Meeting Credit Card Spend: Free Shipping, No Service Fees and 1.6% Cashback on Gift Cards

by on October 13, 2011 · 49 comments

in American Express, Big Crumbs, Shopping

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I’m asked all the time, “How am I supposed to hit the spend requirements on my credit card?” There are a lot of ways to generate credit card spend for every day activities, but most of the big spend items like paying rent and taxes come with fees that can negate the value of the points/miles earned.

Buying gift cards is a great way to increase the spend on your credit card without having to buy needless merchandise. While these can’t be converted directly into cash to pay off the balance (much like how the Mint deal used to work), you can use them to pay for every day items, give them as wedding gifts and possibly even convince any vendors (like cleaning lady, nanny, etc) you deal with to take them as payment. You can even use them to buy other gift cards, which you can then sell on Plastic Jungle or simply sell them on Ebay.

Buying Gift Cards Through Big Crumbs

Update: Warning- Citi may treat these purchases as cash advances, so before you go crazy, I’d test it out with a small order.

Instructions (you don’t have to sign-up for BigCrumbs to get the gift cards – you’ll just miss out on 1.6% cash back on your order. If you want to order the gift card directly go here and continue from step 4):
1) Create a BigCrumbs account. Here is my referral link if you need it – it only takes a minute.
2) Then search for American Express – two results will come up, personal and business. Choose whichever one – it doesn’t matter (I chose personal).

3) Sign-in with your American Express ID. If you don’t have one, you can create one (you do not need to be an Amex cardholder to buy Amex gift cards).
4) Choose the Diwali gift card (this one has no fees until 10/31/11).

Happy Diwali!

5) Choose how many you want – up to $5,000 per order.
6) For shipping, choose the third option: Premium Shipping $99 Year FREE TRIAL. You don’t actually pay the $99 until your 3 month free trial is up, so make sure you cancel before then.
7) Check out. It will default to your Amex cards, but you can choose to pay with a Visa, Mastercard, or Discover.

I have ordered these gift cards with Amex charge cards in the past and I’ve never had an issue with it being questioned or being coded as a cash advance. Since gift cards cannot be converted into cash, I highly doubt any credit card company would charge a cash advance and if they did, I would fight it. For reference, this is how they show up on my Amex bill – the charge type is coded as “Business Services- Other Services”.

How my Amex GCs show up on my Amex statement

If you recently got the Sapphire Preferred Card (which I know many of you did) and it will take you 3 months to hit the $3,000 spend requirement in order to get the 50,000 sign-up bonus, then you could buy $3,000 in gift cards today and use them over the next couple of months as you would have meeting the spend normally. In this case you get 1.6% back ($48) and you get the bonus right after your statement closes instead of waiting months.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Guest

    CAREFUL as there are some cards that will charge this as cash advance.

  • Anonymous

    Do you know which ones? I just can’t see why this would be a cash advance since its clearly not cash or a cash equivalent

  • Guest

    I believe all Citi cards will charge this as cash advance. Search web for more info. But still TPG, this is a great way to get over the spend requirements!

  • infamousdx

    Yup, as per FT, Citi is treating these purchases as cash advances similar across all their cards.

  • G_cederwall

    Can Canadians do this as well?

  • Anonymous

    Good to know- I added a warning

  • Jessica Huth

    I was able to do this w/ my chase sapphire bc I was $1000 short on the minimum spend. I had no issues. Also got an email from AMEX w/ a promo code to get additional cards w/ no fee through the end of the year… Or maybe even longer, I can’t remember….

  • Gene

    CAREFUL, you have no consumer protections when making purchases with these gift cards, and if someone somehow hacks your card number, you will NOT be refunded for any stolen funds for transactions that occur prior to you reporting the card stolen. These issues are enough for me to avoid these things like the plague.

  • Trench

    Plastic Jungle does not by American Express Gift cards.

  • Jim

    I think taxes are a much better way to achieve spend, for several reasons.

    This isn’t really extra spending, you’re just moving it in time. If you want to pull this trick with several bonus offers you then have all this spending tied up in gift cards, and can’t take advantage of other offers.

    Taxes can be paid with only a 2% fee, and since you’re getting extra miles/points by creating new credit card spending that wouldn’t be there otherwise, the effective rate is less. You’d get 3000 UR points which are worth anywhere from 1-2cents, so effectively your cost of doing this is below 1%.

    Finally, this method lets you continue to take advantage of other bonus offers, like the 5% Chase category bonus, or even new credit card bonuses. If you have a mountain of gift cards to unload, you’ll be missing those out.

  • Million Mile Secrets

    All the Citi personal cards charge a cash advance fee for AMEX gift cards because they are coded as originating from a financial institution (AMEX).

  • Jt123

    I’ve always been under the impression that purchasing gift cards from AMEX does not count towards the annual spend thresholds. Just like annual fees, cash advances, travelers checks…. Am I mistaken?

    Here’s a direct quote from the T&C:

    “Fees, interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchases of traveler’s checks, the purchase or reloading of prepaid cards and purchases of other cash equivalents do not earn miles.”

