Manufactured Spending

Big Crumbs Offering 3.5% Cashback on American Express Gift Cards

UPDATE 5/5/14: It appears Big Crumbs has decreased the payout to 2.45%. Thanks to Teri for letting me know!

A few weeks ago I wrote about Barclay RewardsBoost and TopCashback increasing the payout on American Express gift card purchases. TopCashback continues to offer 3% cash back, while the Barclay Rewardsboost portal offers 4 miles per $1 spent. Combined with the 2 miles per $1 from the Arrival card, this comes to 6% in travel credits (3% if you redeem your points for statement credits). At the time, I predicted Big Crumbs would be joining in with an increased offer and two weeks later, they have. You can now earn 3.5% cash back by purchasing American Express gift cards through Big Crumbs.  There is no indication when this offer ends (which is as high as cash back gets on Amex gift cards), so if you’re looking to generate extra points/cash or meet the spending requirement on the 60,000 point Ink Bold card, you might want to get on this now.

If you’re unfamiliar with the purpose of buying American Express gift cards, you can read up on this and manufactured spending in the recently completed newbie guide.

Doing the math

Currently, Big Crumbs is also listing promo code FPMOM, which waives the $3.95 fee on each gift card. Combined with 3.5% cash back, you are looking at significant profits. If you purchase the maximum $5,000 in gift cards and opt for 2-day shipping at a cost of $8.95, you’re looking at an initial profit of $166.05.

Cashing Out

Your final profits will depend on how you decide to cash out your gift cards. You can cash out $1,000 free of charge via Amazon Payments. You can also purchase Simon Mall gift cards at a cost of $2.95 per $1,000. If you don’t have access to a Simon Mall, you can head out to your local grocery store and buy $500 PIN-enabled Visa gift cards at a cost of $3.95-$5.95.

Once you have your PIN-enabled gift cards in hand, head to your local Walmart and use them to load your Amex Bluebird card at the Bluebird kiosk free of charge. Bluebird cards can be loaded up to $1,000 per day/$5,000 per month. Once your Bluebird card is loaded, go through the online bill pay center to pay off the credit card you used to buy American Express gift cards.

You can also use gift cards to buy money orders at a cost of $0.22-$0.90 per $1,000 but some Walmart locations won’t accept cards that don’t have a name on them. You should keep money order purchases under $3,000 to avoid having to provide your driver’s license and personal information. You do not want to get flagged for money laundering or other criminal activities that you’re not involved in.

Take the money orders to your local branch and either deposit them into your account or use them to pay off the credit card you used for the initial transaction. For example, if you used your Chase Ink Bold card, there are lots of Chase branches around these days where you can pay your bills. Simply make out the money order to Chase and ask the teller to put it towards your credit card balance.

Things to keep in mind

If you’re going to purchase American Express gift cards, you should be aware of the following warnings and potential issues:

  1. Shopping Portal Tracking. Shopping portal tracking technology isn’t always reliable, so if you’re clicking through a shopping portal, take screenshots of the transaction as proof in case your cash back doesn’t post. Some folks have had this issue with both TopCashBack and Big Crumbs.
  2. Cash Advance Fees. Some credit card companies will code American Express gift card purchases as cash advances. If this happens, you will not only miss out on points/miles but you’ll get hit with huge cash advance fees. This Flyertalk thread has a list of issuers that code these purchases as cash advances. This list does change from time to time, so make sure you check it before making any purchases.
  3. Organization. If you’re going to play the manufactured spending game, it’s very important that you keep track of your spending and make sure your credit cards are paid off on time. If you can’t get yourself to walk into a Walmart and load your Bluebird card, then this isn’t for you.
  4. Money orders. Refrain from depositing large amounts of money orders into your bank account. I personally just take the money orders to a local branch and pay off my credit card. This keeps me off the banks’ radar and allows me to keep manufactured spending.
  5. Gift cards. If you’re going to use your American Express gift card to buy Visa or Mastercard gift cards, make sure they are PIN enabled. Otherwise you’ll end up with a bunch of cards that you have no choice but to spend. Gift cards issued by Bancorp, US Bank, and MetaBank are generally safe to use.
  6. $1 Hold. If you’re using Amazon Payments to unload your American Express gift cards, keep in mind that Amex puts a $1 hold on the card that drops off after a few days. In other words, set your payment amount to $999 instead of $1,000.

Gift card churning isn’t for everyone, but if you’re organized and responsible, it’s very profitable both in terms of points/miles and cash. Will you take advantage of the 3.5% payout from Big Crumbs?

