Best ways to use $200 Visa gift cards



I doubt this will last long, but for now it is possible to earn 5X points and a profit from buying $200 Visa gift cards online.  Please see these posts for details:

In this post, I’ll suggest various ways to make use of those $200 Visa gift cards once they arrive…


Visa gift cards purchased from Staples will be sent to you by GiftCardMall.  They will send activation codes to you separately.  You must activate each card before use.  Note that activating cards is different from registering cards.  The first is necessary, the latter (registration) is needed only if you make a transaction with the card in which your name, address, and/or zip code will need to be verified.  In most cases you won’t need to register.  Once the gift card is activated, it can be used as a credit card or as a debit card (using the last four digits on the card as the PIN).

Pay mortgage, rent, etc..

UPDATE: Evolve Money has shut down services

As I’ve written before (see “Pay bills online with debit and prepaid cards”), the service Evolve Money can be used to pay many types of bills that can’t usually be paid by credit card.  If you need to make regular payments to a student loan, a mortgage, an education savings program, etc., it makes sense to check to see if Evolve Money supports your situation.  If so, follow these guidelines:

  1. You can make up to $1000 in payments per day per Evolve Money account.
  2. When paying a mortgage, the payments will most likely go to principal rather than to your monthly payment unless you pay the entire monthly bill in one day.
  3. If you need to make more than $1000 in payments in one day (see #1 and #2, above), then consider simply setting up multiple Evolve Money accounts with different email addresses.
  4. When making payments with multiple Visa/MasterCard gift cards of the same denomination, always wait 5 minutes or more between payments.  If you don’t, the payment is likely to result in an error because Evolve Money will think it is a duplicate.  In that case, it will take many days for the money to become available on your gift card again.

What if you don’t have a loan, mortgage, etc. for this?  If you earned 5X rewards when buying these gift cards, it may make sense to pay other bills even if you can usually pay those bills with a credit card, as long as you usually earn only 1X on those payments.  Yes, you would be losing out on those extra 1X rewards, but in exchange you have a dead simple way to use up these gift cards.

Use for everyday, non bonus spend

Visa gift cards can be used for day to day purchases within the United States.  You would lose out on earning credit card rewards when doing so, though, so use these cards only when you would not otherwise earn a credit card category bonus.  If you have a smart phone, I’d recommend using an app like GoWallet to keep track of your current balance on each card.

Some uses are more difficult than others: hotels, restaurants and gas stations (at the pump) usually will look to authorize a higher amount than you intend to spend.  If your card doesn’t have that amount available, your transaction will be denied.  There are work-arounds to these issues, but it may be easier to simply avoid them.  Also, at many gas station pumps you need to verify your zip code, so you would have to register your gift card first.

Use for online purchases

To use these cards online, you will have to first register each card with your name and address.  Some merchants will put a $1 hold on your card before charging to it.  In those cases, you won’t be able to use the entire balance.  Some merchants allow you to use multiple credit cards in one transaction.  With those merchants, you can specify how much goes to each card and so you may be able to cleanly liquidate your gift card (consider using a regular credit card as the second form of payment assuming it is for an odd amount). If you find an online merchant that you want to buy from, you could try going through a portal and buying a gift card to that merchant.  That way, you’ll (hopefully) cleanly empty your Visa gift card and you might even earn portal rewards (see the Frequent Miler Laboratory to see which merchants pay out portal rewards for gift card purchases).  And, most merchants allow multiple gift cards to be used with each purchase.

Reload at Walmart

Bluebird, Serve, and a few other prepaid cards can be reloaded at Walmart, and you can pay with debit cards. Keep in mind that Bluebird and Serve are limited to $1000 per day (and $5000 per month) in reloads.  Use the last four digits on each $200 Visa card as the PIN.  If you use the in-store kiosk (assuming you can find a functional one), you’ll have to load $200 at a time.  If you reload at a cashier or at the store’s money center, you should be able to load up to $800 at a time by splitting the payment across four debit cards.  You can use the same procedure at the money center to buy money orders or pay bills as long as you account for the fees appropriately.  Please note that some cashiers have been trained to not allow gift cards for debit purchases, so these suggestions are not foolproof.