    Isn’t this the purchase of a prepaid card? (I know ‘gift cards’ and ‘prepaid cards’ are perhaps a different beast…. but…)

    Can you verify that your purchase actually counted towards your annual spend threshold for that card?

  • Bexho2000

    I used BigCrumb a couple of months ago months agoand purchased $2000 in amex gift crads with Citi Amex card and Citi treated them as cash advance and charged me both cash fee (over $130) and interest. After several back and forth phonecalls with Citi they waved the fees as “a courtesy gesture” because they kept blaming Amex for the internal code they had used for the transaction an because AMEX was considered a Financial institution not a retailer. Called AMEX and they had no clue.AMEX kept direcing me to Citi and Citi claimed they could not change anything. I had purchased gift cards from AMEX on line during the AMEX rewards promo with no problems. Adding insult to the injury, no 1.6% bonus has been posted yet to my BigCrumb account – contacted them and they are investigating (they wanted proof that transaction when thru them although the link and time shows up on my account). Best advice – STAY AWAY from buying AMEX gist cards online if you plan using CITI cc. the 1.6% bonus from bigcrumb is not worth the headache (remember you still pay $8.99 for shipping or $3.99 activation/card, and you can use coupon codes just to avoid only one of the charges, not both, and Citi does not allow over $2,000 purchases making theonline gig less appealing). Buying AMEX/VISA/MC gift card by using CITI cc from any old fashion stores works just fine (counts as a regular purchase, not cash advance). Just my experience….

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing your experience. FYI per this post the shipping and fees are waived until 10/31/11

  • Anonymous

    Right, which is why I said purchase other GCs that you can sell on Plastic Jungle or sell the Amex ones on ebay

  • Nirav Desai

    I did this exact thing for the BA 100k offer earlier this year and have gradually spent off those gift cards on purchases where I didn’t mind forgoing credit card perks (I wouldn’t use it on electronics where the +1yr warranty of using a credit card can come in handy). I think I had to pay a small shipping fee, but overall ended up making money via Big Crumbs. :)

  • Justin M

    It looks like having an AMEX account is a requirement for the free shipping deal. I have the Citi AA AMEX, but I don’t think that counts as an account, right?

  • Anonymous

    FWIW, Big Crumbs is very difficult to deal with. I’ve done the AX GCs twice, and both times Big Crumbs did not post my earned credit to my account. The first time got resolved only after I contacted the Better Business Bureau of Atlanta. The second time is still pending even though it’s 3 months since I purchased the AX GCs. I have provided Big Crumbs with click-thru numbers and we have had a bunch of emails back and forth. Looks like I’ll be contacting the BBB again. In addition, I’ve found it challenging to use the GCs, especially for online purchases. YMMV of course.

  • Glasgowmac

    I do something like this but just go to my local grocery store. Safeway, Kroger, Publix, SVU, etc – have the Gift Card Mall. There I pick up Store cards (for my monthly groceries), restaurant cards, Lowes/Home Depot, basically hundreds of cards (with no fee’s). My local Kroger and Safeway also run fuel promo’s so I get big discounts on filling my tank. Best of all – it looks like a Grocery Store charge (there are no fee’s on gift cards) – so if the CC you are using does double credit for groceries – you get that too.

  • Carwag25

    TPG, does Chase and BofA treat the Amex GC purchases as cash advance or regular purchases?

  • Simon

    Be careful with this. I did this to complete my spending for my Amex PRG business and SPG cards. Next thing I know, I was being FR’d by AMEX and eventually all my AMEX cards closed eventhough I complied and can actually back my purchases. Use sparingly…

  • Anonymous

    Just curious- Were you also buying coins?

  • AAJunkie

    Another warning. I used a Citi card for excess mileage charges at the end of an auto lease. Citi treated it as a cash advance because the lease holder was a “financial institution”. It was a back and forth nightmare with supervisors just to get Citi to remove the cash advance fees. Getting miles was completely out of the question.

  • amit

    Can you also direct on steps how to cancel this Premium Shipping $99 Year FREE TRIAL

  • Simon

    No, I wasn’t part of the coin game.

  • PJ

    I was told specifically by Citi and amex they r NOT qualified items gift cards so i have to pay property tax 2.75 % fees to get the SPEND done and away on my SPG

  • PJ

    use gift cards to pay cable wireless etc online no pasa nada

  • PJ

    gift cards from your favorite grocery store is cool; i normally stock up a few thousands ( i have 2 chase freedom cards visa and mc) grocery gift cards before the end of 1st quarter when Chase rebates 5 % on gorcery items. My ShopRite charged me 950 for $1000 GC so bottom line i pay about 900 for 1000 >> 10 % off grocery

  • Anonymous

    I recieved an email 3 days ago. Use code EMOCTCM for fee free cards through Dec 31st 2011. I haven’t tried it, but that’s what the email says……

  • Netactor

    I don’t have my SPG’s terms with me, but when I receive it (08/2011), it said something like cannot earn points by purchasing AMEX gift cards. Some people said it was not there before…

  • Bookswin

    I assume that $950 for $1000 was for ShopRite gift cards only?

