Buying Amex gift cards through cash back portals had been a key part of my strategy for increasing credit card rewards. When buying Amex gift cards, it was possible to earn credit card rewards for the purchase, plus a cash profit from the portal that well exceeded gift card fees and shipping costs. Please see “My Amex gift card strategy” for more details about how I used to use Amex gift cards.
Unfortunately, in August, the TopCashBack portal added a new restriction to the purchase of Amex gift cards. Cash back was only available for denominations of $200 or less. Soon, other portals added the same restriction.
Dealing with large denomination Amex gift cards is hard enough. Dealing with many $200 gift cards is too much. It seemed that, until the terms changed back, the deal was done.
Predicting a reversal
In the post “Amex gift cards: Is the deal done?” I pointed out that, in prior years, Amex has withdrawn their gift cards from portals completely in the September-ish timeframe. Each time, they’ve returned to portals after a month or two. It is possible that this new $200 limit is just a different approach to the same thing. If so, we may see the new terms ease up sometime soon (I’d bet mid-October).
Current state of rebates
Out of curiosity, a week or so after the changes, I started poking around the various portals. I found that many still had cash back terms that seemed to allow large denomination gift cards. For example, I found the following:
- The Marriott Shop My Way portal said that gift cards up to $2499 were OK (but the portal has since changed the terms to the now standard $200 limit).
- Similarly, Swagbucks didn’t have a posted limit at the time, but it now shows the $200 limit.
- Extrabux, and Extra Rebates still list the old $2,000 limit.
- RebateBlast says that you can buy gift cards up to $3,000.
I decided to run experiments to see if any portals continued to pay out for $2,000 gift cards. I tried a few of the portals that still specifically allowed high denomination cards (at the time) and I tried one portal that I’ve had luck with in the past even though it explicitly limited rebates to $200 and smaller gift cards.
So far, thanks to Amex denying many of my orders (as they often do), I only have two decent data points:
- Extrabux initially showed my 1% cash back pending, but then reversed it out with status “returned”. Extrabux states the following restriction: Cash Back is not available on gift card denominations over $2,000. My gift card was exactly $2,000. I hadn’t returned it. I submitted a support ticket and I’m waiting to hear more.
- SimplyCashBack still shows my 1.5% cash back as pending, but I have little hope for it since the portal explicitly states: Only Gift Cards with $25, $50, $100, $200 denominations or a variable load of $200 or less are eligible for cash back. The cash back for this order is shown as pending until November 13th, so it may be quite a while before I know for sure whether or not this is working.
Point Chaser gave us hope recently when she published “You CAN Still Earn Cash Back on $2,000 American Express Gift Cards.” She has had luck with Extrabux, and pointed out that their terms still allow denominations up to $2,000. Unfortunately, several readers (including me) commented that ExtraBux hasn’t worked out for them. Point Chaser followed up with a new post advising people to hold off on purchasing Amex gift cards until further notice.
It appears that the ability to earn cash back for large denomination Amex gift card orders truly is dead… for now. Hopefully the terms will change again. If/when they do, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’ll keep testing various portals and I’ll report my results within the Frequent Miler Laboratory.