Published on February 9th, 2015 | by Chuck91
Options for Buying $500 Visa Gift Cards Online, & This Weird Trick Can Save You Money
This is another post in our Manufactured Monday series. We try to offer some insights into manufacturing spend each Monday. You can view all posts in this series by clicking here.
There’s lots of talk about buying $500 Visa gift cards. Usually it’s to try to earn bonus points on a credit card, since credit cards often offer bonus points for purchases in certain categories. Visa gift cards usually come with PINs and can be used to load Bluebird/Serve and more.
Sometimes we want to buy $500 Visa gift cards online. Why?
- To meet a minimum spend threshold. We often sign up for new credit cards, and it can sometimes be callenging to meet the minimum spend required to trigger the signup bonus. An easy solution is to buy gift cards and use those over a longer period of time. Or you can use those to load Bluebird/Serve at Walmart.
- Occasionally, online purchases can be a bonused category, such as Discover Q4 which gives 5 points per dollar on online spend. (See Dissecting my Discover Statement.)
- There can be an occasional offer from a credit card to earn bonus-level points on all purchases for a limited time. A friend of mine called to cancel his no-annual-fee Citi credit card – simply because he didn’t need it – and Citi offered him 3x ThankYou points on all purchases for 6 months, in order to convince him not to cancel. (See 3x Everywhere Retention Offer and Retention Bonus Rules & Tips For Each Card Issuer.)
- Some people find it worthwhile to buy Visa gift cards and load them to their Bluebird/Serve card – even without any category bonus – as a cheap way to buy points or miles. Most people don’t find it worth the hassle, but some do.
[RELATED: Grocery Stores That Sell $500 Giftcards]
In these scenarios, we’re left looking where to buy Visa gift cards online…
List of Options
Interestingly, Visa actually has a page online where they list all the places. Here’s a look:
All told, there are just eight options to choose from. Moreover, five of the eight are bank-specific options; you’ll only be able to purchase a gift card from them if you have an account with them. And they’ll likely only allow you to pay from a checking account. Or they may allow a credit card and they’ll code the purchase not to earn points.
For the mainstream options, we’re left with three: GiftCard.com, GiftCardMall.com and GiftCards.com.
Let’s explore these options…
First off, let’s knock out GiftCard.com. While they do sell visa gift cards, the cards are limited to $250 each, and the price is $5.95. Not a good option.
GiftCards.com would seem like a much better option to consider. The do carry $500 Visa gift cards and the total cost is $504.95. Not bad.
The issue here is that the Visa gift card from GiftCards.com is issued by Bancorp. Bancorp Visa gift cards under the Vanilla name are known to be harder to deal with when using it as a PIN-based debit card at Walmart. The system recently started defaulting the payment to credit which won’t work for loading Bluebird/Serve and buying money orders.
I wasn’t able to find any recent clarification on the giftcards.com Visa and whether they too have this problem, but it’s quite possible that they do. If anyone has information on this, please comment below.
[UPDATE: Reader Tom points out that giftcards.com actually costs more than we’ve mentioned. After adding your shipping address (before entering your credit card info) they pop up with the shipping options, which is $1.99 per card. Each gift card ends up at $506.94.
Another thing I learned is that giftcards.com only allows a maximum limit of $2500 per order. The maximum you can order is 4 $500 gift cards and one $475 gift card. When ordering 5 cards the shipping cost will be slightly less – comes out to $1.49 per card.]
The one option which is known to work as a PIN-based debit are the Visa gift cards sold by GiftCardMall. These are issued by MetaBank and the default PIN is the last 4 digits on the card number, saving us the need to call in and set it. This may sound like a small inconvenience, but for someone pushing serious gift card volume, it’s a huge hassle-saver. These GiftCardMall/MetaBank gift cards are the same ones that are commonly found in supermarkets.
When purchased in the supermarket, they usually come with a $5.95 fee. When buying them online from Giftcardmall the price is steeper, usually $7-$8.
Let’s dissect the cost in detail, assuming the purchase of one single $500 gift card:
- $3.95 purchase fee
- $1.99 shipping fee
- $2 added to shipping fee on gift cards over $250 for added security purposes
- Total cost: $507.94
When purchasing more than one gift card, the shipping cost goes down. For example, when ordering 10 $500 cards, the final cost per gift card adds up to $506.93. Let’s take a look:
If you buy between 1 and 10 gift cards the price varies from $506.93 – $507.94.
[UPDATE 3/27/15: They recently made the Macerich Visa cards more expensive by adding to the shipping cost. Currently, the ordinary Giftcardmall Visa gift cards come out cheaper than the Macerich cards and the money-saving tip mentioned here is useless.]
Here’s a neat little trick which can reduce the cost of $500 Visa gift cards from Giftcardmall:
Besides for the MetaBank Visa gift cards, Giftcardmall also sells Visa gift cards from Sunrise Banks, an obscure option which doesn’t seem to be mentioned anywhere. They’re called Macerich Visa gift cards, apparently as part of an affiliate program between GiftCardMall and Macerich Mall.
Direct Link to Macerich Visa gift cards
If you want to find this yourself on the main giftcardmall website, go to the giftcardmall homepage and scroll down to “View All Gift Cards”. Click that option and you’ll see it there in the list; actually the first item on the list. One additional note about navigating these options is that you may do better using different browsers or incognito windows, since once you get the Macerich affiliate page of Giftcardmall, you may not see the regular home page when using URL giftcardmall.com.
Macerich Visa gift cards from GiftCardMall also have the same $3.95 purchase fee, but they come with lower shipping fees. When purchasing one gift card the shipping fee is $1.99, making the total cost of one $500 Visa at $505.94.
