How to buy $500 Visa gift cards online with Amex gift cards [No longer works]

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Update 8/5/2015: Unfortunately, GiftCardMall no longer accepts Amex gift cards for payment

I have written quite a bit lately about buying Amex gift cards for points or for cash back.  For a nearly complete guide, please see the recently updated post “Everything you ever wanted to know about Amex gift cards.”

AmexToVisa

The problem with Amex gift cards is that they’re not as convenient as MasterCard and Visa gift cards.  Amex gift cards don’t have PINs and so cannot be used to reload Bluebird or other cards at Walmart, nor can they be used to buy money orders, get cash back at the register, or pay bills online or in-store.  As a result, people often look for ways to buy Visa or MasterCard gift cards with their Amex gift cards.  I’m often asked if it is possible to buy them online.  The answer is yes.  Here’s how:

1. Register your name and address to your Amex gift card

Once you have your Amex gift card in-hand, call Amex (1-800-297-7327), follow the prompts to speak to a representative, and then tell them that you would like to register your name and address to your Amex gift card.

2. Shop through a portal

GiftCardMall no longer accepts Amex Gift Cards for payment.

When you buy Visa gift cards online, card fees and shipping costs can add up.  To reduce your out of pocket costs, it’s a good idea to go through a cash back portal.  To find good options, go to CashBackMonitor and search for GiftCardMall.  This will show you the best options for regular gift cards, but you will have to check out each portal individually to see their policies regarding Visa gift cards purchased at GiftCardMall.  Some portals claim that no cash back will be given for Visa gift card purchases (However: I have often received cash back anyway, but at a lower rate).  Others show different (lower) cash back rates for Visa gift cards than for most other cards.  For example, Simply Best Coupons currently advertises 1.5% cash back at GiftCardMall, but if you click to see the Terms and restrictions you see that they offer half that for Visa Gift Cards:

SimplyBestCoupons_GiftCardMall

Once you find the best portal, click through to GiftCardMall.

3. Try to match Amex gift card value without going over

GiftCardMall won’t let you use multiple credit cards on one order, so you will need to make sure that the balance on your Amex gift card is larger than your complete order.  Fortunately, unlike some other merchants, GiftCardMall does not put a $1 hold on your card prior to the order, so it is possible to use up very close to the entire Amex gift card balance.

Here’s an example of what I did recently:

With a $3,000 Amex gift card, I bought:

  • 5 $500 Visa gift cards
  • 1 $457 Visa gift card

Each Visa gift card has a $3.95 purchase fee, plus additional shipping fees.  I chose the USPS critical mail option (to add tracking to the order) for $18.84.  My total purchase came to $2,999.54.

Calculate your cost

In the example above, I used a $3000 Amex gift card to buy $2957 worth of Visa gift cards.  My Amex gift card still has 46 cents on it, but let’s calculate costs as if the card is now empty:

  • I “lost” $43 from this transaction ($3000 – $2957 = $43)
  • Using the Simply Best Coupons cash back portal for .75% cash back, I now have $22.18 cash back pending.
  • Total cost: $20.82 ($43 – $22.18)
  • Percent loss: .7%

Since it is usually possible to earn 2% or more when buying Amex gift cards, a loss of less than 1% when buying Visa gift cards is not bad at all.

Advanced option

Here’s a way buy only full value $500 Visa gift cards.  Note that this is more work for relatively little gain, so think twice about whether it is worth it to you.  Also note that while I believe this will work, I haven’t done all of the steps recently:

1. Figure out the total fees and shipping costs for buying Visa cards matching the exact value of your Amex gift card.

For example, if you have a $3000 Amex gift card, add six $500 Visa cards to your cart and go through the beginning of the checkout process to see the total fees and shipping costs.  By choosing USPS Critical Mail, for example, my total for $3000 worth of Visa gift cards came to $42.54 ($18.84 for shipping and $23.70 for card fees).

GiftCardMall_DeliveryMethod

2. Buy a Choice e-gift card to cover the fees

In the example above, I would buy a single $43 Choice e-gift card.  First go through an online portal, of course, but you may want to use a different portal than the best one for buying Visa gift cards.  Different portals have different rules about whether they pay out for Choice e-gift cards.  Make sure to pay for the Choice card with a regular credit card, not your Amex gift card.

3. Buy Visa gift cards

It may take a day or two to get your Choice e-gift card.  Once you have it, go through a portal again to buy the Visa gift cards.  Make sure to apply the Choice gift card to your order so that the total charged to your Amex gift card is just under its full balance.

Calculate your cost

In the example above, One would spend $3043 to buy $3,000 worth of Visa gift cards.  If we again ignore any balance left on the Amex gift card, we can calculate costs as follows:

  • Loss: $43 (from regular credit card)
  • Assume 1% cash back for purchase of Choice e-gift card = 43 cents back
  • Assume .75% cash back for $3000 order = $22.50
  • Total cost: $20.07 ($43 – $22.50 – $0.43)
  • Percent loss: .7%
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