Manufactured Spending

The Plastic Merchant Tutorial: How to Sell Gift Cards

NOTE: Several readers have pointed out to me that The Plastic Merchant continues to issue bounced checks to sellers. This has never been my experience with TPM, and from what I understood, they had addressed those issues. Apparently there have been widespread issues and I want readers to be fully aware of these issues so they can make better informed decisions about which platform to use for gift card churning purposes. Please note, I don’t receive any compensation nor do I have a partnership with TPM.

In the past, I’ve shared how to churn merchant gift cards successfully with The plastic Merchant. However, I realized I haven’t answered a key question that several readers have since asked: How to actually use The Plastic Merchant’s platform. While the process is easy once you figure it out, The Plastic Merchant provides a tutorial in video format. I don’t know about you all, but I can’t sit through instructional videos – I prefer to read. That’s probably why I initially kept screwing up my orders and then annoying the TPM staff, who then provided me with email instructions. Anyway, since a few readers have asked me how The Plastic Merchant order submission process works, I thought I’d write up a tutorial.

Step 1: Login to your Plastic Merchant Account

Self explanatory. If you don’t have an account, be sure to read my post on how to get approved with The Plastic Merchant.

Step 2: Check Gift Card Capacity and Rates

Before actually starting the submission process, it’s important to check gift card capacity. After all, why start the gift card order submission process if The Plastic Merchant isn’t even buying your cards? You can scroll through the list or type in the gift card merchant in the search bar.

For example, right now The Plastic Merchant has a $5,000 capacity for $15 iTunes gift cards and the payout is 84% of face value. It’s very important to note that TPM often distinguishes between physical vs. e-gift cards. So make sure you’re aware of capacity for the correct version and submit your order accordingly.

The Plastic Merchant Card Rates Capacity
The Plastic Merchant – rates capacity search

Step 3 Reserve Capacity

Once you’ve confirmed available capacity for a gift card you want to sell, simply hit the “+” button under the “Reserve” column. Regardless of whether you have the gift cards in hand or are going to purchase them later, you have to reserve capacity. Next, you’ll simply type in the gift card quantity (in my case, 10) and the source (i.e. Sam’s Club). Once confirmed, your reservation will be good for 24 hours, though you can extend it to 10 days by uploading a receipt (more on that later).

Step 4: Upload Receipts

If you’re unable to provide gift card numbers within 24 hours of reserving capacity, you should at least upload your purchase receipt to extend your reservation. This way, you won’t miss out because your Sam’s Club order took  a week to arrive. Even if you don’t need to extend your reservation beyond 24 hours, you will need to upload your receipt alongside your gift card numbers.

The Plastic Merchant sell gift cards
The Plastic Merchant seller dashboard

To upload your receipts, click on the PO Builder tab. You’ll see your reserved gift card orders in the “Unlinked Reservations” section. If you’re submitting multiple gift card types, this is where you’ll see them all. Click on “Extend Res” if you want to extend your reservation. If not, simply click on the paper icon under “Files,” upload your receipt and check off the “receipts” box.

If you’re purchasing gift cards that you won’t receive or be able to upload within 24 hours, you should at least upload your purchase receipt to extend your reservation. This way, The Plastic Merchant will know you’re not going to flake out and clog up capacity that another member could be utilizing.

Step 5: Enter Gift Card Numbers

Once you’ve reserved capacity for a gift card order, you’ll need to enter your card numbers. All of this is done under the PO Builder tab. You’ll see your reserved gift card orders in the “Unlinked Reservations” section (see image under Step 4). Simply click on the keyboard icon and start entering the card numbers. If your card doesn’t have a PIN, leave that area blank.

Plastic Merchant Type Gift Card Numbers
This is where you’ll type gift card numbers

You’ll see a red wrench icon next to card numbers that are typed incorrectly. Be sure to check for that before submitting your PO.