As with the MetaBank gift cards, when you buy more gift cards the shipping price goes down. When purchasing 10 Macerich Visa gift cards, the total is $5049.30.
Macerich ostensibly has their own website for selling gift cards at givethegiftcard.com, and that’s actually the site that’s printed on the back of the physical gift card. But when you try that URL, it redirects to the giftcardmall site under an affiliate program. When browsing giftcardmall.com, the easy way to tell if the gift card is Macerich/Sunrise or MetaBank is by looking at the variable denomination amounts. MetaBank gift cards come $20-500, while Macerich/Sunrise gift cards come $30-500.
The Macerich option is consistently $2 less per gift card. When buying one gift card you’ll save $2 using the Macerich option. When buying 10 gift cards you’ll save $20 using the Macerich option. This is because the Macerich cards aren’t charged the extra $2 for added security on orders above $250, the way the MetaBank cards are charged.
‘Should I worry about lack of security?’
I’ll leave that for you to decide, but I’m not entirely positive that there’s any difference between the two in terms of security. Both come in the same type of envelope, as far as I remember, and both come with an activation code.
One thing I did notice is that my Macerich Visa got a code via email, versus the typical snail-mail code that comes from giftcardmall. More precisely, one of my Macerich orders got an email activation code, and the other one didn’t get anything. This has been mentioned by many people that giftcardmall activation codes have been mysteriously not showing up recently, see this MilesToMemories post and the many comments to the post. I had to call in to get it activated. (The Giftcardmall rep said that it will take up to two hours to activate. I actually called from the Walmart parking lot, and I got lucky that it ended up getting activated instantly.)
I asked the Giftcardmall rep if activation codes are currently sent out via email or snail mail. He said that it’s apparently some and some; he doesn’t know of any method to the madness.
My personal guess is that the emailed codes are just a new thing that Giftcardmall is doing/trying and has nothing to do with the fact that I was purchasing Macerich cards. [UPDATE: My guess has proven correct, see this RunningWithMiles post who reports on MetaBank gift cards also getting emailed codes.] All told, I’m not at all convinced that there’s an actual difference in security between the Macerich cards and the MetaBank cards.
‘Okay, you have me convinced that I could save money buying these Macerich/Sunrise cards, but will they unload in Walmart?’
By every indication, Sunrise Visa gift cards work properly in Walmart with a PIN. See this Flyertalk post and the other posts in that thread. Based on reports that I’ve heard from other sources as well, Sunrise cards work fine at Walmart. When I received my Giftcardmall/Macerich order, I was able to try it out myself, and it worked to load Serve at Walmart, as expected.
Together with the card came a paper which said to set the PIN by calling on the phone. I was actually surprised that when I called the number, it was the same phone number and phone system as the regular Giftcardmall/MetaBank cards. I had assumed that since it’s issued by a different bank it would be a different system. Apparently, Giftcardmall takes over and uses their own system for both MetaBank and Sunrise cards.
After I got back to my car I read the instructions better, and it says there that the default PIN is the last 4 digits of the card. Meaning that it’s exactly the same as the MetaBank cards which use the last 4 digits as the default PIN and I didn’t really need to call in to set the PIN. I’ll update this post when my next Giftcardmall/Macerich order comes in the mail and I’ll be able to confirm that the default works properly from personal experience, but it’s reasonable to assume that these work exactly the same as the Metabank cards, as it says on the packaging. [UPDATE: I can now confirm that the last 4-digits of the card work as the default PIN.]
No Portal Points
Visa gift cards purchased on Giftcardmall.com are now excluded in the T&C from earing points using shopping portals. Will Macerich Visa orders on Giftcardmall earn points from a shopping portal?
In my experience: no.
I knew this was a long shot, but I wondered if the Macerich cards were coded differently and would earn portal cashback like regular non-Visa gift cards from Giftcardmall. I tried it out with Topcashback, and nothing came through. I then realized that there may have been something wrong that day with the cookies on my computer, so I tried another order a few days later. This time the purchase tracked, but it’s recorded as $0 cashback.
Visa gift cards from giftcardmall.com aren’t nearly as popular as they used to be since we no longer get portal payout for them. Additionally, Giftcardmall no longer allows them to be purchased with Amex gift cards. (Incidentally, Giftcards.com also doesn’t allow this, from what I’ve read.) That being said, there are occasions when many people order Visa gift cards from GiftCardMall, and I can’t see any reason why anyone would order the MetaBank cards, so long as the Macerich cards are cheaper.
‘Has anyone ever mentioned this Macerich option before?’
It’s possible that someone has, but I wasn’t able to find anything in my attempts with Google search.
‘How the heck did no one ever see this before?’
I don’t know, it seems odd. One thing I’d mention is that in the olden days we used to get portal points from Giftcardmall on Visa gift cards, and it’s possible that Macerich Visa cards would not have been eligible for points since it’s sold under an affiliate program with Macerich. Now that we don’t get payout from the portal, it seems like a great way of saving a few dollars.
Giftcards.com is still usually a cheaper option than the Giftcardmall/Macerich option, depending how many cards you buy. Giftcards.com is a flat $4.95 irrespective of the quantity. Once you hit the quantity of 10, Macerich and Giftcards.com are just about even (20¢ apart total), but in lower quantities Giftcards.com will come out slightly cheaper. As mentioned, I don’t know if the Giftcards.com Visa funcion properly at Walmart when using a PIN, but if someone is planning on using the Visa cards elsewhere, giftcards.com may be a slightly better option.