Posted by Chuck on December 15, 2014
Misc

Published on December 15th, 2014 | by Chuck

29

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.

My Story

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:

 

amazon shutdown2

 

The first eight orders went fine. But then I got an email from Amazon stating that my account was frozen:

amazon shutdown3

I tried logging into my Amazon account, and I got this:

 

amazon shutdown

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.

Follow-Up

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:

amazon freeze 98

 

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.”

Finally…

Within a few hours, I got the long-awaited email saying that my account was finally unfrozen.

amazon freeze22

 

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.

Epilogue

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.



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Nun
Nun

Please stop

MordyNY
MordyNY

I do 10 at once every month to get my Wells Fargo checking account maintenance fee waived, I also do so to drin my leftovers in prepaid cards, etc. and I never had an issue, BUT I do shop on Amazon a ton

Amy
Amy

I seconded. Please stop.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I recently had an Amazon Payments account frozen one day before already-initiated deposits were credited to the account. When I called to ask about why the account was frozen and what could be done, they rattled off the same “that department can only be contacted by email” schtick and sent them an email. I also took their advice and contacted them via email. A few canned responses and a number of Amazon customer service calls later, I’d realized that the people in charge of Amazon accounts are a bunch of cowardly, notorious trolls with dubious (if any) business ethics

I’m not sure who set it up that way, but allowing the only people able to unfreeze accounts hiding behind powerless, ineffectual gatekeepers (who can’t even contact them) has to be one of the most anti-consumer models of department structuring I’ve ever encountered.

At least with Paypal and Dwolla, who’re also a bit too trigger happy when it comes to freezes and suspensions, customers can still straighten the matter out by talking to a human being in real time. On the other hand, Amazon’s inner workings become completely opaque once their cabal of “account specialists” get involved.

Anyway, because Amazon appeared to be resolute on holding the nearly $3k sitting in the account, and absolutely no recourse or explanations were offered, I had to actually go and file disputes with a couple of my banks in order to initiate chargebacks so that they could recoup the balance on my behalf.

In the end, what my own experience has taught me is that Amazon’s business practices are all but criminal, allowing them to basically steal money for whatever duration of time they please and forcing aggrieved customers to seek help from a third party. Short of knowing exactly what to do and say, something they don’t exactly seem eager to inform you of, dealing with them is a crapshoot at best and an exercise in futility at worst.

Even though you were able to resolve your issue this time there’s no guarantee Amazon will be as benevolent the next, so good luck avoiding future freezes.

bk3day
bk3day

fwiw, it is possible to speak with the Amaxon verification department. I did when I had several issues setting up an AP account.

iirc, I either found the number on FT or by just Googling Amazon verification and some toll-free prefixes.

Andre
Andre

After having fraud concerns in my Amazon payment accounts for having too many bank accounts, my entire Amazon account was frozen until they can verify my reasons for linking to many banks in my account. After dealing with the crazy amount of back and forth emails, I learned that you can request that an Amazon CS for an “Account Specialist” to call you to continue the discussion outside of the email chains. I assure you that my problem was solved after having a clear conversation with the specialist on the other line. From this I learned to always request such a communication when dealing with Amazon payments and account specialists that “don’t” have a direct line.

Don L

Andre,

If still around – could I ask how many linked accounts before the Amazon freeze?

howard
howard

Had same issue w/Amazon & Paypal. Decided to continue using “Shell Mobile”. I am able to do up to 100 transactions in quick order w/o fail. I have done this over 3yrs on a monthly basis. I prefer this method since it is only once per mo/it never rejects orders over 1 penny. This wa started w/,my BofA “keep the change” which netted 3K. I have continued to meet my Wells Fargo and any other bank requiring x # of transaction monthly as fee waivers. Since I must buy gas it is no added expense or chore. FYI I am a “night owl” so it does disturb the normal flow of activity at the pump @2am any day of the wk.

HokiE36
HokiE36

Can you elaborate this “Shell Mobile” idea a bit more? I did some google search and tried Shell Motorist app, nothing looks like capable of charging small amount on credit cards yet… Thanks,

Corridor!
Corridor!

I was doing 24 transactions all in a row. 12 with my debit card and 12 with my wife’s. I had been doing this for months till I felt that one of our accounts wasn’t worth doing the transactions any longer. Now I do 12 each month all one after the next. I have never had any issues?

William Charles

Yeah I guess it varies based on other factors, not going to happen to everybody but YMMV!

Todd
Todd

I setup allowance today with my discover debit card. I managed 12 transactions before being locked on the 13th. Now I must wait like you did. Hopefully they don’t take a week since I do a majority of my shopping with them.

careful
careful

Be careful with Amazon and these small debit card charges.
They will target your acct and attempt to steal your Gift card balance if you do this.
If you have a high Gift card balance and you do this you will be more of a target.
Its just like what airlines do to frequent flyers, if you have lots of miles they FIND ways to kick you out of the program and steal your miles. And just like airlines that are protected by Supreme Court rulings, Amazon is protected by its T&C and arbitration clauses, except in a few states. They will steal your gift card balances just like they do for closing accounts of customers who do too many returns. You will not get that money back.
Be very careful.

trackback

[…] Amazon gift cards (slowly), or load your Serve card or your Chime card, see this post for more options. [At one point, they […]

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[…] it may be worth limiting the number of 50¢ purchases made in quick succession to avoid a possible temporary account freeze as has happened to me and others as well. After five or ten transactions, give yourself a breather and do some later on or the next […]

Cflwrs
Cflwrs

I reload my own amazon gift card online for 1 or 2 dollars each transaction. I don’t think I usually do more than 5 or 6 at one time. I also use this to finish off small amounts(1.30) left over on visa GCs.

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[…] of Credit have some experience with this, and through trial and error Chuck has reported that purchasing 10 multiple small Amazon gift cards in a row was the maximum he was able to do safely. After that, there’s a chance your account will be locked for a security review, which may or […]

Josh
Josh

Please I need help! my amazon account was blocked and after sending the over email, fax and even the phone what they asked for, they still didn’t unblocked my account, till I email at jeff@amazon.com to see how can I use the balance that I had left and they answered back saying that my account was reinstated, however, the next day i tried to make a purchase and the blocked me again. I write again t them and they told me that my account was blocked for beeing related to another closed account (how is that possible since this is my first account), I emailed them again saying that whay could I do to use the balance left and the told me that “Since you raised concerns about the GC balance in account, I would like to inform you that the GC has been unlocked from your account”

What does that mean? they erased the balance left or they will give it to me to use in another account? my account still blocked.

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