Step 6: Upload Photos

Every order will require a receipt and card numbers, but you may also be required to submit a photo. You’ll know whether this is the case if you see a photo icon next to the “Reserved?” column. Simply line up all your gift cards and take a single shot. I was able to line up 40 iTunes gift cards and take a visible photo of all the redemption codes. If gift card numbers/redemption codes are not visible in one frame, it’s fine to split them up into several photos.

To upload an image, click on the paper icon under the “Files” column, select the image off your computer and check off the “image(s)” box. Don’t forget to click “Add to line item” before exiting the screen.

The Plastic Merchant Tutorial

Step 7: Create a Purchase Order (PO)

Regardless of how many different merchant gift cards you’re selling, you’ll need to link them into a single PO. Do this by clicking on the “Create Standard PO” button on the PO Builder page. You’ll see this new purchase order appear under “Draft Purchase Orders.”

Step 8: Link Your Reservations Under One PO

After you’ve entered your card info and uploaded your receipt and photo, you’ll need to link you reservation to the PO you just created. Simply click on the icon under the “Link” column and select the PO number from the drop-down. There really should only be one at a time, since you’ll ideally submit all of your reservations at once.

Step 9: Submit PO

Once your reservations have been linked to a single PO, click on “Edit” next to your PO and see if anything is missing from your order. How do you know if all the information is there? Simply scroll down to the Validation Summary section at the bottom of the page. There are four rows of information that should each be labeled “Yes.” If anything is missing, just scroll back up and provide the required information. For example, if one of your card numbers is incorrect, you’ll see it labeled red alongside a wrench icon in the “Typed Assets” of this page. Then hit “Refresh validation” under “Validation Summary,” check off all the acknowledgement/agreement boxes and hit submit.

I know I just circled-and-arrowed my way through this post (something I vowed not to do anymore), but this isn’t a killable deal, so we’re good. 😉

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


  1. And I’m guessing you’re completely unaware of bouncing checks from TPM. Some folks have received bouncing checks back to back. Careful with TPM – about to close biz and run with money.

  2. Can you provide a list of places to purchase the gift cards from which PM will accept? Evidentially, they don’t like ones purchased from Cardpool.

  3. When I first started churning this website taught me everything but would read for hours everyday. Ariana I wish you would write more like in the past for this blog because it’s awesome.

  4. Interesting — and telling — first comment from John. I had not heretofore heard about this…. Any openly posted data points on TPM “bouncing checks” ? (Part of the problem with doing business with TPM has been the hush-hush, closed-atmosphere of the platform — e.g., if you talk about us in public, you do so at your peril — e.g., lose your access…. I appreciate the confidential nature of the platform — to a point. Yet I’m grateful to Ariana for pushing that envelope — yet that has me wondering if she has a special considerations arrangement with TPM….or (more ominously) passes along id info of critical posters here…. sorry to even raise that possibility…. deserves a response/assurance.)

    Knock on wood, I’ve never had a problem as yet with TPM checks bouncing….. even as I share even more reasons for angst about dealing with large mailed checks. (Have had several of mine misdirected…. — though I’m fortunate to have “good” anonymous neighbors who redirect them to me….. really precarious situation…. which TPM seems bent to ignore, or dismiss as “rare” — and that if it really happens, they’ll mail out a replacement check….. imagine the hassle/nightmare/delay if your check gets misdirected, then cashed — and the banks can’t figure out the thief.)

    Ariana has nicely tried here to summarize how to sell cards with TPM. (With a few lapses in my experience), it’s overall a fine effort — but again, the Achilles heel of doing business with TPM unfortunately remains TPM’s curiously slow and insecure payment system.

    At different points over the past year, TPM has sent out promises/indications to improve the security and timeliness of payment…. With the current system, and depending on when you submit your cards, you may end up having to wait a full month or more to get paid ( sic — !! that compares terribly way with — when turnaround (with ACH) can be 3 days.

