Spending the first $98.37 of the gift card on a few tanks of gas and some sundries was pretty easy, but I had one heck of a time spending the last $1.63.
Just try spending $1.63 at a gas station or department store. You will get a quizzical look from the cashier that ranges somewhere between stink-eye and evil-eye. It’s also tough to buy a can of Coke, Gatorade, or pack of gum at 7-Eleven for exactly $1.63… I’m just not that good at figuring out how to subtract 8.25% sales tax from $1.63 to find something I can buy.
In the end, I never got to spend my $1.63. The Visa Gift Card became ‘orphaned’ when it expired at the end of October.
This is what the banks refer to as ‘Breakage’. It’s the likelihood that you’ll never spend 100 percent of a rebate or reward. This is why you never receive a rebate check in the mail anymore when you buy a new printer/TV/computer. You get to use 100 percent of a check when you cash it, but a rewards card can get lost, stolen, or some/all of the balance can expire.
Breakage is why Visa gift cards (or store branded gift cards) are the predominant rewards currency these days. Banks know it is very difficult for you to spend every last penny on the rebate card.
So here’s what I’ll do next time I’m offered a Visa Rewards card:
Option (1) – Buy an Amazon Gift card or Instant Amazon eCertificate.
Amazon gift cards typically do not expire, and you can enter ‘oddball’ amounts on to them (ie you’re not stuck with $25, $50, $100…). You can also order an instant eCertificate that arrives to your email account with a ‘secret code’. Once you type the secret code in at Amazon you have a cash balance available for purchases at Amazon.
When you are in receipt of a physical Amazon gift card, ‘add’ it to your account the same way (type in the code).
Whether your Amazon gift card arrives via email or snail mail, once you activate the card at Amazon, your next purchase will automatically exhaust the value of the gift card before Amazon charges the ‘normal’ credit card you have on file for your purchases. Kind of like having money in the bank, only the bank is Amazon.
Note- You can’t use Amazon gift cards in your account to ‘re-gift’ an Amazon Gift card to someone else. 🙁
Option (2) – Buy a Costco Cash Card online at Costco.com.
Costco lets you use Visa/Mastercard online to purchase Costco Cash cards. Note that you’re stuck with $25 increments here, and you have to wait for a physical card to arrive in the mail (don’t lose it!).
So, give one of these tactics a try next time you receive a pre-loaded Visa.
Would love to hear other recommendations from GubMints readers in the comments below!