What to do with a bunch of low-value Visa gift cards

Okay, so, for various reasons I have a bunch of low value ($3 - $8) remainders on a bunch of Visa gift cards. They work like real credit cards.

What can I do with these with a minimum of clerk-related hassle (do places even let you put $3.17 on one card, $6.59 on another) but also with a minimum of waste?

Stuff I’ve tried:

  • I tried just putting in the exact amount of gas on the card but you can’t pay at the pump, and I really didn’t want to go in to the clerk for 5 different transactions.

  • I can’t add money to the cards. So I can’t increase what’s in there to make a major purchase online or something.

  • There seems to be no way to transfer balances between cards or to get a refund as a check.

Any ideas?

Can’t you just buy something for, say $20 and keep handing over your $3 and $8 cards till you’re out of them, and make up the difference in cash?

Aren’t they like gift cards? I had a couple of Barnes & Noble gift cards after Christmas that each had a few bucks on them, and I just used them all up at once on a DVD set. I just handed them to the clerk one at a time. “Okay, $7.53, 5.23, 11.75… and now you owe me $12.35.”
It was pretty easy.

I tend to hold on to low-value gift cards for smaller purchases. They’re really good for small stuff at the grocery store, like if you just need a quart of milk and a loaf of bread. These are particularly useful if you need stuff a day or two before payday and you need or want to hold on to your cash for other things.

IIRC, most merchants allow you to use multiple cards these days. The register just counts down the balance as you pay. What with the popularity of gift cards, merchants are now set up to handle these transactions more easily.

Just keep track of things, because some gift cards charge a monthly fee if you don’t use the card and that can easily spend down the balance.


Well, that’s the thing. Last time I tried to use multiple credit cards on one transaction (this was a few years ago), Target wouldn’t let me do it. In that case it was when applying for the store credit card, getting some ridiculously low limit, and wanting to make a very large purchase.

They don’t work like gift cards, they work like credit cards. In other words, they have to be put through as individual transactions to get approved or rejected; they don’t work like store gift cards where they just get scanned and the balance is available to the clerk.

Yeah, I can make small purchases on them but I’d rather take advantage of the whole balance. Any online retailers that allow you to use multiple cards like this?

It is true that some merchants won’t let your use cards like that, but others will. Take them shopping and ask the clerk if they don’t mind you doing that. In about half the stores you will get an OK.

So, to reiterate, you are making a $25 purchase, just start handing them cards until them run out.

Something like iTunes could be useful solution, where each song is 99 cents.

Some cash registers can’t handle doing multiple card transactions for the same purchase. Wal Mart is particularly inept at this, based on the volume of calls I get from people trying to shop there. If the store can’t do multiple card purchases then pay the balance first in cash and use the card as the last portion of the transaction after the cash is processed. I’ve advised this before here and been told that the registers will know how much is on the card, but that has not been my experience especially for the cards that are run as credit transactions.

I haven’t encountered any, but one thing to watch out for with online merchants is the test auth. They will authorize the card for $1 to make sure it’s real then try to auth the full amount. So if you have $8 on the card they’ll authorize $1 and then try to authorize $8, which will decline because you now only have $7 available.

It sounds like it’s time to buy your purchases individually and use a card for each purchase, if their going to pull that crap. It may also get them in trouble with your state attorney general, buy refusing to use up or transfer all these little amounts on cards.

Can you transfer them to a PayPal account?

The crappy part is that since Visa charges a fee to the merchant for each transaction, using a bunch of Visa cards like this may actually net the store a loss on the purchase. :frowning:

I would just use them on individual purchases. Use up the card and then pay the remaining balance in cash. This happened to me at the grocery store. I thought I had $50 available on my credit card but it only had like $35 and the clerk let me pay the remaining balance in cash.

It’s the cashiers who are so fabulously inept. It’s really easy to do, but the thing is that just like a credit card, we have NO IDEA how much is on that card of yours. So you need to tell us how much is on it. “About 8 bucks” doesn’t work. If you tell me that there’s $4.54 on it, I have you swipe the card, and then I press “TOTAL”-4-5-4-“CREDIT” and the machine takes $4.54 off the total. That’s it.

But in reality, people either have no idea how much money is on the card, or have 2 or 3 and then forget which ones they’ve used, so get completely confused when the card gets declined.

Would it be possible to take them to a bank that issues those kinds of cards and get the balances consolidated all on one card? I’ve never used one, so I don’t know how they work.

Don’t most Visa gift card issuers have a toll-free number to check balances? If you can do that, call and write the balance on the card so you’ll know how much is left.


  1. Go to Target
  2. Buy one gift card for the balance on your biggest Visa gift card
  3. Get back in line and add to the existing Target gift card the amount of your next smaller Visa gift card
  4. Repeat until you are out of cards
  5. Profit!

Ooh, Manny, that’s a good idea!

Yes, I do know the exact balance of all the cards.

Nah, I’m fairly sure Visa et al charge a percentage rather than a flat fee. 2% is 2% is 2%

Still, it makes a good point. Sometime you can get a discount at independant retailers if you pay by check/cash rather than with a credit card.

When I worked at Home Depot the POS system would allow up to eight separate credit cards for one transaction. I’d imagine other retailers can do similar. I guess your the reason it would take that many. If I was running a business and someone actually needed to use eight credit cards I’d be a bit skeptical.

Serves the dirty bastard right in some cases. I had a gift card from the local mall that denied your transaction if you charged more than was left on the gift card. So if you had $7.43 left on your card, you had to go around and find something that was as close to $7.43 without going over as you could. They pocketed whatever you couldn’t spend. :mad: