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I think we've discussed how to liquidate AMEX/Visa gift cards and the like. But, I haven't seen any discussion on strategies for turning store gift cards into cash. I have a few methods, but I'd like a place to share various ways that we can accomplish this.

My methods (when I say "gift card", I always can also mean "gift cards"):
  1. Simplest - The Primer: Make a purchase large enough to completely cover the balance on the gift card. Pay as follows: $10/small amount to a credit card (preferably a no-rewards card, or even better, a your bank debit card, only use as a credit card). Then, use the gift card for the rest. If you have any remaining balance for the purchase, use a credit card of your choice (i.e., rewards). Then, return the purchase, requesting that it all return to your first card. Depending on the store, you may have to return only part of the purchase at a time, since their systems will automatically partition the return amounts if you return the full purchase.
  2. The Tank: Similar to The Primer (above method), make a larger multi-item purchase (preferably two identical items), over double your gift card value. Pay as follows: 50%+ to a credit card (again, a no-rewards card at least). Then, use the entire gift card, then your credit card of choice. For the return, return half in one return and half in another. In this way, it should return all to your first card.
    Note: The value you charge to the first card must equal or exceed the value of either of your returns, so the method works best when purchasing duplicate items.
  3. The Change-up: Store return systems are increasing in complexity and sometimes, neither of these methods will work. So, to add a wrinkle, you can liquidate a Visa/AMEX gift card as well. I usually use The Primer with this method. So, make your purchase. Then, in payment, pay as follows: no-rewards card, Visa/AMEX gift card, store gift card, credit card. Then, when you return, don't bring the Visa/AMEX gift card, and explain that since the Visa/AMEX cards are disposable, you don't have it, so returning in the same form of payment won't work for you. You will have to deal with Customer Service, but usually, they can obtain authorization to return to your first card or give you straight cash.

Also, California has a law that an establishment has to exchange cash for store gift cards under $10, if you have small enough GC values.

So, I realize that these potentially can take valuable time, and I don't plan to submit this strategy to the saving time thread. But, after I received tons in gift cards for my wedding (thus causing my wife and I to only write checks now as wedding gifts), I determined that it was worth my time to liquidate these, since I don't think we'll ever make a purchase in most of the stores at which we registered.

For results of my experiments, I will list which stores work with which methods. Please note, always YMMV, since stores' return policies and systems change from time to time. Also, I shouldn't have to say this, but please never call the store (or corporate, especially) to verify if a method will work.

The Primer:
Nordstrom
Macy's

The Tank:
Fry's

The Change-up:
Target

Edit: Added links to some statements

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Question about the Primer.

If I purchase only one item does it still work?

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ephobe (Jan. 19, 2012 @ 9:45a) |

Please note, always YMMV, since stores' return policies and systems change from time to time. Also, we should all know this, but please never call the store (or corporate, especially) to verify if a method will work.

Stores that work with various methods:

The Primer:
Nordstrom
Macy's

The Tank:
Fry's

The Change-up:
Target

Stores that may not work:
Kohls
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Thanks for the ideas, do you mind illustrating with a couple of examples?

Edit: are you really paying with 4 forms of payment?

green for extremem cleverness

I guess if you had time and didn't mind being the most annoying customer in the world, you could turn over gift cards at 6% from the AMEX blue cash card.

glahhg said:   Thanks for the ideas, do you mind illustrating with a couple of examples?

Edit: are you really paying with 4 forms of payment?


Here is one:

I bought a pair of pliers at Lowes a few weeks ago with the remaining balance on a gift card and the rest on my normal AMEX card.

I ended up returning them because they were a POS, they of course threw the original gift card away because it had no balance and i didnt have my receipt so i had them look it up on my AMEX card.

Well instead of giving me back partial store credit, they returned the full amount to my AMEX card.

For #1(The Primer) and #3 (Change up) it has been YMMV for me and somewhat inconsistent even at the same stores, especially Home Depot and Lowes, sometimes it works, other times I get the remainder put on a store gift card if I don't have the original card.

