Manufactured Spending

GiftCards.com Discontinuing Cash Back on Visa Gift Cards

Remember that MS false alarm I wrote about yesterday? Unfortunately, this isn’t another one. I just got word that at the end of this month, giftcards.com will stop offering cash back on Visa gift card purchases. To be precise, they’re ending affiliate commissions. So unless some really great shopping portal is eager to win over the loyalty of the travel hacking community by eating the cost of the cash back fee, we’re all SOL. The good news? You still have a week to take advantage of the 1.25% cash back rate. More good news: You will still earn cash back on MasterCard gift card purchases – 1.5% to be exact. UPDATE: This change also applies to GiftCard Mall orders.

Giftcards.com Visa Gift Cards
Giftcards.com Visa Gift Cards

Normally I’d blame the whole ecosystem, but I’m pretty sure this one is my fault. I promoted this heavily, I got a ton of traffic writing about manufactured spending (and I’m still at it – optimizing this post). Apparently, giftcards.com is doing this specifically to target gift card churners. That’s completely ridiculous on several fronts.

For starters, manufactured spenders are a huge boost to giftcards.com’s business: Combined, we probably spend millions of dollars on gift cards every month. These are gift cards that are a total rip-off for the average consumer when you factor in the various fees, shipping cost, etc. Really, the average consumer has no business buying Visa gift cards – especially not online. And especially not now that there’s no cash back portal that will off-set the fees. 

As far as risk goes, people in this hobby are buying gift cards through legitimate means: Our own credit cards. If giftcards.com was cracking down on scammers who use stolen credit cards to cash in on someone else’s credit line, that would make sense. But our gift cards are legitimately purchased. We’re literally every retailer’s favorite kind of customer: Big spenders who are also low credit risks. 

There is, of course, one small thing that could have tipped the scale against us. Inevitably, giftcards.com generates more revenue from customers who don’t bother shopping though a cash back portal like TopCashBack or Yazing. That can’t be cheap for them. Especially not since we also liquidate every penny on our cards and we do it via debit transactions. Gift card issuers make substantial profits from unused balances. There’s zero change of any of us not spending our cards down to the last penny because we’re always using them to buy money orders for the same amount.

Since we’re using our Visa gift cards as debit rather than credit cards, I’m sure gift cards.com collects a lower transaction fee. They probably count on those fees to recoup some of the 1.25% cash back they’re giving consumers. Not to mention the commission they pay to cash back portals. It probably wasn’t cheap for them to pay out so much cash and then get very little of it back off the one transaction most of us make with these Visa gift cards. 

For the time being, shopping portals will continue to pay out 1.25% cash back on MasterCard gift cards. That should help you reduce manufactured spending fees. Buying money orders with MasterCard gift cards is a little tricky, since it only works on the fourth swipe. You’ll just have to buy Visa gift cards elsewhere and work in one MasterCard per transaction to keep your costs down. Office supply stores frequently have Visa gift card sales, while Safeway offers double gas rewards. My favorite method of acquiring Visa gift cards? At my local mall. In $10,000 increments, and a cash back card worked in to off-set the fees.

Anyway, if you haven’t hit the $30,000 monthly limit at giftcards.com yet, you still have time to take advantage. You can place up to two $2,500 orders per day through giftcards.com. As for which credit cards to use for these purchases, I recommend cards that earn more than 1 point per $1 spent. Or one that pays out an annual spending bonus. Now might be the time to wrap up some of that $40,000 spend on the Amex Hilton Ascend for Hilton Diamond status. Or risk the wrath of Chase and try to earn the Companion Pass. The possibilities are endless (the spending, sadly, is capped at $30,000).

Are you rethinking your gift card churning strategy now that giftcards.com is largely off the table?

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32 Comments

  1. I’m furious. Question: for those of us who don’t live near Simon malls, would you recommend ordering Simon cards online?

    • Simon Mall only charges like 50 cents to mail the card plus it’s only $3.95 per $500 VGC, so this is what I’m going to do if I decide to even bother anymore…

    • Major downside for SVGCs are NO NAME printed on this which is important to many MSers whose stores check their cards for names. That is aside from no portal bonus and this can’t be used to meet MSR for ALL Amex CCs.

      • Yeah, that stinks for you. I’m not in a place that checks. They don’t care, as long as I just show them my ID and that I’m a person (small town Alabama for ya).

    • Depends on the shipping fee. You can still buy MasterCard gift cards, and grocery stores might work out cheaper with category bonuses.

  2. All good things come to an end. Plastiq is not much of a help anymore. This is going to get expensive. I guess giftcards.com will see their revenues plummet. They should have figured out how to make this work in this economy. Becoming much more lean and efficient would help them through any business downturn.

    • I’m Still relatively new to Plastiq. I made my first payment (sorry Ariana I didn’t see your link until after I signed up) but spoke to a rep who said they take mastercards for mortgage but not visa. I haven’t used a MC GC yet. Has anyone tried this?

    • My thoughts exactly. I predict eventually they’ll bring this back – with lower limits.

  3. Please elaborate on the 4th swipe on mc gc. Do you mean swiping the same card 4 times? Or buying $2,000 in mo and swiping 4 gc with the last one a mc? I’ve never been able to switch payment types when swiping a mc at WM if tbat’s what you mean.

  4. what about GiftCard Mall?

  5. My local WM only sells MOs in $1K increments, so using the MC on the 2nd swipe should work the same as using it on the 4th swipe for a $2K MO, right?

