Manufactured Spending

Should You Load Rebird with Amex or Visa Gift Cards?

Update: Redbird can no longer be loaded with anything other than a bank-issued debit card, so this information is no longer valid. Unfortunately, shopping portals no longer offer cash back on American Express gift card purchases. Thus, it is no longer profitable to factor Amex gift cards into your gift card churning strategy.  

Read Juan sent me a DM on Twitter that I thought would be worth covering in a post: Should you load Redbird with American Express or Visa gift cards? Ever since my Bluebird loading fiasco last year, when I unloaded $4,000 worth of Visa gift cards in $200 increments, I’ve steered clear of Visa gift cards and Bluebird for that matter. Since Redbird doesn’t have any broken kiosks for us to deal with, loading our cards in $200 increments is less of a hassle. It’s also an appealing option for those with a Chase Ink Plus card, since it pays out 5 points per $1 at office supply stores, where $200 Visa gift cards are sold. The fee on these $200 Visa gift cards is higher, so does it makes sense to go this route?

Loading Redbird with American Express Gift Cards

The advantage of purchasing American Express gift cards is that shopping portals like Top Cash Back offer 1.5% cash back on these purchases. Cash back is limited to gift cards purchased in increments of $2,000 or less, up to $10,000 every two weeks. Redbird can be loaded up to $5,000 per month, but let’s assume for the sake of practicality that you have access to two Redbirds (yours and a significant other’s).

On a $10,000 order you will earn $150 cash. Subtract the $3.95 fee per $2,000 card along with $5.95 – $8.95 in shipping fees and you’re looking at a profit of $101.55 – $104.55. Loading these cards onto Redbird is free, so that’s the extent of the fees you’ll be paying. You will also earn 10,000 – 50,000 points, depending on which credit card you’re using. I personally prefer the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, which earns 2.2% in travel cash. In all, you’d earn a little over $100 cash back and 10,000 – 50,000 points per $10,000 Amex gift card order.

Loading Redbird with $200 Visa Gift Cards Purchased at Office Supply Stores

Office Supply stores sell $200 Visa gift cards for a fee of $6.95. Using your Ink Bold for these purchases would earn 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points, making this method cheaper (though much more tedious than the once-popular Vanilla Reload cards. Purchasing $10,000 worth of Visa gift cards would set you back $347.50 in fees for 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points. Some value Ultimate Rewards as high as 1.8 cents each, so those 50,000 points are worth $900 by that estimation.

Sometimes office supply stores will offer promotions which largely off-set these fees or even result in a small profit. For example, this week Staples is offering $20 off Visa and Mastercard purchases of $300 or more. Not only does this eliminate $13.90 in gift card fees, but you’ll earn a $6.10 profit. These coupons are limited to one per household, but if you manage to purchase $10,000 worth of Visa gift cards over the course of a year, you’d earn a profit of $152.50. Please don’t attempt to buy $10,000 worth of Visa gift cards, even if the one coupon her household rule isn’t upheld. Chances are the manager will make a scene, call your credit card company to verify the purchase and waste your time so you’ll never want to do it again.  

So which of these options is best? With Amex gift cards, you’re earning a cash profit of over $100 and 10,000 – 50,000 points. Without a coupon, you’ll earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points and pay $347.50 out of pocket by going the Visa gift card route. You won’t realistically be able to buy $10,000 in Visa gift cards with a coupon every month, but pulling it off over the course of a year gets you $152.50 cash and 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points. Clearly, the Visa gift card/promotion route would be ideal since you would earn the maximum points and cash possible.

Now we’re once again down to Amex gift cards purchased through a shopping portal vs. Visa gift cards purchased at an office supply store without a coupon. Most people would value the minimum 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points well above 50,000 Club Carlson points (which is the maximum amount you can earn on Amex gifts). At 1.8 cents each, 50k Ultimate Rewards are worth $900. Subtract the $347.50 in fees and you’re getting $552.50 worth of value from your $10,000 Visa gift card purchases. At 0.4 cents each, 50k Club Carlson points would be worth $200. With the $100+ cash back earned through a shopping portal, you’ll get a little over $300 worth of value out of your $10,000 Amex gift card purchase. These calculations will vary depending on which credit card you’re using, since each reward currency is valued differently.

