Where to Buy Money Orders and Earn Miles

There have been plenty of opportunities to generate lots of miles, ‘tricks’ if you will, over time — like buying savings bonus with a credit card from the federal government, buying travelers checks from AAA, and buying coins from the US mint (see among other posts here, here, and here).

But there have never been as many – or as complicated – tricks as you are today. People try to “buy money with money” and earn points in the process, which keeping costs as low as possible.

Thanks to the Durbin Amendment to Dodd-Frank financial reform, we’ve mostly seen the end of mileage-earning debit cards… but we’ve also seen:

  • The costs to a bank to offer traditional accounts rise (and offsetting profit opportunities on those accounts fall)
  • Which leaves more people outside of traditional banking
  • And more non-banking products rise up to meet the new demand
  • Especially ones which find a way around the price caps imposed by the Durbin amendment.

All a fascinating public policy process for those studying financial markets.

But with new products, and new complications, also come mileage opportunities. So lots of gift cards you buy, which you then turn into a negotiable financial instrument such as by purchasing money orders when those gift cards can be used as debit cards.

PointChaser runs down a list of places that you can buy money orders at using gift cards as debit cards.

As with all of these things, policies change and things are easy until they aren’t. It certainly looks squirrely when you are buying a money order with a gift card that doesn’t have your name on it. And another trend — along with lower debit card interchange fees — is financial fraud and the government’s crackdown on that. Stores are worried about gift cards purchased either with stolen credit cards or for money laundering. Eventually they look askance. Walmart has been popular because they’ve had machines that will sell you financial instruments, though not all stores have them and they don’t take all debit cards.

The one places I would caveat PointChaser’s advice is that the US Postal Service seems to code money orders as cash advance transactions. Some cards, like when I used to use MyVanilla Debit, would allow for the purchase of money orders as a cash advance (just as they allowed cash advances). But many cards will not permit this.

This get easy, then they get hard, the world gets more complicated and that creates opportunities for arbitrage — and for miles. And that’s what keeps things interesting!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. IMHO, Chris Dodd and Bawney Fwank have done far more to hurt the financial institutions of this country than help. Isn’t there some way that mileage-earning debit cards can return? I mean – can’t a legislator simply update that awful law? Gary, do you foresee this ever? I can’t imagine that this is set in stone forever.

  2. @Nick, “Bawney Frank” What a pathetic way to state your displeasure with someone’s politics.

    @Gary, Point Chaser’s post is really a waste of time. Besides giving out wrong information, the places listed are fairly obvious. The best advice is to have people try it out for themselves at their local stores. It’s not that hard, and they may discover a secret gem. When too much information is given out, e.g. specific stores, you get the lazy&entitled making a fuss if they get denied. I’m sure Walmarts tightening of policies is due to people not being savvy or judicious in their use of “debit” cards.

  3. @xyz, I never called anyone Bawney Frank, I said Bawney FWANK!

    PS – Since we have little or no voice in our government anymore, all that is left is sarcasm (sorry if I offended you).

  4. @Nick, there’s a word to describe making fun of gay people, and it’s not sarcasm. It says a whole lot more about you than it does about your dissatisfaction with the government.

  5. @xyz – what evidence do you have he was making fun of Frank being gay? You owe him an apology.

    However, I agree with you 100% on your point about Point Chaser’s post – it is horrid. Several of the techniques she hasn’t even personally tried. Gary you get a lot of flack here, a lot of times not justified. But for the love of God please pay more attention before you link to a useless post like this.

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