  6. Travelasflyguy

    I get that most people talk about MCGC + WM = you have to hit the cancel button quickly. What’s the consensus for split payment for a MO at grocery stores w/ MCGC? Does this same ‘hit cancel’ step apply?

  7. Beach Miles

    I guess I’ll try a few MC at my local grocery store.

  8. Scott Castle

    “These are gift cards that are a total rip-off for the average consumer when you factor in the various fees, shipping cost, etc. Really, the average consumer has no business buying Visa gift cards – especially not online. And especially not now that there’s no cash back portal that will off-set the fees.”

    You really don’t get it, huh? They’re in business to rip off customers not provide a cheap means to legitimate Manufactured Spenders…..

  9. Gift Card Mall has (unsurprisingly) followed suit. 🙁

  10. I placed an order on Giftcardmall yesterday 4/26/2017 using yazing and the order is tracking 0 zero!!! I keep an excel file with my orders and amounts and I’m not over 30K a month. I checked this morning and the Yazing website says “Up to 5% of Merchant Gift Cards / 2% Other Gift Cards / 0% on Visa (0 on Monthly Customer Purchases over 30k) ”

    Proceed with caution when placing an order, good luck

    joe

  11. UPDATE From Adam at Yazing ” Joe,

    As you may know Giftcards.com and GiftCardMall let us know that they were going to reduce commission rates to 0% on Visa Giftcards at the end of the month.

    We are still looking into exactly what happened, but it appears that our rate for Visa Giftcards was actually changed to 0% sometime during the day yesterday, and many of the orders yesterday came through at 0% commissions. We have sent a message to our contacts there to see if this can be rectified, but at this point I think we need to assume that we are at 0% for Visa’s going forward.

    Sorry for the bad news.

    Adam ”

    The sometime during the day yesterday is what really gets me, it is plain fraud in my opinion….

    • Joe,

      “Sometime During the Day” means that not all of the 4/26 Giftcards.com transactions came through at 0%. This leads us to believe it changed sometime during the day. We have re-submitted all the $0 commission orders for them to re-review and are pushing them to pay commissions on them.

      Adam

      • Adam-
        My disappointment was not with you or yazing but with giftcardmall I should have being more clear on that point, I’d like to thank you for getting giftcardmall to honor their previous announcement of continue to pay cashback till the end of the month.

        Thanks

        Joe

  12. We were able to resolve the mistake with Giftcards and Giftcardmall dropping to 0% on Visa Giftcards early. They have pushed through commissions on all the 0% orders that came through yesterday and those will be confirmed and sent out with tomorrow’s transaction notifications. Additionally the commission terms have been re-activated until the end of the month, so you have 3 more days to earn commissions on Visa giftcards.

    Thanks,

    Adam

  13. Beach Miles

    Thank you Adam. Since you are here, what do you think the payout will be on Mastercards, going forward?

  14. Can anyone confirm that Topcash is no longer giving 1% back on visa debit cards from GiftCardMall.

  15. I have still been ordering from Befrugal and maximizing on the 1% there. Still not dropped yet. However, I noticed today that Simon’s website has NO fee for visa gift cards at the moment. Needless to say…I ordered a ton. I don’t know if it’s a promo at the moment or what. Going to order more tomorrow at only $0.49…who can resist that haha!

  16. You are very welcome. So glad you got in at least one order! Yes, it appears the fee is back now. Not sure what they were doing, but occasionally they do those promos on them.

  17. I signed up for the chase biz cash card when the bonus was $300. A few days later I noticed the bonus had been increased to $500. I asked chase if they’d honor the $200 difference and they said they couldn’t do anything until I actually met the MSR ($3k). They said they would look again after meeting the MSR but likely approve it.

    I purchased a $500 VGC from gift cards.com forgetting that it would show up as giftcards.com in my statement and I’ve been MSingat Office Depot for most of the MSR. Should I risk them potentially shutting down my card and taking away my UR points?

    Can they take UR points from another account/card? Can they take money out of my current bank accounts to recoup their losses?

    • Jay,

      I would not fret over that too much. With a majority of my chase cards I have met the MSR with bank account funding and gift cards from GCM and simon’s etc…I have spoken with people on the phone and it seems that they could care less if i spent 10k funding a bank account, or 5k on gift cards (even with it posting as “giftcards”), only to take the rewards and shut ‘er down. With the studying that I have done, I do not believe they have any right to remove funds from your actual bank account. But they certainly could close the credit card accounts you have, and possibly the bank account. Again, I do not think it is a worry for you. If anything, just wait about a month after receiving the rewards to use them. That’s what i do to play it safe with the MSR bonuses. That way i feel free and clear that they’re not going to “recall” the bonus, in which case they’d probably deduct the worth of the points from your credit card.

    • Jay, I’d take it easy on the MS front when you’re meeting spending requirements. Try to wrap up the rest via normal spending. If you have to do it via gift cards, buy them at a grocery store. It’s much more reasonable to spend ~$1,000 a month at a grocery store than a shopping outlet or gift card merchant.

      • I appreciate the advice. I cut back way back on the OD spend with that card. In part because I opened the ink preferred and am now trying to meet the min 5k spend.

        I agree that it makes more sense to spend $1,000/month at a market than at an office supply store, but since there’s a $25k spend cap, I assume there are many businesses who do spend that much.

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