Best options for buying Gift of College gift cards

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Update 1/24/22: Gift of College eGift cards are now available at Kroger.com, GiftCards.com, and GiftCardMall.com. This could be useful in some circumstances. See the “online” section for more.

Gift of College gift cards are available in-store and online. These gift cards can be a great way to earn credit card rewards while saving for college or when paying student loans. To learn about how this works, please see: Frequent Miler’s Miles for College.

This post covers the most rewarding options for buying Gift of College gift cards…

Gift of College Gift Cards Availability

Gift of College now offers a BUY IN-STORE LOCATOR. Note that this locator only shows stores that may sell the cards. Whether or not the cards are in-stock cannot be found online.

Gift of College gift cards are currently available through the following stores and websites…

In-Store (up to $500):

When buying these gift cards in-store, it is always best to load $500 to each card purchased. In this way, you’ll minimize the $5.95 gift card fee as a percentage of the total amount spent. This results in a 1.19% fee. As long as you pay with a rewards credit card that offers better than 1.2% value in rewards, you’ll come out ahead.

In-Store (but not recommended due to low maximums):

  • Kinney Drugs: $25 – $200 ($50 in Vermont)
  • Stripes Stores: $25 – $200
  • Target: $50 and $100

Note that while the above stores are now selling Gift of College gift cards, the low maximum values mean that each card’s $5.95 fee is a large percentage of the overall transaction. As a result, these offer poor value unless you happen to have a credit card that offers a very large bonus at these stores.

Online (not usually recommended):

Please note that current online options have very high fees as a percentage of the maximum total value of the card. These are not recommended for earning rewards in most circumstances.

However, if you can stack with fuel point earnings at Kroger and have a use for the fuel points, they could easily mitigate the fee. For instance, since 3rd party gift cards typicallt earn 2x fuel points, a $200 card would earn 400 fuel points, worth $0.40 off per gallon. Filling up with 15 gallons would therefore offer $6 off on gas, mitigating the activation fee. When Kroger offers 4x fuel points, you’d earn 800 points worth $0.80 off per gallon with each $200 card. Then it would only require 7.5 gallons of gas to break even with the activation fee.

It is possible that purchases at GiftCards.com or GiftCardMall could trigger portal rewards, but you’ll still be pretty far off from mitigating the activation fee in those cases.

Credit Card Info

Does the store accept credit cards for the purchase of Gift of College gift cards?

Many stores do accept credit cards for the purchase of 3rd party gift cards, but the decision is usually left to the store manager. As a result, some of the stores that carry Gift of College gift cards won’t be useful for earning rewards if they don’t accept credit cards for the purchase.

Credit Card Bonus Categories

Grocery Stores

Gift of College Gift Cards are currently available for purchase at multiple grocery store chains:

Many credit cards offer bonus points at grocery stores. Here are some of the best options:

Gas Stations

Gift of College Gift Cards are currently available for purchase at the following stores that are known to code as gas stations:

Many credit cards offer bonus points at gas stations, but you won’t earn a bonus for those that limit bonuses to “pay at the pump”. Here are some of the best options:

  • Ducks Unlimited Visa from First Bankcard: Earn 5% back at gas stations & sporting goods stores
  • Amex Business Gold: Earn 4X Membership Rewards on the two categories where your business spends the most each billing cycle from the following categories: ⚬ US purchases at restaurants ⚬ Airfare purchased directly from airlines ⚬ U.S. purchases for advertising in select media ⚬ U.S. purchases at gas stations ⚬ U.S. purchases for shipping ⚬ U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers. 4X applies to first $150,000 in combined purchases in your two categories each calendar year, 1X point per dollar thereafter and on other purchases. Terms apply.
  • Citi Premier: Earn 3X ThankYou points per dollar at gas stations.
  • Amex EveryDay Preferred: Offers up to 3X Membership Rewards at gas stations: Earn 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar at US gas stations plus a 50% bonus each billing period in which you make 30 or more purchases.
  • Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard: Earn 2% on dining plus 3% on 1 choice from: gas stations (default), office supply stores, travel, TV/telecom & wireless, computer services or business consulting services (for the first $50,000 in combined choice/dining purchases each calendar year, 1% thereafter).  With Business Advantage Relationship Rewards Platinum Honors status (which requires $100K in savings and investments across Bank of America and Merrill Edge), you’ll get a 75% bonus on rewards.  This translates to 5.25% cash back within your chosen category of spend.
  • Bank of America Cash Rewards with Platinum Honors: You can get up to a 75% bonus through your banking relationship with Bank of America and/or Merrill Edge. This makes it possible to earn up to: 3.5% at grocery stores and 5.25% on gas up to the first $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter; and 1.75% cash back everywhere else.
  • More great options can be found here

More info

To learn more about how to earn miles when saving for college (or paying student loans), please see: Frequent Miler’s Miles for College.