If you don’t mind paying out of pocket, the Visa gift card route will get you the most points. However, if you’re like me and try to avoid manufactured spending out of pocket, then loading Redbird with Amex gift cards works out much better. If you want to earn points quickly and are willing to pay for it, go with Visa gift cards. If you’re ok with earning fewer points but earning a cash profit, Amex gift cards are your best bet.

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  1. I am personally loving the 1.5% cash back on the Amex cards plus the additional points/cash back on whatever card one chooses to use for the Amex gift card purchase. Another strategy is to absolutely max out any and all new credit card application offers (40K points on Card A for $3K of purchases, 70K on Card B for $5K of purchases, etc.) until the next churning opportunity since the Redbird card is the perfect way to achieve these. Cash back and bonus points … what a deal.

  2. Any concerns or additional calculations involved with number of trips to Target, holding up customer service lines or raising suspicions with managers at Target if you are loading the same gross sum each month using $200 visa gift cards vs potentially larger denomination Amex gift cards?

    • Of course. I wouldn’t unload more than two per register to stay under the radar. It’s the much more tedious option, which is why I personally stick to Amex gift cards.

    • No concerns – I recommend using the customer service line. The manager helped out once and even told me the trick is to run the Vanilla Visa gift card as a CREDIT, not debit card, to make things faster. I owe it to him that my loads are so fast now…I was loading $50 gift cards!!

    • Wenlin, personally I try to strike a balance between loading Redbird as I need to and not being a nuisance, or for any other reason being perceived by Target employee/management as “that REDcard guy”. Not that I’m superstitious, but I believe that the least annoying I am to Target, the least likely is the store management to make a policy restricting or limiting Redbird loads. Ultimately it depends on other Redbird-ers too but I do my part. For instance, if I see a huge line, I will skip my 5 gift cards and load them another trip.

      Having said that, if the employee knows (or is willing to be nudged by you in the right direction), it is really easy to load multiple gift cards (or gift cards + a credit card) to Redbird all in one transaction. I wrote a post that details the steps, for whomever is interested:

  3. What you fail to mention is that purchasing those Visa cards through a shopping portal (ie. Ultimate Rewards or Alaska, which offers 8X for Staples purchases) adds another 2 or more points per dollar. Your $10k purchase is not just 50k points but upwards of 70k points. Is that worth the hassle?

    • Not to me, because of the number of trips it would take to unload and the fees involved. Amex earns cash back and is easier to liquidate.

    • I’m pretty positive the purchase of gift cards at via a shopping portal was closed off late last year. I.e. no additional points/miles earned when buying VGC online. So it truly is just the 5x for Ink.

  4. The CS reps at my Target are quite nice and have not had a problem with me unloading multiple Visa & Mastercard GCs in one visit. I typically do 5-8 $200 cards at a time across two transactions, but the most I did (when no one else was in line) was 17 $100 cards that I had from a Staples promo in December. From what I can tell, it’s very much YMMV, and this Target has been great.

    • Then you’ve hit the ms jackpot. My local Target isn’t so accommodating, so I sometimes drive an hour out of town to unload my gift cards.

    • Do you swipe and process the MC GCs as credit cards or as debit at Target?

      Using MCGCs for BB loads was annoying since they involved the other payment yellow button trick…

      • If you’re loading multiple GCs in one transaction, swipe as CREDIT. For example, if you’re loading 10 $100 Visa/MC GCs into one $1000 transaction, and you try to run it as debit, an error will occur because it tries to withdraw $1000 from a $100 GC, which isn’t possible. But if it’s run as credit, it drains $100 from the $100 GC, then asks you for $900 more, which you then continue providing in $100 increments. When you’re done loading $1000, $1000, and $500, you only get 3 slips of paper, instead of a ton if you’re running each $100 GC as a separate transaction.

