Learning Amex gift card rules the hard way

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Buying Amex gift cards through cash back portals such as BigCrumbs is a great way to time-shift your spending (usually to meet minimum spend requirements) or to offset costs involved with manufacturing spend.  Unfortunately, the process of buying gift cards online is not always as easy as it should be.  Reader Charlie S shared his experience with me and agreed to let me publish his story.  If you’re new to buying Amex gift cards, you might find this helpful:

I went to BigCrumbs to purchase Amex gift cards, ordered a $3,000 using my Fidelity Investment Rewards Amex. No issues.

One week later, I went back to order another $3,000 Amex card with the same credit card. The order was accepted, but about an hour later I got an email saying that my purchase was declined. I called the 800 number in the email to ask why, and the rep told me that the limit is $5,000 per credit card in a 14-day period.

After hanging up with them, I immediately went back to BigCrumbs to purchase an Amex gift card with my Chase Sapphire Preferred. This order went the same way — the order was accepted, but then an hour later I got an email saying the purchase was declined.

I called customer service again, and a different rep told me that the $5,000 limit applies to the individual, not the credit card.

I waited 15 days before going back to BigCrumbs to purchase Amex gift cards with my Fidelity Amex. This time, I tried to order one $3,000 gc and one $2,000 gc. The total order came to $5,000 + shipping and fees.

Again, this order went through, and then I got an email saying it was declined. I called customer service, and they told me that the limit is $5,000 TOTAL per order. Ordering $5,000 worth of gift cards is not allowed because the shipping and fees will put you over the $5,000 limit.

So I go to try one more time, this time ordering one $3,000 and one $1,000. The total for the order is $4,000 + shipping and fees. Same thing happens — order goes through, but then I get an email saying it was declined.

One more call to customer service, and this time the explanation baffles me. They tell me that even rejected orders get applied to your $5,000 per 14-day limit. My $3,000+$1,000 order got declined because the system already had me in for the $3,000+$2,000 order from earlier that day. Even though that order got declined, it was still in their system, applied to my name, and precluding me from purchasing any more gift cards for 14 days.

By now, I think I’ve learned the hard way what the rules are. Hopefully sharing this story can help the next guy avoid some of the pitfalls (and phone calls from my credit cards’ fraud department!).

Charlie S

It’s worth noting here that American Express Gift Cards for Business have higher limits.  American Express’ FAQ says “There is maximum order size of $5,000 for personal Gift Cards and $75,000 for business orders.”  Note that the $5K and $75K limits are per-order limits.  The FAQ is silent about monthly limits.

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What’s your story?

Have you tried to order $5K or more of Amex gift cards at a time?  Have you tried to order more per month?  What happened?  What did you learn?

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