Disclosure: I will receive a commission if you sign up for the Barclay Arrival card using the link in this post. TopCashBack and Big Crumbs also pay out a small commission when you use my link to register and earn rewards. I appreciate your support, regardless of whether you use my links or not.

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  1. I was at a Simon Mall today and they wouldn’t let me use AGC for payment. She said they don’t accept gift card payments for gift cards. She let me purchase a very large amount via credit card, both today and in the past, so I didn’t push it. I’ve heard of some Simon Malls that limit you to $1k per day or have other restrictions. She did fill out one of those government-required forms and said she’d keep it on file for my next visit.

    If there is a different person working on my next visit, I might try the AGC again.

    • PointChaser

      A reader tells me if you sign up for a business account, you can buy $1k gift cards for a $2.95 fee and in larger quantities without having to fill out one of those forms. Might be worth looking into.

      • Thanks, that’s good to know!

        Any advice on using American Express Gift Cards as payment? I suspect it depends on who is working behind the counter and whether they want to enforce the rule…

        • PointChaser

          Just proceed with the transaction as usual (don’t bring up the fact that you’re paying with a gift card). If they notice anything and look uneasy, just tell them “It’s a prepaid card that comes pre-loaded with funds.” That generally eases their worry. “Prepaid” is better than “gift card.”

  2. Is there any possible credit card bonus category for buying gift cards at Simon malls?

    • PointChaser

      I’m thinking when the Freedom card runs the quarterly 5x bonus on department stores, there may be a chance Simon Malls gets coded as such. It would be capped at $1,500 but it’s better than nothing.

  3. traveltogo

    Can you buy these amex gift cards on big crumbs with multiple visa gift cards?

    • PointChaser

      You need to provide a single payment form. It’s actually not a good idea to convert Visa gc’s to Amex. You can unload Visa gc’s via Bluebird and money order. If you use them to buy Amex gift cards, you’ll just have to convert them back to Visa gc’s.

  4. I purchased a $2000 & $3000 American Express card with my Barclay Arrival card and used the 4X Barclay Reward Boost. I haven’t received the 6 X points. I’ve only received 2X points for my Barclay Arrival Card purchase. Do I need to wait a bit longer or should I contact Rewards Boost?

    • PointChaser

      How long has it been? If you don’t see it in the activities tab after a few weeks, I’d definitely contact Barclay to check if it was even tracked.

  5. artofbeingcheap

    I took the plunge and gave it a try by purchasing $1,000 with my arrival card. Thanks for the step by step instructions!

  6. Just missing circles and arrows…

    What this “hobby” has devolved into. Sad.

  7. Do you know which portals will give cash back for using a promo code?

    • PointChaser

      Not sure. I’ve heard positive things about Fatwallet, but their payout is much lower at 1%.

  8. I cashed out an AMEX gift card on Amazon payments a few days ago, and they charged me a $1.00 fee for the payment. I could only pay $999, as the $1 had to come from the gift card. I haven’t heard of anyone else having this experience. Wondering if this is a new policy.

    • PointChaser

      That $1 is just a hold. I’ll update this post with a disclosure about it.

      • I don’t think that’s true. The $1 is not left in my account. I sent the payment over 2 weeks ago and there are no available funds in the account. Have they changed their policy?

  9. Just logged into BigCrumbs, and it is identifying 2.45% cash back. That didn’t last long. ;-(

  10. PointsNovice

    Arianna, do you go to your bank’s local branch to use MO to pay CC bill? Most banks won’t let you cash/use MO if you don’t have an account with them. Would you please explain your strategy a bit here. Thanks a lot.

    • PointChaser

      As long as you have a credit card with them, they’re ok with it. I just walk into the branch (i.e. Citi, Chase), hand over the money order and credit card and tell them I’d like to make a payment. The MO has to be made out to the bank.

  11. The 3.5% is gone already, and Teri the same is happening with me. They are all showing as pending still (the $1) so hopefully it will reverse at some point (showing date of 5/1)

    • PointChaser

      I see that now. The $1 is just a hold that drops off after a few days.

      • I read a tip somewhere that said when you add your AGC to Amazon Payments, change the expiration date, then change it to the correct date once it’s been added.

        I tried it yesterday. The exp date said 4/19, so when I added it to AP I used 4/18 then went back in a few minutes later and changed it to the correct 4/19. It seems to have worked: I had the full balance and cashed it out with one payment, avoiding the temporary hold.

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