Gift Cards on eBay, 5x and Cash Advance – take 2

We reported last week on two major issues which cropped up with purchasing gift cards on eBay:

  • We’re no longer earning 5x for the purchases
  • It’s coding as cash advances

In this post, we’ll try to clarify what works, what doesn’t, and why.


As we know, Giftcardmall on eBay and Paypal Digital Gifts on eBay were earning 5x with INK. The reason for this was not because eBay is an office supply store, rather because it was considered ‘Utilities’. As advertised, INK earns 5x on telecommunications charges, but apparently anything under the broader ‘Utilities’ category earns 5x as well. eBay seems to have various codings for their sellers and they considered Giftcardmall and Paypal Digital Gifts to be ‘Utilities’. I guess this is a sort of general category and they decided to put gift card sales as part of the category.

[UPDATE: Mileswhip informed me that not all ‘Utilities’ charges will earn 5x, but these have been.]


Recently, someone wizened up and switched the coding of Giftcardmall on eBay to the ‘Financial & Other’ category. Since it’s no longer coded as Utilities it doesn’t earn 5x anymore. This also caused another unintentional headache with these purchases wrongly being coded as cash advances.

I believe the cash advance problem will correct itself as Giftcardmall continues to receive bad feedback on eBay. (Be sure to leave bad feedback if you were charged a cash advance fee). The question is what happens then. Will Giftcardmall revert back to the Utilities coding or will they work some other fix.

There are three possible explanations as to why they changed the coding from Utilities to Financial:

  • Giftcardmall is somehow saving fees with the new coding or they otherwise considered it to be more accurate.
  • Giftcardmall doesn’t like ‘us’ and doesn’t like the fact that we’re earning 5x on the purchases which incentivizes ‘us’ to  keep on purchasing these discounted gift card deals.
  • Chase pressured Giftcardmall to change the coding so as not to pay out 5x on such purchases.

My guess is that the true reason is #2 or #3, in which case Giftcardmall will work out the cash advance some way, but they won’t be putting back the Utilities coding. Possibly they’ll change it to code as ‘Miscallaneous’ or somehow they’ll work out that it won’t code as a cash advance despite remaining under the ‘Financial’ category; not everything under that category gets hit with cash advance fees. (Even notorious-difficult Citi hasn’t been coding Buxx loads as a cash advance, despite the fact that it comes up as Financial.)

Paypal Digital

As of now, I have not seen any reports of changes to purchases made from Paypal Digital. They still are coding as Utilities and are thus earning 5x with INK. Likewise, there haven’t been any cash advance reports for these purchases that I’ve seen.

If the GiftCardMall switch was influenced by Chase then it’s it’s quite possible that Paypal Digital will be felled next.

SVM Gift Cards

We’ve heard numerous reports that SVMGiftCards (a newer gift card seller on eBay) does not earn 5x, yet we haven’t heard of any issues with cash advances charges. I used a Citi card with SVM and it did not code as cash advance, rather “Professional Services not otherwise classified”. My guess is that with Chase it will be called “Miscallaneous Services”, which will earn 1x rewards and won’t be considered a cash advance. If anyone can let us know more, please comment below.

Cash Advance

[UPDATE: This issue of cash advances on Giftcardmall/eBay purchases has been fixed and it’s now safe to purchase gift cards from them on any credit card.]

Since Giftcardmall in coded as ‘Financial’ there have been problems with banks charging cash advance fees. While not everything coded as Financial will always be considered a cash advance, this particular instance seems to be pretty bad. Here’s the data we have currently:

Please let us know if you have any data using any other cards. Let us know which card you used and which gift card seller you purchased from. (We’re mainly looking for eBay/Giftcardmall purchases.)

Based on the current coding of Paypal Digital and SVM there’s no reason for there to be any cash advance. There is, of course, a risk that there could be a change on this front at any time, particularly with Paypal Digital.


To review, as of now:

  • Giftcardmall is coding as Financial (which may or may not trigger a cash advance)
  • Paypal Digital is coding as Utilities (5x)
  • SVM is coding as some other miscellaneous category.

Final Thoughts

It’s definitely worth lowering your cash advance level to zero before making a gift card purchase on eBay. Certainly with Giftcardmall on eBay it would be a big risk to  make a purchase without lowering that first. Paypal Digital and SVM seem to be okay for now but there’s always a risk that something could change.

As far as earning rewards is concerned, since Paypal Digital is still working to get the 5x rewards, we can buy eBay gift cards from them and then use those to buy other items from Giftcardmall or any other seller on eBay. We can also earn 5x by purchasing gift cards from Paypal Digital to other merchants such as Sears, Southwest and many others.

The info in this post is the current information according to the best of my knowledge. If anyone had different experiences, please let us know in the comment so that we can keep the post updated.

Hat tip goes to MilesToMemories for some of the info in this post.

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There is still an alternative option available to earn 5X using Chase Ink. You have to first buy ebay GC at and the purchase will be coded as “Utilities” earning 5X. You also get 1% CB from ebates even for ebay GCs. So, this is what I did when these GCs went on sale. I first bought $400 ebay GC at GYFT and got 1% CB ($4). Then, I went to ebay to make the discounted GCs purchases from GCM, SVM, etc. This time I used TCB and got 1.5% CB for the discounted GC purchase.

Here’s a snapshot from Chase UR screen for the $400 GC purchase I made at GYFT.

4/24 PAYPAL *GYFT $400.00 2,000 Bonus earn –
Pending Rewards
+ 4 Pts per $1 internt,cable,phone,ofc sply1,600
+ 1 Point per $1 earned on all purchases400
Transaction Date:4/24
Statement Post Date:4/26
Total Rewards 2,000

Note: GYFT sells lot of other GCs for restaurants and other stores, so whenever I have a need I first check GYFT and if the GC is available, I buy it and get the code instantly delivered to the GYFT app. I then use the code instantly. This way all my other purchases are also earning 5X.


Mitch Cohen
Mitch Cohen

Discover is ok, mine DOES NOT report as a cash advance


Capital One also charged CA fees.


I don’t think this has anything to do with the vendor not liking “us”. We drive up their sales and for these guys it’s all about high volume sales, period. Either way, charge a cash advance fee on gift cards is beyond absurd. I’d sooner bet this change was forced upon the sellers by the banks/processors without their knowledge(or perhaps in spite of their protests) because of “us” exploiting the 5x loophole. Why they were ever coded as a utility is equally curious. I almost wonder if that wasn’t intentional on their part perhaps to reduce processing fees or perhaps they were even savvy enough to know a whole demand exists for MS and credit card category spending rewards. We’ll never know. In the mean time it makes buying anything from these folks a very bad deal and pretty much destroys their business model. They have every incentive to make it right.


I can confirm that Giftcardmall purchase posted as regular on Amex last week.


Purchased the Sears GCs from the promotion last week from Giftcardmall through eBay. Used Chase Ink and was charged a $15 fee. The fee is still showing in the account and the charge is still a cash advance.


Hi Chuck,

With all due respect, I believe this post should’ve been a newsletter and not posted online open to everyone. This is the type of information that gets banks attention and start changing this. I could assure you that down the line Chase and other banks will potentially start looking to coding these kinds of purchases as C.A. As a user who purchases gift cards on P.D, I would hate for that to change, not only to stop the 5x, but to also begin charging C.A fees.

I truly believe you are doing the right thing by informing users of this, but I believe the best way to handle this is by informing those subscribed to your newsletter.


William Charles

I think warning information like this really needs to be posted publicly. I think eBay is also aware of the cash advance issue at the moment and they are working on fixing it – rather than expanding it.


The hint with Fidelity Amex not coding as cash advance came from me. I bought the Sears GC from GCM as well as the eBay GC from PP digital and both cleared fine. Had to use the Fido for the Sears GC since the Citi charge was declined instantly ($0 CA limit).


I also contacted giftcardmall (twice). I got a response that they are working with eBay to correct the issue and to please allow them 7-10 days.
Citi did charge me a cash advance on $24, haven’t left negative feedback however.


USBank is also posting as a cash advance. I was able to call and get the charges waived though.

After multiple Ebay messages to giftcardmall a representative actually called me last Friday after saying I would leave negative feedback on Monday (earliest date I could). They said that they are aware of the issue and my two cash advances would be submitted for their team to review.

I told them I had my fees waived by USBank so nothing else needed to be done for my transactions but to let me know when the issue was resolved as I would not be purchasing anything else from them in the interim. I still have not heard anything else since Friday and have since left negative feedback.