  • Heels05

    I bought $2000 of gift cards today and within 3 hours I had been called by AMEX for a financial review.

    I was in the mint game and was asked about coins and gift cards. In 3-5 days we will see how this turns out.

  • PJ

    hi defending Big Crumbs: I was suspecting if i were ever get the expedia rebate ~8.50 the rebate % OVER hotel bills free of TAX. the booking was done in late June for the stay on around July 4 I got nervous when no posting showed up on the AUg 15 cut date. ..DID show up on sep 15 cut date . Hope you can see the pattern.. ..on the 3rd 15th of the month after the spend .

  • Eric

    So, can anyone confirm which cards they’ve used where it’s been treated as a purchase? Sounds like Citi is out, as well as the SPG Amex. How about a Chase Priority Club card?

  • PJ

    almost close to 100 % sure chase is ok with amex GIFT card purchases echoed my “the mr pickles” again stay away from using amex card or citi cards . I can never figure out the logics why the gift card purchase is NOT counted by AMex or Citi

  • PJ

    no go with AMex

  • PJ

    not sure if other stores have the extra 5 %; Shoprite is MY store . Owning more than one card is a good option not to mention the signon bonus now 20K and 5% rebate on rotating items.. say you stock up the shoprite gift card and you can turn around to buy GAS Home Depot Subway etc when you are not getting 5 % off etc etc enjoy

  • Tristan

    Don’t most credit cards not give any cash back on ‘cash equivalent’ purchases?

  • Anna

    I’ve had problems with Big Crumbs myself. Had no problem with rebate from Campmor but I’ve been waiting for many months for a Skype rebate and no luck. I submitted the “missing credit” report and emailed; still no luck. @hoglard1, I’m going to take your route and call the BBB.

  • Brent

    I know that you added a warning about Citi posting these as cash advance/equivalent purchases, but I believe there is a very important warning that you are not posting about that IMO may be even a bigger risk. If you’ve ever churned these things you would know that the biggest risk is that the Amex gift cards could be stolen.

    When you were ordering coins and getting boxes of $1k… they were insured and you had to sign for them. The Amex gift cards are sent to your home by UPS and have no signature delivery confirmation and to the best of my knowledge do not carry any type of insurance. The gift cards are delivered to your doorstep in a large UPS envelope. I churned these things for months and half the time the UPS delivery man would just drop it off on my porch and not even ring the door bell.

    So before you order these things please review the terms and conditions and look into seeing if Amex has any type of protection against stolen cards like they do with their travelers cheques, or invest in a PO Box that will accept UPS packages.

  • mike a.

    If you go through with the yearly premium for free shipping, Amex will thank you with a 25$ gift card.

    Dont know if they will do this for everyone, just my personal experience.

  • Pob312

    “needless” merchandise s/b unnecessary merchandise.

  • Adam

    Personally I was all about BigCrumbs until I realized their backend accounting system isn’t screwed together too well… and it seems they don’t really care. i.e. I bought $10 of Skype credit in August which should have 48% cash back.

    BigCrumbs claims that I would see the rebate hit my account in 2 weeks or less. 3 weeks after the purchase I still didn’t see anything in my account, so I submitted a support ticket. That was in early September, no response from BigCrumbs and no credit in my account. Really hurts my confidence in their whole system

  • LikeBright

    Don’t use citicard for these purchases…. In general, I think this is a decent deal … but I’m not sure the risks are worth 1.6% paid after awhile….

  • Asdfasdfas

    aside from the big crumbs rebate which it sounds like YMMV, what is the benefit of getting gift cards that you ultimately liquidate on everyday spending? why not just spend it on the card and only get promos that you can spend on rather than risking theft, loss, and financial reviews??

  • Retiarius

    Ditto. On the advice of “mrpickles” I tried the Big Crumbs route in purchasing
    $1500 in Amex gift cards. No problem using the cards, but The Crumby response upon
    no rebate was that I didn’t “click thru”, or had “cookies disabled”, or used “Safari” vs. Firefox
    or some nonsense. This only has to happen to me once and I am outta there.
    So shopping malls for extra points are iffy this way. On a positive note, it’s
    a no brainer to buy VISA gift cards at a Safeway-type outlet using the AARP 5% cash
    back card, which makes a a $500 gift card yield $25 against the typical $5 fee ..

  • studd

    Anyone know of a way to contact Bigcrumbs, they dont seem to have made any cash back payments to me in over 1 year!

  • Nathan Keirn
  • CheapTricksToTravel

    I know this is an old post but there are still lots of “fee waived” codes on the internet. However, it’s important to know not all AMEX cardholders are able to enroll in the free trial for the Premium Shipping Plan. I called AMEX to get info because I’ve been a cardholder since 2006 and AMEX told me it is not long enough to be “invited” to join the shipping plan.

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