#2 (The Tank) is intruiging, a bit of a hasstle to purchase and then return twice, but may work....

Unrelated... OP - Nice Avatar http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo4glASbEh4

***PLEASE READ FOLLOWUP DISCUSSION AS FWers ARE INDICATING THIS MAY NO LONGER WORK***


I think I posted this idea on a 'liquidate VISA/MC/AMEX' forum, but...For VISA/Mastercard/AMEX gift cards: Go to US Post Office. Buy postal money order for balance on card-(minus) money order fee (Money order amount+fee=card balance). Use gift card as payment, as USPS money orders can be purchased with cash or debit card, which is what the gift card is. Deposit money order into your bank account at your leisure.

cows123 said:   I think I posted this idea on a 'liquidate VISA/MC/AMEX' forum, but...For VISA/Mastercard/AMEX gift cards: Go to US Post Office. Buy postal money order for balance on card-(minus) money order fee (Money order amount+fee=card balance). Use gift card as payment, as USPS money orders can be purchased with cash or debit card, which is what the gift card is. Deposit money order into your bank account at your leisure.

Have you ever executed this yourself? My understanding is that MO purchase requires entering the PIN, which most gift cards (despite being debit cards) do not have.

cyberkost said:   cows123 said:   I think I posted this idea on a 'liquidate VISA/MC/AMEX' forum, but...For VISA/Mastercard/AMEX gift cards: Go to US Post Office. Buy postal money order for balance on card-(minus) money order fee (Money order amount+fee=card balance). Use gift card as payment, as USPS money orders can be purchased with cash or debit card, which is what the gift card is. Deposit money order into your bank account at your leisure.

Have you ever executed this yourself? My understanding is that MO purchase requires entering the PIN, which most gift cards (despite being debit cards) do not have.


Yes I have, but I don't remember the details except that you can buy a USPS money order with a debit card (which a VISA/MC/AMEX gift card is), but not with a credit card. It makes sense you have to choose 'debit', and I don't remember having a PIN, but I have done it multiple times. Sorry, I just don't remember.

Does the primer on Nordstrom work online as well or just instore?

What about Olive Garden gift cards? Can I eat 10% of the food on my credit card, then the remaining 90% on the gift card...then somehow return it??

No but seriously, any good ideas on getting rid of $100 in Olive Garden gift cards? I don't go there, but I keep getting them.

plAl3xK said:   What about Olive Garden gift cards? Can I eat 10% of the food on my credit card, then the remaining 90% on the gift card...then somehow return it??

No but seriously, any good ideas on getting rid of $100 in Olive Garden gift cards? I don't go there, but I keep getting them.


80% from plastic jungle, christmas gifts etc

Al3xK said:   What about Olive Garden gift cards? Can I eat 10% of the food on my credit card, then the remaining 90% on the gift card...then somehow return it??

No but seriously, any good ideas on getting rid of $100 in Olive Garden gift cards? I don't go there, but I keep getting them.


I think they also work at other Darden restaurant's, like the Red Lobster.

cows123 said:   
Yes I have, but I don't remember the details except that you can buy a USPS money order with a debit card (which a VISA/MC/AMEX gift card is), but not with a credit card. It makes sense you have to choose 'debit', and I don't remember having a PIN, but I have done it multiple times. Sorry, I just don't remember.


Try it again and get back to us. The typical gift cards do not have PIN numbers assigned to them. If you figure out a method by all means let us know. If so, you will make a lot of happy happy people and might possibly bail the PO out of a real financial bind.

cows123 said:   cyberkost said:   cows123 said:   I think I posted this idea on a 'liquidate VISA/MC/AMEX' forum, but...For VISA/Mastercard/AMEX gift cards: Go to US Post Office. Buy postal money order for balance on card-(minus) money order fee (Money order amount+fee=card balance). Use gift card as payment, as USPS money orders can be purchased with cash or debit card, which is what the gift card is. Deposit money order into your bank account at your leisure.