    At certain points, TPM has dropped tantalizing hints that more timely ACH payments were in the works. But when various promise dates would come and go…. we’d either get silence (disconcerting business practice), or lame excuses with lots of vague back-office “stuff” as to why it couldn’t happen. TPM notoriously doesn’t handle feedback well, even on trivial matters (like using “tape” on mailed in cards) — along the lines of blunt, often nasty one-line replies…. like, don’t you dare complain or even make suggestions. Take it or leave it seems to be the disposition.

    As it stands, (last I checked) ACH payemnts only go to (rare? mythical?) high volume members selling over $30,000 per payment window. (I wonder if such high volume traders even exist.)

    TPM ostensibly prides itself on creating a platform that treats all its members equally. Giving ACH payment only to massive high volume people (if they exist) belies that claim.

  5. Ariana, very irresponsible of you to post this without mentioning the issue of Mike Dean from The Plastic Merchant bouncing more and more checks to his sellers lately. I have a screenshot of him implying that he sent out checks without funds in his account. He’s putting sellers’ bank accounts at risk. I filed a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General’s office and I am currently in contact with one of their reps. You need to add a MAJOR disclaimer to this post.

    • Thanks for the input Jack. Are you referring by chance to one of TPM/MD’s odd/confusing messages about payment dates — and when checks were supposed to have been sent out one day — but were and/or weren’t….? Or something else?

      • littleconsumer

        I’m not sure how much more clear you can get. Jack was referring to bounced checks. What’s difficult about this?

        • no need for the snark, LC…. Jack wrote: “I have a screenshot of him implying that he sent out checks without funds in his account.”

          I then asked what he was referring to…. If it’s a screenshot, then what of?

          Ah, but you wanted to shoot the messenger…. If we’re going to be insinuating nefarious conduct on the part of TPM, how about some candor from the accusers?
          (and not shooting those of us needing more confirmation).

    • Thanks for pointing it out Jack. It was my impression that this has not been an issue recently. But you’re right – if it’s a continuing problem, people should be aware of it.

  6. Also, I’m aware of few individuals who novicely deposited TPM check in MS account, only to get their eyes on these account (thanks to TPM Lotto which Mike Dean calls as “payment via checks”) – got their bank account SHUTDOWN. He stopped WIRE transfer for high volume guys and sending those payments via Checks too which is DEFINITELY SHADY (indicating he has no funds to cover payments).

    I’d suggest depositing TPM checks into bank account where you don’t MS at all. TPM bouncing checks are no joke at this time – needs to be taken seriously before it hurts someone financially.

  7. Step 10: Hope you get paid.

    I sold with TPM for a year. I had no problems.

    About 6 months ago there were some murmurs about a few checks bouncing. But nothing substantiated. The past few weeks there have been numerous reports of this happening on different forums… some people even getting back to back checks that bounced.

    Look, I get it. On the surface it’s a great platform and easy to use. None of us want to believe this MS tool is fools gold. But facts are facts.

    I’m out. And you should be too.

    • I agree completely with above comment, don’t be fool – you’ll end up with thousands dollars in losses. Bouncing checks are no joke considering how many folks are reporting this time. And, this is not first time this happened. Plus, I really want to point out very important thing – in today’s age who sends “Payment via CHECK” – this fact itself is SHADY. I’m not aware of any bulk buyer sending payments via check – everyone use ACH to send payments.

    • Thanks for the update. I’m in the same boat – used them for over a year and never had a single instance of a bounced check. I thought the bounced check issue was resolved, but if it continues to happen, that’s unacceptable. I’ve updated this post with a disclosure so others are aware.

  8. Burned by tpm

    I know of at least 10 people with $10k plus checks that have bounced in last few weeks, as well as someone with $60k. Their nsf fees haven’t been refunded yet either, also one has gotten account closed. As others have said, Mike stopping the wire transfers shows he is likely having severe cash flow problems and is writing checks without the funds in account to cover the Check, hoping to have enough money in there by the time the check actually arrives. His story about using company money to mistakenly pay his personal credit card also sounds sketchy.

