Over the past month or so, ebay has changed numerous rules that make flipping gift cards on ebay a little harder, but the good news is that it isn’t dead yet. First, ebay added back the limit on using ebay gift cards by restricting everyone to $2,000 per rolling 60 days. There was a brief period while ebay gift cards were transitioned over from PayPal to ebay where you could go wild and use as much as possible, but it probably isn’t a big surprise that the old rule (although a little different) returned. Next, the terms and conditions on many popular shopping portals began restricting cash back on the purchase of ANY kind of gift cards rather than the older restriction that only applied to ebay branded gift cards. Finally, ebay dropped a bigger hammer down without any warning and restricted the use of ebay gift cards for purchasing any kind of gift card! Luckily they have turned this rule off until October 13th to allow people to empty out their gift cards, so be sure to burn any you are still holding on to soon.
Ebay definitely seems to be cracking down on gift card reselling, but I would guess that most of it has to do with fraud rather than simply trying to limit people like us. Despite the negative changes, there is still some opportunity to be had, especially if your main goal is increasing credit card spend for little or no cost. In fact, on my ebay gc arbitrage tool today, it’s possible to generate over $1,500 worth of spend for less than $10 without even counting the credit card points, miles, or cashback!
I’ll break down the impact of the new restrictions below and go into more detail on the $1,500 spend example I just mentioned.
New Restriction #1 – Max of $2,000 in Ebay Gift Cards Can Be Used per 60 Days
This replaced the old rule of $5,000 per 180 days and actually increased the limit slightly when averaged out, but because of restriction #3, it doesn’t actually mean a whole lot at this point. For that reason, I’m not going to go into any more detail on this point.
New Restriction #2 – Some Shopping Portals Restrict Purchases of ANY Gift Card
Previously, it was possible to get 1-2% (and sometimes more!) back on all non-ebay branded gift card purchases from just about any shopping portal out there. Even most miles and points shopping portals would reward 1 airline mile per dollar spent. Even though a percent or two may seem small, with a large amount of quantity it makes a huge difference in the final cash profit or number of miles earned.
Portals without New Restriction (at Time of Writing)
TopCashBack (nothing in the terms yet, so be sure to request payment if it doesn’t track)
These two portals below I haven’t used personally, but as far as I can tell, non-ebay branded gift cards should pay out:
Giving Assistant (not specifically excluded, but does have a vague catch-all exclusion of “Cash back in NOT available … when seller fees are $0.00.“)
Mr. Rebates (but you can’t file a claim if it doesn’t track)
Portals with New Restrictions
“Cash back not valid on purchases of electronics, computers/tablets & accessories, cell phones & accessories, cameras, video games, automobiles, real estate, gift cards, bullion, coins and money, & select business & industrial equipment.”
Ebates (Not specifically excluded, but the entire “Gift Cards & Coupons” category that gift cards fall under has been removed)
iConsumer (limit of $20 in cash back per month from ebay anyway)
“CashBack is typically NOT available on the purchase of Gift Cards. Please review the Gift Cards category for a list of merchants that offer this benefit and confirm with individual brands’ Known Exceptions for additional details.”
“Cash Back is not available within the following categories: eBay Motors (including Vehicles, Motorcycles, Boats, and Powersports; excluding Parts & Accessories), any form of Real Estate, all Gift Cards, Bullion, Computers/Tablets, and Heavy Equipment within the Business & Industrial category.”
Other “Portals” Worth Mentioning
Splender and most airline/hotel portals that run on the same back-end Cartera system such as American Airlines and Hilton.
These portals removed ebay completely which may or may not be related to the new gift card language showing up on other portals, as this has happened in the past before coming back at a later date. If ebay returns as an option, be sure to read the fine print before jumping into a bunch of gift card purchases.
Your Favorite Ebay Affiliate!
As far as I know, non-ebay branded gift cards are still paying out for standard affiliate links and just about any blogger that talks about ebay (myself included) probably has an affiliate link and would appreciate anyone who uses it. I believe the best way to make money from the blog is by helping you the reader at the same time, so all of my links can be found on the Ebay Gift Card Arbitrage Opportunities page that looks for the best arbitrage deals and updates automatically. If you choose to click through my links (or any other bloggers you like!) to make the purchase instead of using a shopping portal, I’m sure it would be much appreciated.
New Restriction #3 – Ebay Gift Cards Can’t Be Used to Purchase Other Gift Cards
This new restriction definitely hurts the most, but luckily they retroactively disabled it until October 13th due to a number of complaints from people inside and outside of the reselling/miles and points games. While the first restriction was just a throttle that limited how much volume you could flip, this one flat out cuts 3%+ off of pretty much every opportunity which is significant.
