How to Buy $500 Visa Gift Cards Online With Your Name Embossed on Them for $3.95

AgFed – the Agriculture Federal Credit Union based in the DC area – is NCUA insured and has $240 million in assets, about 22,000 members, and 6 branches.

They sell Visa gift cards online for $3.95 that come embossed with your name on them. (These are fulfilled by FIS Global.)

Joining the Credit Union

The credit union is open to:

  • People who live, work, volunteer, or go to school in DC
  • Employees or members of a bunch of government agencies or organizations with affiliations like the Embassy of Jamaica and the Kennedy Center
  • Anyone who pays $20 to join The Friends of CityDance Association

Opening an account generates a soft pull on your Equifax credit report. They require you to open a free savings account with $5 minimum deposit. They also offer a free checking account (there’s a $5 fee after 12 months of billpay inactivity).

I expected that I would be automatically enrolled with CityDance (since I selected that option) during the signup process, but I was not prompted to pay $20, and my card wasn’t charged. I opened the account with the expectation of having to cover this $20 fee, and still expect to.

Funding Your Account

They allow credit card funding of a new account, Historically this posted as a purchase rather than a cash advance at least with some issuers. I reached out and they shared the following:

The initial deposit limit, using a credit card, to fund a checking account online is $1500. This is processed as a purchase, and not as a cash advance.

So far I have funded only a savings account. Just because they process the transaction as a purchase doesn’t mean that any given issuer will code it that way, though most will. They accept only Visa and MasterCard, no American Express, and out of abundance of caution I’d probably avoid Citibank cards. I used my Hyatt Visa, and will know for sure its disposition once the transaction moves out of the pending stage.

You can also fund via another account outside the credit union. Although the simplest and quickest approach, even if a cash advance, might still be a minimum $5 deposit to savings.

AgFed used to sell CDs with funding via credit card years ago and Chase cards posted those as purchases rather than cash advances. Oh those were the days!

Do They Want You to Open Accounts and Buy Gift Cards?

An insider to the credit union writes to me,

The CEO is fine with people joining and buying gift cards, in the hope we’ll get other business…We always want new members, and we often offer special deals–last Labor Day we offered .49% on a 4 year car loan.

Buying Visa Gift Cards Online

They sell Visa gift cards in denominations you select, up to $500, and accept credit cards for payment.

  • Each Visa gift card costs $3.95
  • They emboss the recipient’s name on the card
  • 5-7 day shipping is free

You’ll have to call with each card to set up a PIN number, these aren’t as easy as the Vanilla gift cards where the PIN became whatever the first set of numbers you used.

AgFed also sells Visa debit cards (as opposed to gift cards) online with a limit of $2500 for initial funding but it appears they only accept their own credit cards for purchase of those.

Update: the credit union wants more members who will take advantage of a variety of their services. I’m hearing that though they’re excited to share their offerings – including gift cards – they may not be able to continue to approve folks through the ‘CityDance’ affiliation, that’s the kind of membership link that is suspect to the National Credit Union Administration. So unless you actually qualify to be a member through one of the other mechanisms they may not be able to work with you.

Update 2: the concern about CityDance memberships as a means of joining turns out to be unfounded and the credit union appears to be approving new members. Good news.

Update 3 May 12 7:30pm Eastern: Ok, let’s pause the signups. We’ve already moved the needly on the credit union’s membership base and we want to keep this sustainable.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Can anyone confirm that you can still load these embossed gift cards at Target – I set an account up a few months ago and then left the country…Also I don’t think there is a thread on this in FT. Maybe I’ll just try with a few K first….MS has become more dynamic this year….

  2. @ermintrude, I easily loaded a $500 card from AgFed On July 21 at a Target in Portland, OR. The gal at the service desk had never heard of these cards but was able to figure it out pretty easily. She was reading something on her screen and I heard her mutter to herself, “Not valid with Target gift cards… okay…” so she was apparently reviewing a screen of rules and didn’t see anything dubious about taking my Debit/Gift card.

  3. Yeah I just loaded one today. They don’t even look at the card at my Target. I never have to hand it to them.

  4. I have the Citi AT&T Access card which gets 3 points per dollar for online retail purchase. Can anyone with a citi card tell me how the purchase of these gift cards is coded?

  5. @milesmatt, so can I confirm that both funding the account and buying the gift cards with a Citi credit card will count as purchases? Thanks.

  6. Yes they both go as a purchase. kyroadrunner, the VGC shows as “BUSINESS SERVICES,NOT ELSEWHERE CLASSED”. I would imagine that it wouldn’t count as a retail purchase but I don’t know for sure.

  7. The FAQ for their gift card says a PIN cannot be set. Is that true, or can you just call and get a PIN set?

  8. How do I join CityDance? Their website seems to be in maintenance. Do I need to do it before I start applying for the membership or it can be done during?

  9. So – I could be fat fingering things, but, it errored out for me when I tried to buy a VGC with a non-AgFed card. Not sure if anyone else has noticed that.

  10. You can buy Agfed VGC with any credit card, however, you can only buy their prepaid Debit Cards (which sadly have higher limits) with an Agfed CC.

  11. When trying to load the agfed vgc to my serve, I got error “alternate form of payment needed” when using debit with the pin set on phone as option.

    Seems like we can only use agfed vgc as credit? which means we cant load them onto serve?

  12. Looks like you can only buy AgFed Visa gift cards in branch. Change must have happened in the last week or so because I just bought a few last week and they arrived yesterday, but when I checked online tonight, I saw this message (

    Gift giving has never been easier!!

    A Visa® gift card is the perfect gift for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays or just because you care…and the best part is they’re perfect for everyone.

    If you would like to purchase a VISA Gift Card, please visit one of our branches.

    To register, activate or view the balance on a current gift card, please click here.

    Visa Gift Card FAQs

  13. Yep – on the home page:

    Purchase of VISA Gift Cards No Longer Available Online

    Effective Monday, November 16, 2015, AgFed will no longer offer the option of purchasing VISA Gift Cards online. If you would like to purchase a gift card, please visit one of our branches to do so. For further information on registering, activating and viewing balances on your VISA Gift Card, please click here.

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