Not long after writing about PayPal limiting my eBay gift card usage, I noticed a cash advance fee post to my Barclaycard Arrival+. After looking through my recent purchases, there was a single one that didn’t earn any rewards and must have been considered a cash advance. That item was a $144 purchase of eBay gift cards from GiftCardMall on eBay, through PayPal ($75 eBay gift cards were on sale for $72, limit 2). I’ve heard about various actions such as loading Serve or buying Amex Gift Cards triggering cash advances before, but never on a Barclay card and never for a retail gift card purchase. I’ll give some more details about my experience below and explain how you can prevent this from happening to you.
On 4/13, GiftCardMall had a sale on physical eBay gift cards ($75 value for $72) and I purchased the limit of 2 for $144. I’ve purchased gift cards from GiftCardMall on eBay in the past, but never on my Arrival+ card. The sale went through normally and posted to my credit card the next day (4/14).
The Cash Advance Fee
When the $144 charge posted, a $10 charge with a description of “CASH ADVANCE FEE” also posted. Luckily I check my credit card activity online fairly frequently, and noticed in less than a day. Cash advances start charging interest immediately and assuming I can’t get the charge reversed, every day I wait to pay it off will accrue interest even before my statement posts. I knew what charge triggered the cash advance because it was the only one on my account that didn’t give any rewards. Arrival+ “miles” earned are able to be used immediately after the charges post to the card, and the $144 charge from GiftCardMall was the only one without a number listed under “Rewards” on my account page. Barclay decided that the merchant “PP *GIFTCARDMAL” falls into a “QUASI CASH – MERCHANT” category and qualifies as a cash advance.
Customer Service (or lack thereof)
After noticing the charge, I called the number on the back of my card to find out why that transaction posted as a cash advance instead of a regular purchase. The barclay customer service rep was no help and blamed PayPal for running it through as a cash transaction. Since I’ve read a decent amount about cash advance fees since the topic comes up often when talking about credit card churning, I know it’s the credit card company that decides whether or not a transaction is a cash advance, not the merchant, but I chose not to debate this with the CS rep. Afterwards, I did call PayPal to explain my dilemma and they verified on their end that they ran that transaction just like any other purchase on eBay and have no control over what the credit card company considers a cash advance.
I called barclay again to try talking to a different representative, and while this one was slightly more helpful, I’m still not any closer to getting my money back. This rep understood that it was barclay’s decision whether or not to consider a charge a cash advance, but after putting me on hold for ~10 minutes, went with the argument that all gift cards can be considered cash equivalents and they have no way to change the charge from a cash advance to a regular purchase. Even after asking politely to have the fee waived this one time because I had no way of knowing this transaction would be considered a cash advance, I was told they never waive cash advance fees regardless of the circumstances. While that’s hard to believe, I decided not to push it further and asked to be transferred to their credit department to lower my cash advance limit.
This Is Partially My Fault
I’ve been meaning to lower my cash advance limit on my Arrival+ for a while and even have a sticky note on my desk from a week ago reminding me to do so, but I’ve put it off up to this point. I wasn’t in a rush to do it because my primary motivation for lowering the limit was to use the card to fund a bank account opening. The last thing I expected was to be charged a cash advance fee for buying an eBay gift card. Whoops? After being transferred to barclay’s credit department, I was able to lower my cash advance limit to $1, so this problem won’t ever happen again (at least on this card).
Don’t Let This Happen To You!
If you don’t ever plan to use the cash advance feature of your credit card (and you probably never should considering the fees unless there’s a crazy emergency), I recommend lowering your cash advance fees to $0. Calling the number on the back of the card will work for most credit card companies, but I’ve heard stories of several barclay reps claiming they can’t do it. You can call their credit department directly though at (866) 408-4064 and the person who picks up should be able to help you with no issue. If your credit card allows you to send a Secure Message (Chase for example), you can request lowering your limit through a message and never have to pick up the phone.
I may call again and at least try to have the $10 fee waived (I kind of doubt that they “never” do it), or possibly look into reversing the charge through PayPal, but I don’t think that will be possible. I haven’t pulled out my credit card agreement for the Arrival+ yet, but I might dive into my files and check out what it says about cash advances. At the end of the day, I can chalk this up as a loss of $10 (plus some change in interest) and move on to the next deal. I’ve learned my lesson of putting off lowering cash advance fees, even if I only plan on making seemingly harmless purchases. I really like my Arrival+ card because it effectively offers 2.2% back everywhere, but this event will definitely be taken into consideration when I decide whether or not to renew it for the $89 annual fee later this year…