Published on December 15th, 2014 | by Chuck29
Amazon Freezes My Account for Buying Lots of 50¢ Gift Cards
Buying lots of 50¢ gift cards on Amazon? Read this first…
50¢ Gift Cards, Why We Care
Amazon gift cards come in many denominations, as little as 50¢ or as much as $2,000.
But first, a word is in order: why would we be interested in buying 50¢ gift cards?
There are a few reasons:
- We may want to purchase 50¢ gift cards due to the unique reward-structure of the new Amex Everyday card and Everyday Preferred card. In order to maximize rewards, you’ll need to use the card 20 times or more per month. Amex is hoping that you’ll make the card your go-to card, but if you have other cards that you like to use, you can just purchase a bunch of 50¢ Amazon gift cards until you meet the transaction threshold.
- We often mention bonuses which various banks will give for opening a new checking account. Usually, these bonuses have certain requirements involved, such as making a certain number of purchases using the debit card that comes with the checking account. Instead of dealing with making a bunch of small purchases at the grocery store, we can just purchase 50¢ gift cards on Amazon to meet the transaction threshold.
- Similarly, many regular checking accounts come with monthly maintenance fees unless certain requirements are met. Sometimes, making some purchases with the attached debit card will keep the account fee-free. 50¢ gift cards are an easy way to take care of that.
- Finally, suppose you have $.50 or $1.23 remaining on a Visa/Mastercard/Amex gift card. One easy way of draining the gift card is to purchase an Amazon gift card for the remaining amount. That amount will then be combined with your Amazon balance to be used for future purchases.
Of course, all these ideas will only work for someone who shops on Amazon. I personally don’t shop too much on Amazon, but I definitely make an occasional purchase. When I do, I’ll often use up my running Amazon balance on those purchases.
I got a promotional offer from my local bank that if I use my debit card 25 times in November, I’ll receive a $25 cash bonus. (This was an offer targeted to me as an existing customer. Don’t worry, if this was a publicly available offer, I’d have told you guys already.) Instead of using my debit card on regular purchases, I decided to just take the easy route and buy twenty-five 50¢ gift cards on Amazon.
On November 17, I made four 50¢ gift card purchases. On November 19, I made ten. Then on November 20, I wanted to finish up with another eleven orders, to meet the 25-transaction requirement.
Here’s a look at my gmail account:
The first eight orders went fine. But then I got an email from Amazon stating that my account was frozen:
I tried logging into my Amazon account, and I got this:
The reason for the freeze stated by Amazon is that “the billing details of your card did not match the details on file with the card issuer”. But I think that’s like the generic “we are unable to verify your payment information” that so many online retailers will use when they want to reject your order because of various fraud concerns. I’m confident that the address was correct. Possibly, I wrote “st” instead of “street”, or something like that, but nothing more. Additionally, I had already many orders with the card and they all went through fine.
Apparently, there was some fraud-detection system which I bumped into. I made at least ten (and possibly eleven) orders in quick succession before getting the account-freeze email. The first 8 orders went through completely, and I received the 50¢ gift cards immediately, as usual. Orders 9 & 10 got the regular order-confirmation, but I never received the gift cards (and I never got charged). Instead they sent me the account-freeze email.
At first, I was a little amused. Based on the wording of the email I thought my Amazon account would be up-and-running within the hour.
But after 6 days…I wasn’t too amused.
Of course, like a good boy, I followed Amazon’s instructions in the above email and sent them the billing information of the debit card I was using. I immediately got an automated reply email from Amazon:
Okay, so far so good.
Then I waited a few days. No response. Since it was over a weekend, I gave them a little bit longer. Still no response.
Finally, after five full days, I was already annoyed, and I called Amazon telling them so. The CSR did think it was too long, and she even tried getting her supervisor to intervene, but the verdict was that the only one who can unfreeze my account is the account-verification department, which is only reachable via email. She’s going to email them for me, and I’ll get a response within 24 hours. She twice guaranteed me a response within 24 hours.
I waited 24 hours. No response.
Now I called back really annoyed, and the CSR said that she didn’t know why I didn’t get a reply. She’ll email them again.
“But why am I supposed to believe that this time I’ll get a reply?”
After some back-and-forth, she did some research and realized that the account-verification department had in-fact replied to her email. They said that they can’t do anything about it since it pertains to an Amazon seller’s account. I need to contact the Amazon seller’s department.
Now, it’s true that I have an Amazon seller account, and it’s also true that my seller account was frozen along with my buyer account, but the freezing was completely unrelated to my seller account.
The CSR told me that she’ll relay that info to the account-verification department, but I should email Amazon seller and see what happens. I sent an email to the Amazon seller address that I was told to send to, and I wrote the entire story of why I was contacting them. I prefaced the email in bold: “Please read this entire email before telling me to contact a different departement.”
Within a few hours, I got the long-awaited email saying that my account was finally unfrozen.
I logged in to my Amazon account, and indeed it was up and running.
The only damage that remained was that all my credit and debit cards were gone from the account, so I had to add everything again. My gift card balance remained intact.
How Much is Safe?
I’m not going to give a clear answer on this question, but here are my thoughts:
- I mentioned that I’m unsure if it was after the tenth order or the eleventh that I got frozen. I’m inclined to believe that it was after the eleventh. This would also explain why I was previously able to do ten orders without a problem. (Of course, that could be explained other ways too.) Based on this, I’d recommend not doing eleven orders without a break.
- In my case, all the orders were placed in quick succession. I’d guess that if you spread the orders out over the day, you can do more orders without a problem.
- There’s a slight chance that staggering the value of the gift cards could be less of a red flag. In my case, all the orders were exactly 50¢.
- Amazon did mention something about the address on the card being incorrect. While I’m fairly confident that the address was correct, it’s possible there was an insignificant discrepancy which contributed to the problem. Possibly, without that added factor, my account wouldn’t have been frozen.
Practically, I’ve recently been doing five in quick succession without a problem. If I need more than that, I’ll do it a different day, or at least take a break between orders.
So what do you think was the first thing I did after gaining access to my Amazon account? Why, I ordered some 50¢ gift cards, or course. After all, I still had 3 more transactions necessary to meet my above-mentioned bank bonus…
Has anyone done more than ten orders straight without a problem? Has anyone else gotten frozen by Amazon? Please let us know in the comments.