Have you ever executed this yourself? My understanding is that MO purchase requires entering the PIN, which most gift cards (despite being debit cards) do not have.


Yes I have, but I don't remember the details except that you can buy a USPS money order with a debit card (which a VISA/MC/AMEX gift card is), but not with a credit card. It makes sense you have to choose 'debit', and I don't remember having a PIN, but I have done it multiple times. Sorry, I just don't remember.


Did you do this a long time ago (3+ years)? This approach used to work because it wwas more common for visa gift cards used to provide pin, and the post office used to not be as strict. Now, most gift cards only support purchases when processed as "credit".

motsuka said:   Does the primer on Nordstrom work online as well or just instore?

Good question. Does Nordstrom even allow you to pay from multiple sources online? I have never tried these methods online, as I figured the systems wouldn't let me control the breakdown of cards I would need to accomplish the process.

Actually, there's absolutely no need to use any of these techniques at Nordstrom. All you do is tell them you would like it returned to a different card. Simple as that. They have a button to "change tender" so when you tell them you want to change it to a different card, they will just do it, could be credit card, debit card or straight cash.

Actually, there's absolutely no need to use any of these techniques at Nordstrom. All you do is tell them you would like it returned to a different card. Simple as that. They have a button to "change tender" so when you tell them you want to change it to a different card, they will just do it, could be credit card, debit card or straight cash.

My experience has been that most store systems have become advanced enough that they can figure out where the payment should go.

With regards to - "I don't have the gift card anymore", all I received was store credit - that too with so much explanation and hassle. By the way, even if my gift card is fully used up, I throw it in a box somewhere so that in case I have to return something and it goes back to the card, I still have the card.

The guy talking about Olive Garden gift card kind of made a good point - you are unlikely to return the food - so it is better to use the Visa/MC gift cards at such stores. Obviously, account for the fact that until recently, Costco AMEX was offering 3% for restaurants - so best to use Visa/MC gift cards at restaurants that don't accept AMEX.

palswim said:   
Also, California has a law that an establishment has to exchange cash for store gift cards under $10, if you have small enough GC values.


Earlier this week I was at a Kroger-owned supermarket in California and did this successfully with a Kroger gift card. It was a Pyrrhic victory, however, because the cashier did not know how to perform the transaction. I was sent to another cashier, who followed a procedure from a manual which culminated in me being asked to sign a receipt for a "return." In the meantime, four customers checked out through the first cashier. I got my $3 in cash but it must have taken 10 or 15 minutes.

granjero said:   Earlier this week I was at a Kroger-owned supermarket in California and did this successfully with a Kroger gift card. It was a Pyrrhic victory, however, because the cashier did not know how to perform the transaction. I was sent to another cashier, who followed a procedure from a manual which culminated in me being asked to sign a receipt for a "return." In the meantime, four customers checked out through the first cashier. I got my $3 in cash but it must have taken 10 or 15 minutes.
Any post with "Pyrrhic victory" in it deserves green.

palswim said:   motsuka said:   Does the primer on Nordstrom work online as well or just instore?

Good question. Does Nordstrom even allow you to pay from multiple sources online? I have never tried these methods online, as I figured the systems wouldn't let me control the breakdown of cards I would need to accomplish the process.


Placed order using 2xx gift card and $12 on cc. will update

PrincipalMember said:   My experience has been that most store systems have become advanced enough that they can figure out where the payment should go.Yep, as time goes the methods the OP describes will work less and less.

The cash registers will track amounts that were originally paid by gift card, and will automatically issue fresh new gift cards or store credits for partial purchases originally paid by gift cards. The "I threw the gift card away" dodge won't work because they will simply issue a new gift card for whatever partial amount.

Enjoy it while you can -- it still works to a great extent thanks to tired near-minimum-wage cashiers and underpaid managers who will override the cash register and give you what you want because you were nice to them and it's easier to refund back to one card.

The only method protected by law is the California $10 law. One can break their gift card into multiple $10 cards by buying multiple $10 items and refunding them one at time, which is a huge hassle.

