December 28, 2013
I’ll be on vacation until January 6th. Until then, I’ll publish a series of “mini posts” with an occasional regular post if something interesting comes up. I may or may not answer blog comments or emails during this time. Thanks for understanding!
American Express gift cards are currently available to buy through online portals for up to 3X miles or 3% cash back. Via Delta SkyMiles Shopping, you can earn 3 miles per dollar when clicking through to buy Amex gift cards. Or, via TopCashBack, you can earn 3% cash back.
TopCashBack’s 3% rate is scheduled to end at the end of this year. I would guess that they’ll then revert to 2% cash back, but I don’t really know for sure. I’m also just guessing that SkyMiles Shopping will also reduce their rate when the clock strikes 2014, but we won’t know for sure until then.
While the 3X opportunities last, it’s possible to earn “5X everywhere”. Simply go through one of these portals and buy Amex gift cards with a “2X everywhere” card (such as the Barclay Arrival World MasterCard – the one that earns 2X on All Purchases). In total, you should earn 3X from the portal and 2X from your credit card. Then, spend the gift cards where you would normally pay with a credit card, or find ways to cash them out (see “How to spend down Amex gift cards“). If you don’t have a 2X everywhere card, 4X everywhere isn’t so bad either.
Of course, you can earn even more than 5X by going through portals again to online merchants to buy things, and pay with your Amex gift cards.
Note that some credit cards are known to charge cash advance fees when used to buy Amex gift cards online. You’ll want to avoid that, of course. As far as I know, Chase and Amex cards are currently safe. And, I know people who safely use the Barclay Arrival World MasterCard. In all cases, you can reduce your risk by calling the credit card company and asking to have your cash advance limit lowered as far as possible.
When you click through from SkyMiles Shopping, you’ll see that gift cards are limited to a maximum of $500 each. You can increase that limit to $3000 each in several easy ways:
- Log into your American Express account. Once you log in, you should see values up to $3000. (Hat Tip: HikerT)
- Or, hover over the “Business Gift Cards” or “Consumer Gift Cards” menu and click “Select a Card Design”. The screen will basically just refresh, but now you should see values up to $3000.
- Similarly, you can hover over the “Business Gift Cards” or “Consumer Gift Cards” menu and click “Personalized Cards”. This will allow you to get cards up to $3000 in value and even put your name on them if you want.
Via TopCashBack the $500 limit has been removed for now, but they’ve been told that it will come back in 2014. Regardless, many people have confirmed that they’ve received cash back or miles even when circumventing the limits.
Portals always claim that you won’t earn cash back or miles if you use discount codes not found on their site. In practice, though, I’ve always received cash back when ordering Amex gift cards despite using codes. A good one to try for eliminating gift card fees is: SYNCGIFT.