Use as debit card for everyday purchases and get cash back

At many stores, when you make a purchase with a debit card (as opposed to a credit card), they’ll let you take cash out with the transaction.  Even though Visa gift cards are legitimate debit cards, this doesn’t work at all such stores.  However, it seems that there are some places where selecting debit as your payment type will result in the ability to get cash back.  For example, please see this comment by ChessMaster1 regarding Costco.

Miscellaneous other ideas

  1. Use Visa gift cards to buy reload cards.  Unfortunately, few stores will let you pay with a credit card any more, but some still do.
  2. Send Amazon Payments to friends or family.  No longer available.
  3. Make Kiva loans.
  4. Buy merchant gift cards through online portals in order to earn extra points or cash back.
  5. Load the American Express for Target card and then withdraw money from ATMs and/or load to Serve as a credit card (max $1K per month).  UPDATE 1/12/2016: The American Express for Target card has been discontinued

Do you have other good ideas?  Please comment below.

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[…] the post, “Best ways to use $200 Visa gift cards” I said that you can get mortgage payments applied to your monthly payment (rather than to […]



CAn you use the last 4 digits as PIN for the $200 visa GC bought in Staples store? Or do I need to call the number and set a pin on those? Thanks.


I have been trying to load $200 in BB in walmart. The transaction always fails with “Alternate tender required error 05”. This doesn’t happen with $100 ones.. Any way to get this resolved?


I just read a post on this in another blog. You have to load something less than the full $200. $199.00 worked for the poster. I would think that $199.99 would work as well but havent tried.


I have a subscription….do you need my number Chris?

Marathon man

I can think of a few reasons why this will end quickly


“Please note: S*****.com® does not ship to P.O. Boxes, APO/FPO, Alaska (AK), Hawaii (HI), Puerto Rico (PR), or international addresses.”
I live in Hawaii, am i out of luck? any brilliant idea? Thanks!

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Hey FM,
When you buy Visa gift cards with Amex Gift Cards through a place like you’re always going to have an odd balance left to address, $206.95 +206.95 +$106.95=$520.85, too much for a $500 Amex Card. If you only buy 2@ $206.95 you’ll have $86.10 left on the card. How do you address the over/under?
Thank you Much


The solution I like best is to buy a $500 visa gift card at Walgreens. When you swipe an AGC for payment, their system automatically limits the charge to your AGC balance. You can then swipe another form of payment for the rest. I don’t know if there is a limit on the number of payment forms per purchase – I’ve had no problem with using 3 (2 AGCs with odd small balances, and a 5X drugstore card for the rest). This also works at CVS, but since their official policy is to not accept gift cards for gift cards, I don’t usually do this at CVS because of the higher risk of drawing attention to use of the AGC for only partial payment.


I sure hope the over posting of this doesnt kill this thing. FM has 2 days in a row on it. I know its a popular topic but how much more needs to be said other than Staples them online? Dont we all know what to do next? Sometimes I think we are our own worst enemy. Much like last yrs meltdown. Just my 2 cents.


The Miles Professor had a post today too about using these $200 GCs to load BB. I left a version of the following comment there and will leave it here too, because an important thing to know is that there is a four swipe limit per BB card per day and that includes the BB card. If you have swiped four cards, the next GC will not go through, even if you are under the $1000 limit.

This has been my experience at the Customer Service Desk of my neighborhood Walmart, the only kind of WM anywhere near me. I was trying to load BB with a prepaid as well as GCs, and the BB swipe counted as 1 of my 4 swipes.

