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Resource – How to Liquidate Visa/MC Gift Cards
Last Updated: 1/8/2016
This is an up to date resource describing some of the best ways to liquidate or spend down pin-enabled Visa or Mastercard gift cards which can be purchased at a variety of retailers including: office supply, drug and grocery stores.
Even those these cards are pin-enabled (see packaging for instructions on setting the pin), they cannot be used at ATM machines for cash withdrawals or for cash back transactions. With that said, there are plenty of options for liquidating or spending down the cards.
Why Purchase Visa or Mastercard Gift Cards
Many people purchase Visa or Mastercard gift cards at a variety of stores during promotions which offer increased rewards, instant discounts or mail-in rebates. Discounts can often wipe out the purchase fee for these cards and allow the purchaser to make a modest profit.
Additionally, some credit cards pay up to 5x points/cash back at many of the stores which sell Visa or Mastercard gift cards. By combining discount promotions and bonus points earned by using certain credit cards, buying Visa or Mastercard gift cards can be lucrative.
Ways To Liquidate The Cards
Pay Your Bills
Note: Evolve Money is shutting down as of February 1, 2016.
Perhaps the most obvious way to dispose of the cards is by using them to pay your bills. Companies like Evolve Money and Plastiq allow you to pay certain bills including many mortgages with debit cards.
Since Visa and Mastercard gift cards purchased in U.S. stores are pin-enabled, they are seen as debit cards by Evolve. Frequent Miler has a great post which fully explains Evolve Money and he has recently covered Plastiq in depth as well.
Additionally, you could pay normal bills or do your local shopping with these cards. Visa & Mastercard gift cards are accepted for purchases anywhere that traditional Visa or Mastercards are accepted. Billers like utilities who normally accept credit cards for payments, will also accept them.
Note: On January 8, 2016 American Express began shutting down many accounts for “unusual usage patterns”. More info here.
You can load most Visa and Mastercard gift cards to your Bluebird/Serve/GoBank cards at Walmart. (Vanilla Visa gift cards will not work at Walmart in transactions of $50 or more.) If you aren’t familiar with Serve or GoBank, they are just alternative prepaid cards that are loaded the exact same way as Bluebird.
(Note: Some newer Serve cards have load fees. See: Which Serve Card is Best? for a detailed comparison of the different types.)
Loading at Walmart
In Walmart stores Visa and Mastercard gift cards can be loaded either at the kiosk or at any register. Make sure to tell the cashier you are using a debit card if paying at the register. While the Mastercard gift cards work normally at the kiosk, loading them at a register can be a little tricky since the system initially sees them as a credit card. Here is a detailed work around.
Loading at Family Dollar
Most Serve cards can also be loaded fee-free at Family Dollar stores, although the process isn’t very simple and there is a limit of $500 per load at each store. The Free-quent Flyer has a good description of the process.
Buy Merchant Gift Cards
Merchant gift cards have become big business. We often cover deals for merchant gift cards on sale for up to 20% off. You can use Visa or Mastercard gift cards to purchase merchant gift cards at almost every major retailer.
I generally don’t recommend stockpiling merchant gift cards, but if you find a gift card deal for a merchant that you frequent often, it can be a great solution. Many stores also offer fuel and other rewards for the purchase of merchant gift cards which can help to stack the savings. eBay is also your friend when it comes to gift card deals.
Since the most profitable Visa or Mastercard gift cards to buy are usually in $100, $200 and $500 denominations, they tend to be too much to give as gifts. With that said, special occasions such as weddings and graduations often warrant larger gifts. Instead of writing a check, consider gifting one of these gift cards.
Warning: While this is an option, it is generally not one I recommend for most people. There are a lot of things to consider before buying money orders. Proceed with caution.
You can use Visa or Mastercard gift cards to purchase money orders at Walmart and various grocery stores. In theory those money orders can then be deposited in your account and the money used to pay your bills.
Certain banks have been known to shut down accounts for depositing too many money orders and not all grocery stores will allow you to purchase money orders with these gift cards. The best way to find out your options is to experiment and research. Like I said above, proceed with caution.
I often write about various deals on Miles to Memories and Frequent Miler’s Quick Deals. Paypal allows you to use prepaid gift cards for purchases and most retailers will allow you to pay with them online or in-store. Have you ever seen a great deal on an iPad or something else that can be sold at a profit or even breakeven? Those types of deals are a great way to liquidate these cards if one of your preferred methods has been shut down.
Emergency Disposal Options
If your favorite disposal method gets shut down or is no longer available, there may be a way to liquidate these cards in an emergency for a fee.
Paypal Allows Prepaid Gift Cards for Payment
Services like Paypal allow people to send money to each other for a fee which normally equates to about 3%. Technically these cards can be used in this manner, however the fees definitely add up.
Mobile Payment Solutions
Also, companies like Square, Amazon and a few other companies have payment readers which allow you to accept credit card payments. Technically you could pay yourself with those cards and pay the merchant fees, although it rarely works as smooth as you think it will.
If you use any of these emergency methods then be very careful. All of the companies I mentioned are known to shut down accounts for abuse. Additionally, if you pay yourself as a merchant, there may be tax implications. As always consult your financial or tax advisor before doing anything.
Think Outside of the Box
There are many many more ways to liquidate these gift cards. Many opportunities are too tricky to mention here while others are regional. It always helps to make friends with other MSers who live in your area.
If your preferred method of liquidating has ended, the sky is not falling. You may incur some fees for liquidating, but the money is not lost. The old saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way” applies to this practice. If you think hard enough and do some research, the possibilities are almost limitless.
This is an updated resource listing methods that I feel are viable. It is updated as new methods emerge and others go away. If you feel any viable methods have been left out then please let me know.