    The good news is, is that it doesn’t look like Mike took the time to form an llc or other business structure. If you search Missouri business registry you can find his dba paperwork. So when he runs off with your money you can likely sue him personally, if he has any assets left.

    • Paying personal debts using business funds? If that type of commingling of assets is typical of his practices, it’s unlikely an LLC or other business entity would even protect him personally.

      • Burned by tpm

        I don’t think it’s necessarily personal. But rather using money from cards you sell him to pay off credits cards for cards he bought personally. So it probably is all under umbrella of his sole prop, but he just has two different activities. Buying and selling cards personally and then buying cards from us.

  9. I stopped selling to this guy early last year – I CANNOT believe this is being posted in such a positive light. Yeah, Michael Dean USED TO be good to do business with but as of late he’s writing bad checks and additionally, even sending them late. Many people aren’t receiving checks until weeks after it should’ve arrived, increasing their float from the “typical” 3-4 weeks to well over a month, sometimes even two. He has the worst payment terms in the business.

    It’s all hush hush because that’s the best way to fleece people. Don’t you dare try to hold him to account, I’ve heard of people getting their accounts shut down.

    -bad checks
    -late checks
    -rate is usually BE minus 1%, and he always points out its BE *with* your credit card points! Yay! Heck, often times a “deal” is a money loser with the points.
    -zero accountability

    TPM aka Michael Dean is a buyer who seemingly has significant cash flow problems, STEER CLEAR and be willing to lose whatever you send his way. He’s one check away from insolvency.

  10. Ariana, add a disclaimer to this post or I fear you may have some exposure liability-wise for promoting this guy. If someone signs up based on your recommendation and then loses their money, you may be getting some phone calls from lawyers

    • Exactly, this is really wrong time to promote TPM as lots of folk are tensed about bouncing checks and waiting for payment. I’d suggest put DISCLAIMER on top of article.

  11. This post is very irresponsible given how many TPM checks have bounced and how have bounced in the past two weeks or so.

    I am going to propose that all people who had their checks bounced file a class-action suit, not just against TPM, but against and also Ariana as co-defenders of the class action given how she is privy to this whole fraud system and giving systematic instructions to people who are privy to invest their money into a fraud company.

    I have already taken screenshots and copied links of all the posts this blog has written to dupe people as proof.

  12. In my experience from, I’ve never hit the B/E point. Any other suggestions/data points to help ease the pain from reselling? While I haven’t had any issues with TPM, knock on wood, I have no problem dealing with, but I just haven’t found a way to use Raise and have it be even close to break even.

    • The Plastic Mess

      As more you sell, as lower your raise fees..

      • Ahh!! That makes sense, now. Couldn’t figure out how people were breaking even or even ending up ahead. So, realistically, everyone started out losing a bit with Raise and then gets better rates as they continue to sell? I got an email from them about selling $1k/month to lower commission but wasn’t sure I’d be able to meet that and suffer the losses.

        • The Plastic Mess

          Or start with cards that don’t make you loose money.

          • Thanks.. yeah, that’s what I’m trying to figure out – the best strategy of cards. I am assuming you mean something that gets you 5x at office supply, then going there?

            Out of curiosity – do people consider break even $ for $ or do they figure, “I sold a $25 card for $20, but ended up with 5x miles, so I’m ahead?” [for example]

    • I haven’t really used any other platforms – Raise worked out for me in one instance. I’ve also used Cardpool, which had a favorable resell rate for Hyatt gift cards back when those were sold at a discount. But nowadays most of their gift card rates are so low, it’s not worth selling to them.

  13. What’s the best place to sell Target gift cards? I have around $6,000 worth that I bought last year during the 10% off promo.

  14. I just uploaded $3000.00 of Target cards so hopefully I get paid.
    Thanks for the detailed instructions on this post. It was very confusing for a first time user.

  15. I haven’t been able to get the site to load for the last 12 hours (tried multiple browsers). Is anyone else having issues?

Leave a Comment