Liquidating deeply-discounted $200 Vanilla Visa gift cards

As most of my readers no doubt know, through May 16, 2015, you'll instantly receive $20 off every $300 in Visa gift cards purchased at both Office Max and Office Depot. The discount is instantly calculated against every $300 in Visa gift card purchases in each transaction, regardless of the denomination (so three $200 Visa gift cards receive $40 in instant savings).

The offer is supposed to be limited to two rebates per customer. What that means in practice is that the register will only award two $20 rebates per transaction. It's possible to evade this limit by:

  • visiting multiple stores;
  • bringing multiple "customers" with you (each with their own authorized user card, of course);
  • visiting on multiple days;
  • having indifferent cashiers.

The math

Since variable-value gift cards can no longer be purchased with credit cards, the two obvious options are purchasing six $100 Visa gift cards or three $200 Visa gift cards. After applying the instant discount, those transactions will ring up as $595.70 and $580.85, respectively.

Metabank versus Vanilla

The key difference between the two sister chains where this deal is available, Office Depot and Office Max, is that the former offers only Vanilla-branded Visa gift cards, while Office Max offers Visa gift cards issued by MetaBank.

Vanilla-branded Visa cards can no longer be used at Walmart for PIN-based transactions exceeding $49.99 (using any four digits on the first use of the card), while MetaBank-issued Visa cards can be liquidated for their full value using the last four digits of each card's number as its PIN.

Liquidating Vanilla Visa gift cards

For those lucky enough to have access to friendly grocery stores willing to sell money orders without a second thought, there's no particular reason to privilege MetaBank over Vanilla prepaid Visa debit cards.

For others, Vanilla Visa cards are a sheer nuisance. For my own monthly Vanilla liquidation needs, I load Serve cards at Family Dollar, which is free, although faces still-poorly-understood velocity limits (multiple identical loads at the same store are rejected as fraud, but up to 3 sequential loads of different amounts seem to be allowed).

Another obvious option for those with access to the Target Prepaid REDcard is using Vanilla Visa cards to load funds to the REDcard at any Target register. Since the cards aren't personalized, however, your success will depend entirely on the willingness of your Target cashiers to oblige you (mine insist on seeing any card I use to load funds to REDcard).

Liquidating deeply-discounted Vanilla Visa gift cards

The problem with all three of the above options is that they don't increase the amount of spend you're able to manufacture during this deal, they cannibalize the time and techniques you were already using to liquidate prepaid cards. Every $200 in Vanilla Visa gift cards I load to a Serve account is $200 in OneVanilla prepaid Visa debit cards I can't load to the same card.

For me, the essential fact about this deal is the deeply-discounted nature of the $200 Visa gift cards we're able to buy, paying just $193.61 for a card with $200 in spending power.

That deep discount means you shouldn't consider yourself throttled by the free and cheap techniques I described above; save those for your more expensive manufactured spend techniques, where every penny matters to the profitability of the technique.

This deal is about volume, and even more expensive methods of liquidation are profitable under these conditions.

Evolve Money

For many people, Evolve Money lost its luster when they started charging 3% for bill payments made with prepaid debit cards.

But guess what: if you've purchased $200 Vanilla Visa gift cards at a 3.18% discount, you can liquidate an unlimited number of them through Evolve Money and turn a profit on every single one, before even taking credit card rewards into account!

Specifically, you can make $194.17 bill payments with cards you purchased for $193.61.

So if it's been a while, or if you're new to Evolve Money, I recommend searching through their biller database for any bills you're already planning to pay.

Tuition bills

Although not found in Evolve Money, many school from kindergartens to universities are willing to accept payment with debit cards, often tacking on a similar fee to Evolve's 3%. If you're able to make multiple partial payments, this is a terrific way to liquidate deeply-discounted Vanilla Visa gift cards without cannibalizing other avenues.

Tax payments

Since these are debit cards, they should qualify for discounted debit card pricing when making payments to the IRS (and find way, way more information here).


When this deal comes around, as it does a few times each year, the key to maximizing it is volume. You'll be making money even at unusually high liquidation costs, so as long as you have a plan to liquidate them, you should consider buying as many $200 Visa gift cards as possible, whether they're backed by Vanilla or MetaBank.

But remember: the logic above applies only to deeply-discounted $200 Vanilla Visa gift cards; I won't personally be buying any of the much less-discounted $100 Vanilla Visa gift cards (although $100 MetaBank-backed cards will be fair game).