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Buying American Express gift cards can be a great way to meet the minimum spend requirements for huge credit card sign-up bonuses, as well as to keep earning points beyond sign-up bonuses and even meet calendar year spending threshold bonuses.
Although many gift cards are merchant-specific, American Express gift cards are great because they are accepted everywhere Amex are accepted, so whether you’re buying them for yourself or giving them to others, it’s basically just like buying money.
The one big downside is that Amex normally charges a purchase fee of between $3.95-$6.95 per card you buy (depending on its value) and about $5.95-$8.95 in shipping since it must be done via UPS, so you really have to crunch the numbers to make sure those extra points are worth spending on those fees.
However, now through April 1, 2014, Amex has announced that it will be waiving the purchase fees on gift card purchases (you must still pay shipping) of up to $5,000 per order and gift cards of up to $200 each in value when you use the promo code HEARTCC1. While you can normally purchase gift cards up to $3,000 each, with this promo, you’re stuck ordering a bunch of $200 ones. However, the shipping fee of $8.95 applies to them as a single order if you’re shipping to the same address per my sample purchase of 5 $200 cards below, so at least you’re not spending that fee per card!
But remember that if you buy first click through to American Express via an online rebate site you can save even more in the form of an automatic rebate. For example, right now, Top Cash Back is offering 2% rebates on Amex Gift cards.
Big Crumbs offers up to 1.2% back on Amex gift cards right now.
And Ebates is offering 1% cash back:
If you’re interested in doing so, here are some quick instructions for you:
1. Create a Top Cash Back, BigCrumbs or Ebates account.
2. Once logged in, search for American Express – a few results will come up including one for cash back on Amex gift cards. Click on it to be redirected to the Amex site.
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 how many you want – up to $5,000 per order. If you’re just going for straight-up spending, I’d suggest a full $5,000 order to hit the max with the lowest shipping costs, though you can order as many as you like.
6. 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.
With the current BigCrumbs 1.2% rebate, for example, a purchase of $5,000 in gift cards will cost you $5,008.95 minus the $60.11 from the 1.2% rebate, so you’re getting $5,000 worth of gift cards plus $5,009 points for a total of $4,958.85, and with the Top Cash Back rebate, you’re only spending $4,908.77 – over $90 less than the value of your gift cards!
Two Notes of Caution
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 (updated and Chase as well), 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.” I’ve earned Amex points when buying them, but several TPG readers have reported that Amex won’t count these purchases towards meeting spend requirements – if anyone can comment about their experiences doing so, that would be great.
Some people have also gotten Financial Reviews (account audits) from American Express for buying lots of gift cards – especially on business cards, which are higher risk to credit card companies than personal 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.
All in all, this can be a great way either to rack up some bonus points or hit minimum spending requirements, or to get friends and loved ones nice gifts they can use anywhere, all while being savvy about sustainable points earning, and even earning a nice little cash back discount.