Using Amex Gift Cards to the Meet Minimum Spend Requirements for Credit Card Signup Bonuses

Now that the US Mint has stopped allowing you to buy coins with credit cards with free shipping to earn miles (you used to then just put the coins in the bank and pay off your credit card), I’ve gotten lots of questions about cheap and easy ways to meet the minimum spending requirements for credit card signup bonuses.

See, lots of those great 50,000, 75,000, and 100,000 mile signup offers don’t fully kick in until you’ve put a reasonable chunk of change on those cards. And most folks (including me!) aren’t comfortable playing games like buying diamond rings on the Costco website with a Visa or Mastercard and returning them in-store where they only process American Express. Play that game too many times and you can easily get banned from Costco.

So I thought I’d remind y’all that back on May 3rd I posted about using Big Crumbs to earn cash back buying gift cards. You earn the miles for the purchase, and even after paying any fees and shipping you make money on the deal. The promo code I posted to buy those gift cards fee-free expired June 30th, but thanks to Dan’s Deals you can use promo code EMSVCA through January 31, 2012 to get fees waived.

Search for ‘American Express’ at Big Crumbs and you’ll see that you can get 1.6% cash back for your purchases. The cash back you earn is greater than the cost of shipping which is why you make money on the deal.

Dan’s Deals says you can get free trial next-day air shipping (normally $99/yr). Given the cash back from BigCrumbs, a piece that Dan’s Deals doesn’t mention, I think I’d skip this part. Although you should be able to cancel within the three month trial online, and the next day air shipping really is free…

Now, one caveat is that I can imagine there are some cards out there which would treat this as a cash advance. I know that the US Bank Flexperks Card treated Mint purchases as cash advances. So anyone who has ever seen this, please note it in the comments. But most cards I understand will post this as a purchase, thus earning miles and counting towards your minimum spend.

Of course you now have Amex gift cards which you have to spend, and in general that just means you’ve met your minimum spend for the bonuses, pulling future spending into the present. These aren’t as easy as coins to get funds back into the bank! But if you need spending quick, but don’t have anything to buy, this lets you spread the spend out over a longer period of time.

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. These can’t be shipped to HI and VT.

    As a HI resident, in the past I tried ordering them to have one shipped to my daughter in the Northeast, and it was not possible to order it online either. Don’t know if they fixed that or not.

    I think the HI restriction was due to strict laws about monthly charges, etc on gift cards, and the old cards ran afoul of them. However with the recent federal law changes to gift cards, I would think that the new federal law is just as strict and trumps the old HI law. So not sure why they still have this restriction. It might be possible to ship them somewhere else if you are willing to, but in the past I was unable to do that.

    So, is there an option for non-Amex gift cards for those of us that can’t easily order the Amex gift cards?


  2. Earning Cash Back on Big crumbs is a pain in the neck. I’m still waiting for my Gift Card purchase from May to post to Big crumbs. I’ve sent in missing credit requests and I’m still waiting.

    Am I doing something wrong?

  3. Citibank charges cash advance fees on purchase of gift cards directly through a financial institution, so the AMEX gift cards get hit with a cash advance fee.

    However, you can buy Visa cards at a grocery store with the Citi cards and not get hit with the cash advance fees.

  4. Be very careful with Big Crumbs. I earned cash like clockwork when I was purchasing items regularly with values under $3000 or so from Ebay. I made one large purchase ($14,000) from a non-Ebay vendor (part of the Big Crumbs program) and it took me over 5 months, numerous emails to their customer service (they don’t give out a phone number) and an email to the president of Big Crumbs to get my cash credited. If I hadn’t found his email, I am sure that this amount would still be owed to me.

    Buyer beware, especially if you’re counting on this cash back to cover your costs…

  5. Does anyone know if Amex or Chase charges a cash advance fee for purchasing these AMEX gift cards?

  6. @ A Kimyai
    Chase does not charge cash advance fee for Amex GCs, but there are reports of people’s accounts closed for “not use account as intended.”
    Amex itself is fine with GC purchases.

  7. Tagging along with MMS in #4…

    Citi charges cash advance fees with all of their cards for buying Amex GCs since you’re buying them directly from Amex. That’s why the GCs in a grocery or drugstore aren’t treated the same.

    Citi never charged a cash advance fee buying coins from the mint. Which was really funny when I called to have the GC charges reversed (which they will do if you ask nicely). Almost all my charges on this visa were from the mint and the Citi supervisor thanked me for being such a great customer as she reversed my charges. It took all my self-control not to laugh out loud during the call…. 😉

  8. Amex gift cards and fixed fund cards don’t work internationally. On a trip two years ago I picked up some $500 cards to use as a way to protect my real account number. None of the hotels, stores, or even the US-Based cruise ship could take them (they kept getting “invalid card” messages). Cards worked fine at home.

  9. @mike I agree getting your cash form Big Crumbs is a pain, I have to send in a ticket for almost every purchase. Hotel charges are the worst because your only making a reservation thru big crumbs and sometimes the stay can be weeks or months later. Keep very accurate records on when you make your reservation and don’t forget to submit the ticket later, if credit doesn’t show up.

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