It happens to all of us: Despite our best efforts, there will be times when we’re left with Visa gift cards with small balances on them. It may happen when you’re buying money orders and miscalculate the cost of the money order combined with the fee. Perhaps it happens when you use an extra Visa gift card purchased from an office supply stores to round out the cost of a $1,000 money order with three other $300 Visa gift cards. When it happens, it’s annoying but there are ways to deal with it. Here are four ways to liquidate an excess funds on Visa gift cards:
1. Use them to cover money order fees. There have been times when I’ve been left with a gift card balance as high as $100. In such cases, I’ve continued using the card to pay money order fees. Obviously, this only works if you’re buying money orders in an amount that requires no more than four card swipes. For example, if I’m buying money orders with $300 Visa gift cards, I’ll purchase $999.30. Then I’ll use the extra gift card balance to not only round up my money order purchase, but cover the $0.55 – $0.70 fee. This works out well if you don’t want to buy a money order for $899.45 – $899.30. Or if you have enough change to pay the fee in cash.
2. Pay bills. For some high balance gift cards, the most practical way to get rid of them (if they’re $100 or less) is to use them for bill payment, make a student loan payment via Plastiq, or anything else along those lines. You may end up with a small balance afterwards, but at least you won’t incur any fees while unloading the balance (unless you use Plastiq to make the payment). Keep in mind some cards have to be registered before you can use them to pay a utility bill.
3. Load them to your Starbucks account. This is my favorite way to unload gift cards during those times when I want to simplify a money order purchase to a whole amount rather than $1,998.60. Requesting a purchase of $1,998 brings the total to $1,999.40. This means I end up with a $0.60 balance on one of my $500 Visa gift cards. The simple solution to this is to just go to my local Starbucks and ask to reload my Starbucks card. The minimum load is $5 but you can split payments. I don’t know what the limit is, but I’ve used well over 10 cards in one transaction at a time. I don’t do this if the store is particularly busy. When I do, I tell the cashier I have a bunch of cards with random balances on them and to just swipe until the amount is covered.
Surprisingly, I’ve never encountered an attitude from any cashier. They usually don’t mind or are amused by it. This doesn’t happen to me often these days. I do, for the most part, max out all my gift cards so I can just dump them in my center console (and eventually into the recycling bin). If you end up with gift cards that have a ~$5 balance or less, I’d recommend this as a good option for unloading the balance.
4. Use them for regular purchases. At some stores, if your Visa gift card doesn’t have sufficient funds for the entire purchase, your card will decline. At other stores, the available balance will be subtracted from your card and your amount due will be updated accordingly. I’ve found the latter to be true at grocery stores, including Whole Foods and Safeway. If you know any other stores where this is the case, please share in the comment section. I do think its worth swiping your higher balance gift cards (using the debit option) to see if this works at any store you’re shopping at, since it means the balance goes towards a necessary purchase rather than something you may not need (i.e. more funds to spend on bad coffee).
Those are some of the ways I unload excess Visa gift card balances. If you have any of your own tips to share, I’d love to read about them in the comment section.
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