It has been reported in other places today that Gift of College gift cards are currently available in some Barnes & Noble stores. While that might sound like exciting news on the surface, Barnes & Noble only intends to carry the $200 denominations, which are not a good deal in most scenarios.
A reader made us aware of this update on the Gift of College site early last month (H/T: Reader Seth). We then reached out to our Gift of College representative, who told us that the cards are currently only in Barnes & Noble “flagship” stores (46 stores at the moment). She further told us that Barnes & Noble would only be carrying these cards in a denomination up to $200. That’s not very exciting because the $200 cards carry the same $5.95 activation fee as the cards that can be loaded with up to $500.
On a $500 card, the fee represents a cost of about 1.2% — a figure that can easily be outpaced by rewards cards that earn anywhere from 2-3% back (or potentially more depending on how you use the rewards).
On the other hand, a $5.95 fee on the $200 cards represents a fee of about 3%, which would only make these cards interesting if you were buying them with a strong category bonus, which makes them unattractive unless you hold the Barnes & Noble credit card.
Still, if you’re looking to meet a minimum spending requirement on a card with a large welcome bonus and you’re also looking to save for college, the cost might be worth it, though you can probably find lower-cost means of spending.
Our Gift of College rep assured us that the moment there was an announcement to make that would interest our readership, they would reach out. That’s not to suggest that such an announcement is forthcoming — just that if they do make headway on getting those $500 cards back in stores, they will let us know.