Or, some stores like Sears make it easy since they will allow you to buy $10 gift cards with gift cards.

swintec said:   cows123 said:   
Yes I have, but I don't remember the details except that you can buy a USPS money order with a debit card (which a VISA/MC/AMEX gift card is), but not with a credit card. It makes sense you have to choose 'debit', and I don't remember having a PIN, but I have done it multiple times. Sorry, I just don't remember.


Try it again and get back to us. The typical gift cards do not have PIN numbers assigned to them. If you figure out a method by all means let us know. If so, you will make a lot of happy happy people and might possibly bail the PO out of a real financial bind.


For USPS MOs, a PIN is definitely needed with a debit card purchase; and typical GCs do not have a PIN.

Similar "Charter-One" Routes (e.g., bank cash advance, TCs) are mostly blocked as well.

This will not work at Kohls unless you are incredibly lucky. Returns go to the source of payment and are split accordingly or they go to a store credit. The computer knows what charges went on which card and if you say you no longer have the gift card you will be offered a store credit. Try to get cash and you will be out of luck. Cust Service cannot override this. The store manager cannot ovverride this.

While I have seen people get Cash Back it is a huge override requiring corporate approval and your probably not going to get this unless you spend an hour in the store arguing. And the larger the dollar amount the less likely they are to do it at all.

Only way your trick can work is if the register system that looks up receipts happens to be down. I think I saw this happen 3 times in my years there and even then if they follow the correct procedures for writing on the reciept it shouldnt' work, but if the register system is down they can override the return payment type.

Kohls.com return policy said: Online Purchases As a Kohls.com customer, you have three convenient options to return or exchange your online purchases. Kohls.com purchases will be credited to the account used to make the purchase, unless you indicate otherwise. If you'd like to receive a credit on a different credit card account, please complete the “Credit/Payment” method section of the Return & Exchange form that accompanied your order. Please note: To avoid return shipping & handling costs, please choose to return your Kohls.com purchase to a Kohl's store near you.

i'll let you guys know how this works out in a couple days. i have an online order in process right now.

also, fwiw returning LandsEnd.com stuff to Sears is easy with the Sears 5 minute return guarantee.

I was somewhat considering the methods described until I realized I actually had to make several trips to Nordstrom resulting in gas\time only for $6 per $100 "returned". To make this cost effective (vs time), I'd have to buy a LV purse or something .. who would buy a LV purse with ~$1,000 in GC's?

I have $200 of Target gift cards from our wedding. I don't want to buy my vacuum from Target.. so I come in the pursuit of using this system.

So let's say I go balls to the walls.. Dyson DC-25, $500 at Target or whatever. I would need to use 2 credit cards, an AMEX pre-loaded card, and a store gift card?

$200 - Target Gift Cards
$100 - AMEX Blue Cash
$100 - AMEX Preloaded Debit Card
$100 - WF Visa (CC)

Then I just return it and leave my preloaded card in the car? Are they then forced to return the entire purchase to my AMEX Blue Cash? What if they try and give me $100 in cash and $200 in gift cards? Is the Change-Up too complex for that to happen?

***

mapen said:   The cash registers will track amounts that were originally paid by gift card, and will automatically issue fresh new gift cards or store credits for partial purchases originally paid by gift cards. The "I threw the gift card away" dodge won't work because they will simply issue a new gift card for whatever partial amount.

Yeah, it won't work with a store gift card. I was talking about the pre-paid Visa/AMEX gift cards.

dowxp said:   I was somewhat considering the methods described until I realized I actually had to make several trips to Nordstrom resulting in gastime only for $6 per $100 "returned". To make this cost effective (vs time), I'd have to buy a LV purse or something .. who would buy a LV purse with ~$1,000 in GC's?

I would say these methods we're discussing are very poor strategies to make money with your cash-back cards. On a positive note, in my Nordstrom's experience, I made my purchase, exited the store to make another purchase, and then returned to the store and made my return (at a different register). So, not too much extra time/gas for that instance.

jnheinz said:   So let's say I go balls to the walls.. Dyson DC-25, $500 at Target or whatever. I would need to use 2 credit cards, an AMEX pre-loaded card, and a store gift card?

