Friday, April 3, 2015

Buy Money Orders at Western Union with Visa Gift Cards

I've talked about buying money orders with Visa Gift Cards at Pathmark before.  My local Pathmark has a Western Union area that sells money orders and you can pay with cash or debit cards.  Visa gift cards count as debit cards.  Your pin does not need to be set for One Vanilla or Metabank visa gift cards is the last 4 digits of the card number on the front.

The fee is $0.99 for up to a $1,000 money order and you can use two Visa Gift Cards to pay for one money order (split payment). There is a $1 fee for each debit card.  Total fees are $3.

The same holds true for every Western Union.  The same fee structure and debit cards allowed and visa gift cards count as debit cards.  I happen to work within 3 blocks of three Western Unions.  Gotta love the Bronx!

There is one catch:  Just like everything else we do, it is cashier/store/manager dependent.  The person may feel uncomfortable with a Visa Gift Card and say that only "real" debit cards are allowed.  This happened at my local Pathmark.  Move on to the next Western Union!

Who Cares!? Me, of course, and You should too!

You can buy Visa Gift Cards at stores that count as grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations.  If you have a credit card that gives you a bonus at these categories, you can make some nice change. 

1) The American Express Blue Preferred pays 6% cashback on any grocery store purchases up to $6,000 a year of purchases with an annual fee of $75.  If you buy $1,000 of groceries (aka 2 $500 Visa Gift Cards), there is an activation fee of $10-$12.  $3 fee from Western Union.  American Express will pay you $60 in rewards!  That's $45-$47 profit for every $1,000 you buy.

Blue preferred has an increased sign up bonus to $200 - that's almost 3 years of annual fees covered.

2) American Express "Old" Blue Cash pays 5% cashback at gas stations, grocery stores and certain pharmacies, up to $50,000 a year of spending.   The first $6,500 of the year pays 1% and the next $43,500 pays 5%.  You just about break even for the first $6,500.  The next $43,500 will net you about 4% cashback after fees which is about $1,700 of profit for the year.  Not too shabby!

Oren's Pearls:
1) Try to pay for the fee with cash, you will avoid asking for a money order of $999.01 or $499.01, which sounds strange and might make the cashier suspicious.  You want everything to be smooth.

2) Find a local bank which accepts money orders and exclusively use them.  Some banks will shut you down for depositing too many money orders (afraid of money laundering).  You don't need your regular bank account shut down.

3) If you buy $3,000 or more of money orders at once or over the course of one day, Western Union is required to fill out a Patriot Act form which reports the money order to the IRS. Think tortoise, slow and steady wins the race!

4) Other stores in your area (big box and mom and pop stores) may have a Western Union or another money order/bill pay services that accept visa gift cards.  Check it out when you go in anyways.  Walmart is the most well known one, but it is far from my house so I very rarely go there.