How to Safely Buy Gift Cards on eBay: 13 Tips For Safer Shopping

buy gift cards on ebay safely


You may wonder why people buy gift cards on eBay when they can pick them up at stores or order them online. The fact is you can save 5 percent, 15 percent or more than 50% through the popular online auction site. However, safely purchasing cards on eBay requires a bit of knowledge as to how the process works. We've compiled 13 answers to the most commonly asked questions about buying gift cards on eBay.

1. How can people afford to sell gift cards for less than face value?
Some sellers receive cards they can't use or don't want and would prefer the cash. Others purchase gift cards in bulk to receive a discount, so if they buy a $100 gift card for $80 and sell it for $90, they make a $10 profit. Others are professional eBay sellers who handle transactions for people who have one or two cards to sell.

2. What information should be listed in the ad?
Sellers should indicate the gift card's value, expiration date, merchant name and web site (for researching where the card can be used) and any restrictions or fees. The ad should NOT list the card numberas this allows many cards to be used online. Scammers who see that number will deplete the balance in a flash and you'll end up with an empty card.

3. What's the most expensive card I should buy?
eBay doesn't allow the sale of cards that exceed $500.  Any such may be fraudulent or the sellers are simply unaware of this limit. eBay  can yank these auctions off their site at any time. If you've already purchased the card, you could be left hanging in the wind for a lot of money.

4. How do I know a seller is reputable?
The advantage of eBay shopping is you can read feedback about sellers left by previous buyers. Look for high-feedback ratings with at least a 90- to 95-percent positive rating. Read the negatives and avoid sellers with feedback left by buyers who received gift cards without a balance. You may want to also avoid new sellers with no proven track record.

5. What seller feedback can I trust?
Purchasing from an eBay seller with positive feedback isn't necessarily a fail safe as it's easy for scam artists to hack into a dormant seller's account. The seller then can build a strong feedback history by having other fraudulent sellers buy $0.01 items and register positive feedback. This is a very quick and inexpensive way for them to build up credibility. In some instances, the buyer and seller are the same person. Also, honest buyers may leave positive feedback before realizing they've been cheated, particularly in the case of credit card fraud when problems may take a while to show up.

6. What shipping costs should I anticipate?
gift card shipping fees shouldn't exceed $1. Sellers charging more are using shipping costs to pay eBay fees or padding their profit.

7. What does "pre-sale item" mean?
This means a seller won't order a card until after you pay. The listing also may indicate a buyer won't receive the card until at least 45 days. eBay requires a seller have the card in hand and ready to ship, so this type of sale is not allowed. In addition, because 45 days isPayPal's limit for filing a complaint for un-received items, you'll likely end up paying for a card that never appears.

8. What is PayPal?
PayPal allows you to make payments and money transfers through the Internet. Basically, PayPal is similar to an escrow account in that it acts as the middleman holder of money. It is an electronic alternative to traditional paper payment methods such as checks and money orders. You can fund your PayPal account with a credit card or electronic debits from your bank account. Your best bet, however, is to fund your account with a credit card (not debit card) as this offers you more buyer protection.

eBay requires all gift cards be purchased using PayPal. It's best to never buy a high-dollar item from sellers who don't accept PayPal or sellers who demand payment by cash, money order or Western Union. Report these sellers to eBay immediately.

9. Should I buy multiple cards from a seller at the same time?
To combat scams, eBay only allows sellers to auction one card per week. Sellers also may not include multiple cards in the same listing. Again, the seller may not be aware of these rules, but why take a chance?

10. What do I do if I receive an empty card?
Call the 1-800 number listed on the back of the card to verify the last-transaction date. Contact the seller immediately via the eBay messaging system and send them this information, allowing at least one business day for a response. If you don't hear back, report the seller to eBay and leave a negative feedback post on that seller's account.

11. What if I don't receive a card within the specified shipping time?
Five to10 days is considered a reasonable amount of time for shipping. If you don't receive your card within that time period, contact the seller using the eBay message system. If you don't receive a response, you've been scammed, so report the seller to eBay, post a negative feedback and buy from other sellers in the future.

12. Can I get my money back from fraudulent sales?
Contact your credit card company and request a charge-back via a claim of non-receipt, as per the card's consumer protection plan. This is why we recommend you fund your PayPal account with a credit card.

13. Can I get my money back if I didn't use a credit card for PayPal?
You can file a PayPal non-receipt claim within 45 days. If you receive a ruling in your favor, PayPal must attempt to collect from the seller. Scammers likely will have closed their PayPal account and disappeared. In this case, you'll receive nothing.