In April, the Federal Reserve released a new interpretations of financial reform regulations that went into effect on April 1, 2013. The regulation basically required Visa and Mastercard gift cards to have the option to set up a pin number. In the past, this has been optional for them to offer this feature which few ever did. It is now required that they comply. The prepaid card industry is now scrambling to make this option available for all Visa & Mastercard gift cards. Read more here.
So what in the world does this mean to you?
Meeting minimum spends on credit cards just keep getting easier and easier every year. Thanks to so many creative financial tools available for all the “smart cookies” out there, minimum spends are no longer an obstacle for the average person!
If you didn’t know already, buying Visa/Mastercard gift cards is a great way to meet a minimum spend on a newly opening credit card in order to receive the nice bonus quickly. Visa and Mastercard gift cards can also be used to earn miles and points if the earn equation makes sense including the purchase fees. Or if there is a category bonus on a credit card that you are trying to achieve, Visa/Mastercard gift cards can be a great option. You can also use them to increase spending on a credit card that gives a bonus for a certain threshold of spending per year. Once you purchase the Visa/Mastercard gift card there are now many ways to use the funds loaded onto that card with the new PIN number option available.
So what can you do with a Visa or Mastercard that has a PIN number
Having a PIN number (Personal Identification Number) on a Visa or Mastercard gift card opens up several options that weren’t previously available that benefit the mile/point collector.
- Cash Back: Get cash back with you PIN number at various locations like a grocery store for example. Major grocery store chains usually allow up to $200 per transaction. Keep in mind too that your Visa/Mastercard will treat this as a cash advance and each card will allow a certain amount per day, typically $500 max. (Note: Not all cards allow this but reportedly some work, You must test this option out on each card yourself)
- Money Orders: You can buy money orders at Wal-Mart, USPS, grocery stores or other locations. To a purchase a Money Order you need cash or a debit card or card with a PIN number such as a Visa/Mastercard gift card. Then you can deposit those into your local bank or pay bills you can’t pay with your credit card.
- Pre-Paid Cards: You can buy pre-paid cards from stores which require cash or a debit card and don’t take a credit card.
- Taxes: You can pay your state and federal taxes with a Visa/Mastercard gift card online because it has a PIN number and can be use as a debit card. This enables you to earn miles/points without a large fee.
- American Express Bluebird: Load your American Express Bluebird at Wal-Mart. You can then pay bills or your mortgage with the Bluebird bill pay feature.
- Cash Advance: You can take a Visa or Mastercard into your local bank and ask for a cash advance on your card. In my experience, each card has a certain amount you can advance per day. I have done it several times but never for more than $500 a day.
What you can’t do with a Visa or Mastercard gift card
- You still can not get cash from a ATM.
The uses listed above for a Visa/Mastercard gift card are all very legal ways of transferring money through one financial product (your designated credit card) to another (the Visa/Mastercard) and then back to your bank account. There is nothing wrong with using any of these methods described above, that’s why these options are all available. I would caution not to over do it on any one credit card and mix regular purchases in with any large purchases. Pay your credit card as soon as your purchases become a balance. I pay mind weekly and never leave any balance to be report to the credit bureau at the end of the payment cycle.
Like I said before, only the “smart cookies” out there will know about and use these “creative tools” to effectively earn a free flight or a free vacation somewhere. Others will look at this strategy as just plain craziness. If you are like me and “addicted” to travel, these strategies don’t seem crazy at all – there pure genius!
Not all Visa and MasterCard gift cards currently let you use a PIN. Some lenders are still working to put this option in place. Be sure to test a small denomination gift card before you buy a large value card. I am just beginning to play around with different cards myself this month as I was gone out of the country last month when this news hit. I’ll certainly be updating you all with my findings. In the mean time, check out this thread that has also started on FlyerTalk discussing all the many cards that work or don’t work yet with pins and more information on this fun topic.