modified from cc licensed flickr photo shared by pfala

Sneaky.

Damn sneaky.

I got a nice $100 Visa gift card for my birthday last month.( I am not looking you in the mouth, Gift Horse). These look like credit card numbers, have numbers like credit cards.

But there is is something tricky there- it’s nearly impossible to spend them down to zero. I ordered well over the amount on Amazon, thinking I could pay the rest with my regular credit card. However, my order of 4 items was split to two retailers, so one part was processed ($57 worth) but because the rest was more than what was left on the card, Amazon asked for a new card.

So the only way to use up the card is keep chipping away at it until it is next to nothing (or nothing).

But how many people really do that? I read reports that said 6-10% of gift cards in general don’t get used at all. But I wonder for the ones that are used, how much extra fluff on the card the sellers get to keep. Even if it is 5% per card, that would add up.

It works like this- you give a merchant $100 real dollars. They give me a chunk of plastic, and even if I am diligent, I may only spend $90 of it. Look what they get.

Give cash.

I don’t want to play cards with those fellas.

I managed to spend mine down to 43 cents left. If anyone wants to spend that, let me know, I’ll slide you my number.

The post "Bitten By a Card Shark" was originally slapped on the butt by a cigar smoking doctor yelling "It's a post!" at CogDogBlog (http://cogdogblog.com/2010/05/card-shark/) on May 14, 2010.

4 Comments

  • Can’t you add it to your itunes acct?

    • Alan Levine aka CogDog cogdogblog.com

      Yes, you could make it your itunes credit card and buy until it is empty (this is essentially what I did on Amazon, bought 99 cent mp3s till the card would not work). The tricky part is not knowing what happens exactly when the card fails. On iTiunes, it queues your purchases into a batch (so it is not making a lot of small transactions). So if your gift card has $8 left, and you try ordering $10 worth of songs, what happens when it borks? It will try and do the full order. I wonder if iTunes would reach down and yank your downloads…

  • Harriet

    Herein lies the scam! I got 2 of those cards for rebates and found it extremely difficult to determine how much was left on the card. Most retailers wouldn’t scan the card and tell me what was left. It seems like if you don’t spend the entire amount at one time, you’re bound to leave some money unspent. The credit card companies must make a lot on this scam–I say ‘show me the money!!’

  • Here’s an idea … go get the Square Up app for the iPhone and swipe it yourself and turn it into cash. There is a little processing fee, but at least you can then use it the way you want.

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