$200 - Target Gift Cards
$100 - AMEX Blue Cash
$100 - AMEX Preloaded Debit Card
$100 - WF Visa (CC)

Then I just return it and leave my preloaded card in the car? Are they then forced to return the entire purchase to my AMEX Blue Cash? What if they try and give me $100 in cash and $200 in gift cards? Is the Change-Up too complex for that to happen?


Target has given me the most grief in my quests. They aren't "forced" to do anything, unfortunately.

I would suggest charging the cards in this order: WF Visa, AMEX Debit, Target GC, AMEX Blue

On the return, say you don't have the AMEX Debit, and if they try to give you store credit, politely refuse since the Debit was like money to you. If you explain to them (why you don't want the store credit), they'll probably understand. Usually, they'll end up calling the returns HQ, and, if you've acted politely, they'll argue your case to the HQ. In my experience, the HQ has overridden the system, and let the returns cashier open the till and give you cash for everything. I've never had them return all to a specific card.

jnheinz said:   I have $200 of Target gift cards from our wedding. I don't want to buy my vacuum from Target.. so I come in the pursuit of using this system.

So let's say I go balls to the walls.. Dyson DC-25, $500 at Target or whatever. I would need to use 2 credit cards, an AMEX pre-loaded card, and a store gift card?

$200 - Target Gift Cards
$100 - AMEX Blue Cash
$100 - AMEX Preloaded Debit Card
$100 - WF Visa (CC)

Then I just return it and leave my preloaded card in the car? Are they then forced to return the entire purchase to my AMEX Blue Cash? What if they try and give me $100 in cash and $200 in gift cards? Is the Change-Up too complex for that to happen?


You or your spouse really can't spend $200 at target?!?!?!!?

MDfive21 said:   Kohls.com return policy said: Online Purchases As a Kohls.com customer, you have three convenient options to return or exchange your online purchases. Kohls.com purchases will be credited to the account used to make the purchase, unless you indicate otherwise. If you'd like to receive a credit on a different credit card account, please complete the “Credit/Payment” method section of the Return & Exchange form that accompanied your order. Please note: To avoid return shipping & handling costs, please choose to return your Kohls.com purchase to a Kohl's store near you.

i'll let you guys know how this works out in a couple days. i have an online order in process right now.


Weird... I know that the store cannot do this at least as of 1 year ago. I would bet that you have to ship it back if you want to use that form and when you go into the store you will be told tough luck... but maybe they changed the policy.

Thanks for this thread. Contains useful info. Anyone have any idea if any of the methods work with Best Buy? I have $800 in GC there, and I would rather buy my new laptop and TV elsewhere if possible.

imbatman said:   Thanks for this thread. Contains useful info. Anyone have any idea if any of the methods work with Best Buy? I have $800 in GC there, and I would rather buy my new laptop and TV elsewhere if possible.
If you're going to buy on Amazon, you can buy Amazon gc's at bestbuy.

theeipi said:   imbatman said:   Thanks for this thread. Contains useful info. Anyone have any idea if any of the methods work with Best Buy? I have $800 in GC there, and I would rather buy my new laptop and TV elsewhere if possible.
If you're going to buy on Amazon, you can buy Amazon gc's at bestbuy.


Word. thanks.
I was actually JUST at BB too, and I forgot to look at the gift cards they sell there.

they're usually kindle cards, which can be used for anything at Amazon.

how the heck did you come up/stumble upon this? genius!!!

Skipping 48 Messages...
Question about the Primer.

If I purchase only one item does it still work?

1 item that costs $105. I pay 5 dollars with debit card charged as credit. I pay 100 with GC. Return the item and $105 gets returned to my debit card. Correct?

So when I go up to the cashier I would ask them to only put 5 dollars on the debit card? I'm not sure how that works.



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