Update: Confirming that Cumberland Farms did indeed code as a gas station with Visa.
GIft of College gift cards are now available for sale at a regional gas station chain that is mostly in the Northeast and also in Florida called Cumberland Farms (locations are in Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont). Gift cards are variable-load from $25-$500 (except in Vermont, where they are only available in $50 denominations). I successfully purchased a $500 card at a Cumberland Farms location in upstate New York yesterday and expect that the purchase will likely code as a gas station (update: it did in fact code as a gas station on my Chase Ink Plus for 2x Ultimate Rewards points). While this falls short of the hopes we’ve all had of seeing the cards available nationwide, it will certainly be useful for those in areas served by Cumberland Farms.
- Buy variable-load ($25-$500) Gift of College gift cards at gas station chain Cumberland Farms in the following states: Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island (note that while Cumberland Farms also has 19 stores in Vermont, those stores will only sell $50 denominations at this time)
- Gift of College Cards come with a $5.95 fee, which makes them a good deal for funding college savings if you can take advantage of a category bonus. See these posts for more on maximizing your miles when planning for college:
I personally stopped at a Cumberland Farms location yesterday and found the cards on display, though they were kind of hidden in a bottom corner of the rack (in the bottom left here):
It was no problem to buy a $500 card with a $5.95 activation fee using a credit card at the cashier. In fact, the cashier made a comment to the trainee behind him about how people occasionally come in and buy higher amounts of gift cards. YMMV in terms of volume allowed by a store, but I got the sense that it wouldn’t have been impossible to buy a few cards at the location I visited. Again, I’m sure that will vary somewhat by store. However, if you have a credit card that earns one of the best category bonuses at gas stations, this could potentially be really valuable for those looking to fund college savings accounts.
As noted at the top, we have now verified that my Cumberland Farms purchase coded as a gas station. As all of the locations I’ve seen before have had gas pumps, I expect all Cumberland Farms locations will code that way for a bonus category, at least on Visa/Mastercard.
With the $5.95 fee for $500 towards College Savings, these cards are a win even if using a card that earns just 2% cash back since you would earn $10.12 in cash back. That’s not a huge win, but it can add up. That win gets better with cards that earn a good category bonus at gas stations. Some cards (like the Ducks Unlimited Visa) earn as much as 5% back, which would mean a return of $25.35 on each Gift of College card.
Alternatively, some cards offer rewards points that may be even more valuable to you than cash. For example, if you are earning 3x at gas stations, you’ll earn 1,518 points at a cost of $5.95 (less than four tenths of a cent per point). Depending on how you use the points, they could certainly be much more valuable than the cost of the activation fee. For instance, funding $2500 towards college savings (5 cards with an activation fee of $5.95 each = $29.75 in fees), you could earn over 7,500 points with the Citi Premier card (assuming Cumberland Farms codes as a gas station). That’s enough points for a one-way ticket within the US on United with Turkish Miles & Smiles if you can find saver availability (See this post for more). If you have a young person in college, it might make sense to fund their tuition via a 529 plan just to earn plane tickets for them to come back home for visits. There are many other cards earning bonuses at gas stations with returns that may be more or less valuable for you depending on your needs. These can of course be good tools for meeting minimum spending requirements as well.
Greg has written extensively about earning miles for funding college savings. For those new to using Gift of College cards to fund a 529 plan, learn all about how to earn miles with your college fund by seeing our complete resource page here:
For more about where to purchase Gift of College gift cards, see: