required for Chase Ink cards.
  • 30 Day Rule: It is tough to get approved for more than 2 Chase cards within 30 days
  • Get Same Card Again: You can get the same exact card and again if you first cancel the older card and follow the 24/48 month rule. Ink cards are OK to get again without cancelling previous card if you apply with a new business.
  • Better Offers: You may be able to get a better offer than the best available public offer. Details here.
  • Hard inquiries combine into 1 when approved same day (not always true when mixing business and personal)

Call (888) 338-2586 to check your application status
If denied, call reconsideration here:1-888-270-2127 for both personal and business cards

Citi Application Tips

  • 24 Month Rule (ThankYou Cards): To get bonus on any ThankYou card, you must wait 24 months after receiving a new cardmember bonus or closing any ThankYou card account. Applies to Preferred, Premier, Prestige, and Rewards+.
  • 24 Month Rule (Expedia Cards): To get bonus on any Expedia card, you must wait 24 months after opening or closing any Expedia card account.
  • 48 Month Rule (AA Cards): With Citi AA cards, you have to wait 48 months after receiving a bonus for the same exact card.
  • Velocity Rules: Max 1 personal card per 8 days. Max 2 personal cards per 65 days. Max 1 business card per 95 days.
  • Get Same Card Again: Citi allows getting same card again (even if card is still open) as long as you follow the 24 or 48 month rules and velocity rules (above).
  • Hard inquiries DO NOT combine into 1 when approved same day

Check application status here.
If denied, call reconsideration here:800-695-5171 (personal); 800-763-9795 (business)
If reconsideration # doesn’t work, try the Citi Credit Card Executive Office: 423-477-6858

Bank of America Application Tips


  • 3/12 or 7/12 Rule: You won't be approved if you have opened 3 or more accounts, with any bank, in the past 12 months. For those with Bank of America deposit accounts, the rule changes to 7+ accounts.
  • 2/3/4 Rule: Max 2 consumer cards per rolling 2 months, 3 per rolling 12 months, and 4 per rolling 24 months.
  • 5 card limit: You will not get approved for a new consumer card if you already have 5 consumer BOA cards open
  • Get Same Card Again: With some BOA cards, must wait 24 months after either opening or cancelling, depending upon the card.
  • Hard inquiries are usually combined into 1 when initiated within 30 days but there have been reports of TransUnion not combining.

Click here to check your application status
If denied, call reconsideration here: 800-354-0401 (8am-7pm ET Mon-Fri); 866-695-6598 (business cards);

Barclays Application Tips


  • Get Same Card Again: Must wait at least 6 months after cancelling previous card (with some accounts Barclays requires waiting 24 months).

  • Hard inquiries are combined into 1 when approved same day. Most inquiries issued through TransUnion.


Consumer: Click here to check your application status
Business cards: Click here
If denied, call reconsideration here: 866-408-4064

Capital One Application Tips


  • 6 month rule: Must wait 6 months after applying for a Capital One card before applying for another one.

  • 2 card limit: Conventional wisdom and user experience has been that you can have at most 2 Capital One consumer cards, but according to application terms it may be possible to have up to 5. You may be limited to 2 of their rewards cards. Note that this limit does not apply to Capital One co-branded cards like the Kohl's charge card.

  • Get Same Card Again: There is no known rule against getting the same card and bonus again even if you still have the card open.

  • Hard inquiries usually get issued through all 3 credit bureaus


To check application status, call (800) 903-9177 or (877) 277-5901
If denied, call reconsideration here: (800) 625-7866

Discover Application Tips


  • 2 card limit: You can have a maximum of 2 Discover cards.

  • 12 month rule: Must wait just over 12 months after previous card was opened before applying for another Discover card.

  • Get Same Card Again: No known rules against getting same card & bonus again.


Click here to check your application status
If denied, call reconsideration here: 888-676-3695

TD Bank Application Tips


Call (888) 561-8861 to check your application status

US Bank Application Tips


  • Get Same Card Again: No known rules against getting same card & bonus again.

  • Hard inquiries may be combined into 1 when approved same day.


Call (800) 947-1444 to check your application status.
If denied, call reconsideration here: 800-947-1444 or 800-685-7680

Wells Fargo Application Tips


  • Bank first: Wells Fargo usually requires having a bank account open before you can apply for a credit card.

  • 16 month rule: Limit of one signup bonus per 16 months

  • Get Same Card Again: No known rules against getting same card & bonus again.

  • Hard inquiries are combined into 1 when approved same day.


Check application status here.
If denied, call reconsideration here: 1-866-412-5956

Under certain circumstances consumer Visa cards don't work with Plastiq. The following payments are fine:

  • Rent (residential rent, HOA fees, and commercial rent)
  • Taxes & government fees
  • Utilities (electricity, cable, internet, and telecom)
  • Tuition (including daycare and camp)
Payments outside of the above list are subject to the following limitations:

  1. Payments using personal Visa cards issued by Chase are subject to a limit of 20% of your credit limit.
  2. Payments using personal Visa cards from other issuers (other than Capital One or Wells Fargo) will code as a cash advance. That means you’d incur cash advance fees and wouldn’t earn any credit card rewards.
  3. The following types of Visa cards are not affected by these changes: Capital One personal Visa cards, Wells Fargo personal Visa cards, Visa business credit cards, Visa corporate, debit and prepaid gift cards.
In order to meet minimum spend requirements, people often look for options to increase spend in ways that result in getting their money back. These techniques are referred to as "manufacturing spend". American Express has terms in their welcome offers that exclude some manufactured spend techniques from counting towards the minimum spend requirements for the welcome bonus. For example, most new cardmember bonuses have terms like this:
Eligible purchases to meet the Threshold Amount of this offer do NOT include fees or interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchase of travelers checks, purchase or reloading of prepaid cards, purchases of gift cards, person-to-person payments, or other cash equivalents.
That said, many techniques for meeting minimum spend are perfectly fine. Here are some techniques that are safe for meeting Amex minimum spend requirements (click each link for more information):
Marriott Bonvoy credit cards are issued by both Chase and American Express.  If you're interested in signing up for more than one Chase and/or Amex Marriott card, it's important to consider the complex rules they have put in place:

We have added this to our running list of Black Friday deals, which will be constantly updated through Cyber Monday with a mix of gift card deals, merchandise deals, and travel deals. Check back often.
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