I get lots of emails (and search traffic) from people wanting to know whether they can use American Express gift cards to buy money orders. The simple answer is “No.” American Express gift cards are not PIN-enabled, so they cannot be used to purchase money orders. However, there is a slightly tedious workaround. You could use Amex gift cards to purchase PIN-enabled Visa gift cards, then use those to buy money orders.
Why would you want to do this if you could easily liquidate Amex gift cards by loading them onto a Target Prepaid REDcard (aka Redbird) or Amex for Target? If you got a little overzealous ordering Amex gift cards this month and have a large amount left to liquidate after maxing out Redbird and Amex for Target, then this drawn-out method makes sense. There are several costs involved that you should take into consideration:
- $3.95 fee per $2,000 Amex gift card
- $5.95 – $8.95 shipping fee per Amex gift card order
- $3.95 fee per $500 Visa gift card
- $0.20 – $0.89 per money order (limits vary depending on where you buy them)
These fees can be largely offset by purchasing Amex gift cards through a cash back portal like Top Cash Back, which currently pays out 1.5% cash back on Amex gift cards. On a $4,000 Amex gift card order, you’d earn $60 cash back and pay $13.85 – $16.85 in shipping and gift card fees. Assuming you’re liquidating these gift cards in $500 increments, you would incur another $31.60 in Visa gift card fees. Now all that’s left are money order fees and if you can buy them someplace where more than one gift card is allowed for payment, you can greatly reduce costs and even come away with a small profit.
The challenge in this scheme is finding a place that will accept credit cards for Visa gift card purchases, since purchases made with American Express gift cards are processed like credit card transactions. Another obstacle is finding a place that will accept debit cards as payment for money orders, so that you can convert those PIN-enabled Visa gift cards into money orders. Where I live, I no longer have access to a money order source so this entire scheme is out of the question for me. If you can get over these two obstacles, you can use Amex gift cards to indirectly purchase money orders.
Once you get your money orders, you can use them to pay off credit cards in-branch (i.e. Citi, Bank of America, Chase, U.S. Bank) or deposit them into your bank account. I would do a combination of both, to stay under the radar and avoid looking like someone who is laundering money.
Do you ever get rid of excess Amex gift cards by buying money orders indirectly?
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