Previously, it was fairly easy to find a bonus spending category on a credit card, such as 5x on Office Supply stores, that could be used towards the purchase of ebay gift cards, which could then be turned into other gift cards and sold for a small profit. Instead of using something like a standard 2% cash back card, this extra step of using ebay gift cards first made it much easier to find profitable flips. Another awesome opportunity aside from office supply stores was grocery stores because many of them offered fuel rewards or an extra % back on all purchases that added up to even more savings! Unfortunately it won’t be possible to take advantage of these anymore once October 13th comes and goes.
If ebay is truly trying to limit people flipping gift cards directly, it probably won’t be long until ebay stops giving out ebay bucks on all gift card purchases. They already have this restriction on ebay branded cards and it wouldn’t surprise me if it extended further by the end of the year. One slightly less harmful change would be to simply prevent gift cards from triggering increased ebay bucks promotions that increase the standard from 2% up to 6-10%. Another possibility would be to restrict ebay bucks from being used on gift cards which would limit their utility pretty heavily.
UPDATE: Starting October 1, 2016, Ebay Bucks will no longer be earned on gift card purchases!
Beyond that, I’m not sure what else they could even do without making it extremely inconvenient for even regular consumers to purchase these discount gift cards. This is good for anyone who continues to flip gift cards for profit and points.
On the bright side, the world of gift card exchanges rely heavily on supply and demand to set both their buy and sell prices on most gift cards. Before gift card arbitrage really caught on in the miles and points community, pretty much all gas gift cards could be sold for over 90%, Gap cards sold for 85%+, and numerous other brands were worth 10-15% higher across the board. I don’t have any reason to say that demand for these various brands’ gift cards have changed (people buying the cards from the exchanges), so these prices are almost entirely set by the changing volume of people selling the cards to the exchanges.
If any of these new restrictions stop people from flipping gift cards or even just reduce the volume, it’s possible some of the brand’s prices start to creep back up and open up more opportunity. It might take a while, but I’m pretty confident gift card arbitrage as a whole (ebay or not) will stick around in some form almost indefinitely.
Let’s look at a current example that will let you generate ~$1,500 in spend for very little cost (and possibly a profit!) despite the latest restrictions.
$1,500 In Spend For Little to No Cost
Taking a look at the Gift Card Arbitrage Opportunity page, I can see 3 profitable flips with the default settings of 2% ebay bucks, 2% payment (used to be 5%), and 1% shopping portal:
UPDATE, IMPORTANT NOTE: The two Best Buy deals shown above and discussed below have an important caveat in that the bonus code is on a separate gift card code that comes with an expiration! You will NOT be able to sell this portion of the gift card to the exchanges, so take that into account when calculating the profit. The numbers below made the assumption that you could sell the bonus code.
The first two ebay deals are sold digitally by PayPal Digital Gifts and have a limit of 5 per person, while the next one is a physical gas card sold by SVM with a limit of 3 per person. If we purchase all 13 cards available to us (and PayPal actually lets us check out…), the total cost out of pocket is $1,526.
On top of that is the 2% in ebay bucks which comes out to $30.52.
Additionally, if TopCashBack pays out at it’s current rate of 0.9%, that adds an additional $13.73 back in cash.
Before we take into account the payment method, we’re currently sitting at a net loss of $4.75! It’s tough to beat that low 0.3% expense of generating spend if you’re into that kind of thing.
Now let’s look at the different options for payment method assuming the ebay gift card restriction is already in place. The baseline I like to always start with is a typical 2% cash back credit card such as the Citi DoubleCash. If we’re just going for profit and this is our best option, we’ll end up with $30.52 back on the credit card for a total profit of $25.77.
If our goal is to generate travel points, than just about any card at 1x will generate 1,526 miles/points for the cost mentioned of $4.75. That comes out to a cost of 0.3 cents per point which can be a great deal for UR, SPG, and many other travel currencies.
If you are currently meeting a minimum spend requirement on a signup bonus, the return gets ridiculous! Most credit card signup bonuses are worth 20-50% of the spend required, so that could end up with a net profit of $300-750+ depending on how you decide to value the cash/points earned. This of course only applies if you aren’t able to meet the minimum spend in a different way, because otherwise it probably makes sense to value it at the point/mile level one paragraph up.
This isn’t even mentioning various credit card bonuses such as the Chase Ink+ that is currently paying out 5x on all paypal digital gifts purchases which make the cost per point go WAY down.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of different ways to play with ebay gift card arbitrage and the best way will come down to your own priorities. Some people may even be interested in the other 2 gift cards pictured above that are showing a small 0.4% loss with the default settings. Someone who needs to generate a few extra miles/points or needs help meeting a minimum spend could definitely benefit from flipping those cards as well at the fairly low cost.
Best of luck out there everyone and be sure to strike while the iron is still warm!