        No issues with Amex – it’s automatically run as credit already.

        And if you are using a GC with a denomination of $1000, then it doesn’t matter which way you run it.

  5. p.s., I don’t think you mentioned Mastercard gift cards, but they’ve been just as easy to unload to the Redbird as Visa. With the current Staples promo it’s nice to know you can snag MC if Visa is all gone.

  6. I buy the Amex GCs whenever there are GC deals at Staples, Office Depot/Max, Smart & Final, etc. Oftentimes these are low denominations. I prefer Amex over Visa/MC because it’s faster to load into Redbird in low denominations. When loading Amex, you just swipe, tell cashier last 4 digits, then swipe the next card, etc. When loading Visa/MC, you swipe, have to press the X, then press “Run as Credit”, THEN tell cashier last 4 digits, then swipe next card, etc. It’s an extra 2 steps, and when there’s a line behind you, every second saved helps. 🙂

    To summarize, here’s how I load 25 $100 cards into Redbird:
    1. “I want to load my Redcard” “Ok, how much?” “I want to max it out, but it only takes $1000 at a time, so let’s do $1000 first”
    2. Cashier swipes Redbird, enters $1000.
    3. I swipe my first $100 card, tell the cashier the last 4 digits, and it automatically drains the entire value of the card. The register displays $900.
    4. Swipe the next $100 card, tell cashier last 4 digits, register displays $800. Keep going until I reach $0, and the register issues one receipt.
    5. Repeat to load another $1000 and $500.
    6. Total time: about 5 minutes to load 25 cards.

    • Forgot to mention, I usually do this at Customer Service. Line is usually shorter, and they’re more willing to spend time with customers to get their issues addressed. As a point of reference, the customer next to me was asking the customer service staff to call every single Target in the area to ask them if they had a pair of black flip-flops in her size. Needless to say, I was done with loading TWO redbirds with 50+ gift cards before she was done…in about 10 minutes flat.

      On my last trip the staff was loading my redbird at the SAME TIME as helping another customer! (I told him to; and he helped 3 additional people at the same time as loading my redbirds without missing a beat)

  7. I will stick with SMGC, $3.95 for 500, U.S. Air, at 1.5,

    So 2500, cost 2520 nets you 3750 miles for a 20.
    37,500 for 200.00
    75,000 for 400
    And each card is with 509, MOMir Serve.,

  8. I like the amex gift card route with BOA 2.625% travel. I usually purchase 30K each time when there is 2% amex gift card cash back promotion. The return is 2.625%+2.0%- 0.286% cost ( for each 10k purchase $3.95 per 2k + $$8.95 per shipping = $28.6 per 10K)=4.339%.

  9. I was under the impression buying AGC didn’t receive credit card rewards (UR points, miles, etc.). Do you get the 1.5% cashback plus the x pts/$?

  10. Unloading those gift cards into the redbird counts towards the $5000 per month limit, right?

    • Yes Sheila. Reason being is that both credit cards and gift cards are technically considered “cash” by REDcard for loading purposes and the cash limit is $5K/month.

  11. I’m new to Redbird and I have a question. I’ve been buying $200 gift cards at Staples using my Ink card and then loading them to my Bluebird at Walmart. Would I be able to load these to Redbird at Target? If so then I can get rid of all my Bluebirds.

  12. when loading my redbird can I load using my wife’s cc if shes with me? need to hit a spend on her card. thank you

    • You can at most stores, but a few Target stores in big cities (NYC mostly) check your ID and only let you load if the name on the ID matches both the credit card and Redbird. You’re gonna have to try it at your stores to know for sure.

  13. Stephanie

    For anyone that still needs to meet minimum spend, Square is actually running a promotion right now where you can get 1k processed fee free if you sign up for a new account

    Here’s the link:

    I unfortunately already had an account, but was able to sign up with a family members info (with their permission of course) with no issues

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