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Buying gift cards is a great way to meet your minimum spend requirements, as well as to keep earning points beyond sign-up bonuses. It just takes a little advance planning to figure out what you’re going to buy at what merchant so you can get the gift card first then use that to pay off your purchase (especially through an online shopping portal so you potentially double dip and earn points again).
American Express Gift Cards are great because it’s basically the same as giving cash (they are accepted everywhere that accepts Amex) – except you earn points for buying them! This is especially important during graduation season- if you are true points junkie, you never give cash, especially since most grads often have lots of purchases to make, they won’t mind using gift cards.
Normally Amex gift cards come with a $3.95 per card fee and $8.95 shipping charge, however until June 30, 2012, you can buy them and get free standard shipping and handling using the code: EMMOTWEL, and plus, if you buy them via an online rebate site you can save even more in the form of an automatic rebate. Big Crumbs offers 1.4% back on on Amex gift cards and Ebates offers 1% and up to a $10 gift card. Note: These sites also give you credit for referring new members, so if you are current member feel free to post your sign-up referral link in the comments so you get credit for any TPG sign-ups so we all share the referral love.
You don’t have to sign up for BigCrumbs to get the gift cards – you’ll just miss out on 1.4% cash back on your order. If you want to order the gift card directly go here and continue from step 4:
2. Then search for American Express – a few results will come up (including a Mother’s Day one if you’re behind!). Choose the one that says “Free Standard Shipping on Consumer American Express Gift Cards.”
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 card you want. Some have low limits – the generic goes up to $3,000.
5. Choose how many you want – up to $5,000 per order.
7. Check out. It will default to your Amex cards (if you have them), but you can choose to pay with a Visa, Mastercard, or Discover, and make sure you put the promo code EMMOTWEL in the appropriate box to get free shipping.
So in the end, a $3,000 gift card comes out to $3,003.95. If you factor in 1.4% back from BigCrumbs, you are only spending $2,961.89 for a $3,000 gift card – plus you earned 3,000 points (or more depending on the card you used) and got valuable spend towards hitting a sign-up bonus or spend bonus.
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, though some credit card companies like Citi, will charge them as cash advances, so be sure to do a test order before getting carried away. On my Amex statements these purchases show up as “Business Services – Other Services.”
It is also important to note that some people have gotten Financial Reviews (account audits) from American Express for buying lots of gift cards. The point of a financial review is for Amex to identify people who are likely to charge up their cards and then skip town and default on the debt – and people who buy tons of Amex gift cards are prime suspects, because that’s as close as you can get to getting cash from your credit line without getting hit with a cash advance fee. However, if you have a healthy relationship with Amex and don’t go overboard, you should have nothing to worry about.
So to sum it up, this is a great way to get someone special a nice graduation gift that they can spend however they choose, while meeting your minimum spending requirements or simply being savvy about sustainable points earning, and even earning a nice little cashback discount. Congratulations, you’ve graduated to the next level of smart spending!