My Friend Gave Me A Completely Useless AmEx Gift Card

Have you ever exchanged an American Express gift card for goods or services? Luke writes that he received one as a gift, but hasn’t been able to use the card to make any purchases. All he’s managed to do is prove the futility of giving people credit card-branded gift cards as presents. Cash, my friends. Think cash.

Luke writes:

A friend of mine gave me an American Express gift card awhile back. I
decided to use it. So I tried to use it to buy Microsoft Points
online. It rejected the transaction because the card had no address
attached to it. So I called American Express’s hotline, got
transferred to India, and had my address put on the card. And it still
didn’t work. And every time I tried to use it, a $1 hold was put on
the card to, as the CSR rep said, “Check the address on file.”

So I waited a week for these holds to vanish, and then tried to use it
at a gas station. It asked for my zip code (a lot of gas pumps do this
to prevent fraud, it seems) and when I put it in, the card was
rejected. So I took it to a restaurant. Again the card was rejected. I
find out this is because the card has a $25 hold on it from the gas
station, which seems really odd considering the card is only worth $25
and the transaction was rejected.

I’m beginning to wonder if this card is, in fact, redeemable for
products and services, or if my friend was ripped out of $25 (he has
since shifted to sending checks for Christmas instead). Help?

All we can tell you, Luke, is for the love of God, don’t take it to any Best Buys in New York City.

Are you sure there’s a balance left on the card at all? American Express is famous for charging the card for the privilege of existing. If there is money left, try the card at some sort of big-box store that doesn’t put a hold on your purchase–maybe a grocery store, Walmart, or Target.