Specifically, I had hoped to use a $500 prepaid along with five $100 GCs, but the max I could load on both my husband’s card and then mine was $700: BB swipe, $500 prepaid swipe, $100 GC swipe and another $100 GC swipe. And the same day I tried to get an MO at WM too, and I believe it was the same limit exactly – four swipes including BB – although I don’t recall which cards I was using buy the MO.

So if you are heading to WM, plan accordingly!


I’ve had no trouble doing more than four swipes at the kiosks.


Really! I have never used a kiosk; perhaps they are coded differently from the registers. But a huge WM is going in next to “my” Costco, so I will soon get to try one. Thanks for the tip.


Perhaps a new shopping tool could be a shocker that would send voltage up your arm each time you reached out to pay with anything less than 5X……………a little Pavlovian reinforcement…………..


Note: my comment was in reply to FM in comment #5. Can’t use Staples GCs to pay for these Visa GCs. At least that’s my experience in the last hour.


Not true. Here’s a recent data point, recent as in 30 minutes ago. A Staples rep just called me (at 8 pm EDT) to say that my use of two Staples GCs to pay for part of the Visa GC order was not permitted and that the order would be cancelled unless I used my credit card to pay in full.


There was an option to have them shipped directly to a Staples store. There is a Staples less than one mile from my house, so I chose that option.

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I pay my Walmart/Sam’s club Discover card at the customer service desk or register all the time. In fact, I got rid of 2 $500 debit gift cards today by paying my cards in-store today. I use a total of 4 discover cards (2 for me and 2 for my wife, 1 Walmart + 1 Sam’s Club) to get $100 cashback per purchase. I pay my bill either at Walmart or Sam’s Club or Evolve Money. So you can MS a Walmart/Sam’s Club Discover card (you can even use it for regular spend, portals, etc.) as much as you want and pay your bill with a pin-enable VISA/MC debit giftcard.


That’s awesome. Thanks!


Your welcome. A lot of MS potential for this, right?


Any recent data points on whether WM CSRs still require personal info for loads greater than $500? I was asked to provide the info a few months ago and have been loading only $500 ever since.


Good question. I haven’t tried more than $500 at a time. Best option might be to do $500 each time split: $200, $200, $100.


I paid our US Bank mortgage once that way – it worked but I got a long lecture/warning that it could mess up our account. So I just pay our utility and car bills via Evolve now – no problems there.

I’ve also been experimenting with hooking gift cards directly to my Paypal account, and liquidating through my usual Paypal expenditures (paying kids’ coach, etc.). I’m wary of Paypal but I talked to the CSR and she insisted there was no problem with using up multiple gift cards this way.


Interesting. I’ve been very hesitant to link too many gift cards to my PayPal account. Please let me know how that works out.


On a paypal purchase yesterday I saw they now have an option to pay using ‘prepaid debit’. Maybe they’re trying to muscle in to some of the Evolve mojo.


When I tried to load my Emerald card at Family Dollar today, I thought I saw an option to pay with PayPal. This might be a good way to liquidate these giftcards then(I did not have any money in Paypal to try it out though)through PayPal .


Will do. I am a longtime Paypaler – many years – and make a decent amount of all-legit transactions through them. The CSR insisted the practice is fine and that there was no gift card limit, so if they try to shut me down I will be very annoyed! All my expenditures are actual expenditures (no ATM etc.) so I am hoping it will be OK.


I have a USBANK mortgage too. Used Evolve for 7 payments and had my wife called to combine them to apply to monthly payment instead of principal. They didn’t lecture or give her a hard time at all. I think you just got a bad CSR who’s too lazy to do her job.


ordered a bunch. Forgot about that activation procedure. Too bad, that’s going to be a bit of a time sink.


If you are paying a Chase mortgage via Evolve, you are okay to pay over several days. I tried to get info out of Chase a few weeks ago, but all I got was a long winded explanation that didn’t make sense. I saw someone on FT had paid a Chase mortgage with $200 x 7 payments over 2 days, so I gave it a shot, $200 x 10 payments, 5 per day, 2 days.

What Chase does with multiple small payments is to essentially “hold” the payment and not credit to principal. When the total of all payments exceeds the monthly payment, Chase credits the monthly payments, splitting everything up properly into principal, interest, tax and insurance, then crediting what is left over the monthly payment to principal.

It was all neat and tidy and clearly visible in my online Chase account. So, it works well with Evolve.


That’s great. Almost worth refinancing with Chase just for that feature 🙂


Haha, I agree. If only I could be sure that Evolve would be around for 27 more years. 🙂


How are these shipped? USPS? UPS? Does it come in a box where it will sit on my door or is it delivered to my mailbox?



I’m not sure. I think they’re shipped USPS to your mailbox (I don’t remember). Either way, you’re somewhat protected by the fact that they ship the activation codes separately. The gift cards are worth nothing without those codes.


If u choose to use evolve to pay your mortgage I would highly suggest u use multiple evolve accounts and make a full payments worth in one day. Then call immediately that it post and tell them to post the summation as a payment. If u do a little at a time, and don’t call them immediately u end up w a big mess that they have a hard time with. Wells fargo customer service has gone done hill recently (I used to get good agents but now I just get ‘know nothing nakisha’ all the time) so take it from me, be extra attentive on this one.. personally I’m going to sit this one out. 5% cb is easier with $500 OVs but even that is a hassle if u don’t have a wally world nearby.


Good tip


Can you use the Staples cards to load Bluebird online for the $100 per day?


No, Amex doesn’t like when people try to do that.


…also, if one has a Walmart/Sam’s Club Discover Card, one can get a max of $100 cashback per day with their Walmart/Sam’s Club Discover card: Make a purchase with their Walmart/Sam’s Club Discover card and request a max of $100 cashback with their purchase. Discover does not charge a cash advance fee for this cashback because it is counted as a purchase. Afterwards, pay the Walmart/Sam’s Club Discover Card bill at the reqister or customer service with your pin-enable debit gift card(VISA and/or MC) or pay the bill through Evolve Money. This is an indirect method to cash out these pin-enable VISA/MC debit gift cards.


I thought Discover had closed the cash back loophole? No?
Interesting: you can pay your Walmart Discover card bill with a debit card in-store?


also…what’s your idea for this not lasting long, Greg?? are you referring to the cashback portals not paying out 5% very long for staples, or you think staples will somehow stop selling $200 online? Dan makes a good point why it should continue…and my preference is actually 2x UR points from chase to bring the CCP down to $0.48 /point


Yes, portals only pay out if the stores pay them so Staples is definitely losing money on these when people shop through a portal.


FYI, you can use staples gift cards online to purchase visa gift cards. This is great if you have any leftover staples gift cards to get rid of and you haven’t been able to use them to buy VGC’s in the store.


That’s true. I’ve been playing down that aspect because I don’t want Staples to kill off that deal too!


Thanks for the reference FrequentMiler…I kinda famous now:)


These gift cards pose an interesting question. It seems to me like Staples has realativly little reason to not sell them online. The fee is high enough that they are making real money on the transactions while the cost in points is born by Chase. There are different feelings on why VRs were shut down, but I tend to believe it was the fraud losses through charge backs that ended up killing the CVS gravy train. However, as long as they sell these gift cards in store with CC, there is really not that much of a reason to not sell them online besides for the cost in portal points. If someone is using a stolen CC to buy these, they are not going to order it online where they have to give an address and then Staples has a few days to cancel the order if the CC is reported stolen.


As long as they pay out to the portals, they are losing money on each purchase.


Just as an FYI…i placed an order with staples and the order has been delayed…they state it won’t be delivered until May 13th, so over 2 weeks. Must be on back order.


That’s not surprising at all. I am surprised that they’re doing that rather than showing it as sold out.


loading the target amex is also not foolproof, as some cashiers will not let you use a gift card.