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Rob

seems crazy but I think the numbers work. I don’t live near any of these but am looking to pick up around $50k of cards to load for the kids college funds and do a fly to a city and pick up a bunch a few times. Question: Amex has the best supermarket rates for me (gold and everyday cards) – even if I’m not on a new card bonus offer will Amex mind if I’m buying gift cards at one of these groceries especially figuring so not to hit the crazy fraud thresholds I would likely need to call Amex in advance. If so – any better card it would work on?

Oren

This may have already been asked…. but in CT 529 contributions qualify for a tax deduction. If you buy these Gift of College cards from a “gas station” and add them to your beneficiary 529 account, can you still get a tax deduction on your contributions even though you bought it as “gift cards” and did not “directly” contribute to the 529?

ssss

I noticed GOC, offers email versions online. Is there a fee?

Without using Gift of College, is there any place that charges less than Plastiq to pay tuition if the school doesn’t accept credit cards?

Is there anything else in the marketplace other than repeated sign-up bonuses to make my exorbitant tuition pay for itself? 🙂 Thanks!

ssss

After I contacted the company, I learned it’s $5.95/200, and the $200 is only available at a few select sites. I am still trying to figure out how to optimize paying for school? So far, Melio and a debit card with perks may be the best option. Any other thoughts?

ssss

Sadly, I don’t but they are supposedly near my grad school. 🙂

[…] college savings. See the post Miles for College for a full rundown. The short story is that you can buy Gift of College Gift Cards at select stores and use those gift cards to fund a 529 plan. The purpose of buying gift cards rather than funding […]

Justin

I reached out to Gift of College about Barnes & Noble and they responded today that their gift cards are no longer sold at Barnes & Noble.

Nick

In Colorado (and a few other states) you get a state tax deduction for 529 contributions… Does anyone have any idea if the gift card would count for that? Thanks

Peter

I went to three Lucky stores. Two of them didn’t have these cards (despite being listed on the GoC website), and the third cited policy and refused to let me use cc to purchase. Store manager was summoned and backed the cashier up. I went back to the third store the next day and found another cashier who let me use cc without a question. So it’s a hit or miss, though I fear getting too much attention and draw extra scrutiny.

Nicesharky

Thanks for the data point. I’m going to drive up to try Save Mart and FoodMAXX in Bakersfield next weekend and will share what I find there.

Nicesharky

Drove up to Bakersfield to check things out. SaveMart was no problem and allowed me to do two separate $1K transactions. One FoodMaxx was no problem, but a couple others didn’t want to allow credit card. These are lower-end markets so I can understand the unsual nature of the transaction. It was easier if I only did single $500 so it wouldn’t require manager approval. Overall, cards were readily available and you just have to find a willing clerk or convince them that only the Visa/MC gift cards are cash/debit only. Their systems are not hard-coded to require these be cash/debit.

Anonymous

Do either Lucky or FoodMaxx count as grocery for 2019Q1 discover card 5% cashback? Both are 5411 for Visa MCC, not sure where to look up Discover’s equivalent…

Michael Denner

So, buying them online from GoC results in a 3% fee, plus or minus. (See below.) Sure, that’s high. It’s pretty easy to get 3% back (my Fidelity card… there’s lots of 3% cash back options). I wouldn’t myself do this, it wouldn’t make sense. But I have a question: Does GoC accept gift card Visas and MasterCards? So, for instance, could I buy this week gift cards from Office Max (basically without activation fees because there’s a sale), buy GoC cards, add them to my 529 (washity wash), and walk away with my UR points? Even a conservative valuation of 5x UR points is 8% back, making a net profit of 5% (8% minus the 3% charge for the GoC cards). Not great, not good enough for me to do it, but certainly possible?

Complete Your Order
Order Summary
Gift Card
Count
10 Gift Card
Total
$2,000.00 Delivery
Fee
$0.00 Purchase
Charge
$59.50 Total

$2,059.50

Ben

Yes, they accept GCs.

tro

None of the CA ones have locations in socal 🙁

But, this expansion is a good sign. For such a long time GoC was ‘working on it’.

AnameOfaguy

At denominations below $500, they might as well not bother… Assuming they have good intentions, providing such a terrible vehicle for college funding ($5.95 fee on $50, $100, or $200) is really stupid.

danielle

If it’s any consolation, have tried a couple Lucky locations in Bay Area and have been unable to find one that lets me use credit.

MarQ

I don’t suppose Target accepts Target gift cards to pay for Gift of College cards?

Jay

Here’s to hoping that with the influx of new options, some of these will make it to 3rd party resellers at a discount.

Brett W

I still am not clear on whether I can earn AmEx Points for gift card purchases when NOT doing an MSR? Couldn’t I use my Blue Business for 2x at Barnes and Noble and be OK?