Updated on 9/25/2023 with information from American Express regarding usage issues for Amex gift cards
Trying to use a Mastercard, Visa, or Amex Gift Card on Amazon can cause several headaches. First, simply registering the card as a payment method can be tricky. Amazon requires a name and billing address to register a credit card as a means of payment. Since many gift cards aren’t personalized to you, there is no name or zip code to enter, and Amazon won’t be able to validate the card.
Even if you get through that first hurdle, Mastercard, Visa or Amex gift cards aren’t well-suited to online purchasing. Since Amazon doesn’t allow you to split a purchase among multiple cards, if your gift card is worth $50 and your order is $70, there’s no way to make up the difference, and your transaction will simply be declined. On the flip side, if your order is $47, you’ll be left with a $3 balance on your gift card, which isn’t useful for anything.
However, there are a couple of tricks that will make using a gift card on Amazon a breeze. In fact, there’s probably no better place to use one of these cards than Amazon. Here’s what you need to know.
[EDITOR'S NOTE 9/25/2023: Back in June I received confirmation from American Express that Amex gift cards are "temporarily unavailable" for use on Amazon due to "technical upgrades". Unfortunately, Amex gift cards still can not be used to transfer balances to Amazon. I reached out again to Amex and a spokesperson was not able to provide an ETA on when their gift cards will be usable again.]
1. Register your Mastercard, Visa, or Amex gift card with the issuing bank
If your card doesn’t already have your name and zip code associated with it, you’ll need to do that through the financial institution that issued the card. Sometimes there will be a registration URL on the back of the card. If not, look for the name of the institution on the card and then Google “[institution name] gift card registration”. That should get you to the right site. If it's an Amex gift card, use this link. Once there, you’ll be asked to verify the card info, and then you’ll have the option of registering the card with your name and address. This is also a good time to confirm the available balance.
2. Add your gift card as a payment method on Amazon
Next, go to Amazon.com and click on the Account & Lists drop-down (in the drop-down select Account) to go to Your Account.
Click on the "Your payments" box and then "Add a payment method" to add your gift card as a new payment source.
3. Swap your Mastercard, Visa, or Amex gift card for an Amazon gift card
At this point, you could start using your Mastercard, Visa, or Amex for purchases on Amazon. The problem is, though, that Amazon doesn’t let you divide purchases among multiple cards. So if you have a $30 gift card, you can’t make purchases for more than $30. And if you make a purchase for less, you’ll be stuck with a small remaining balance that is even more difficult to use.
The trick to get around this is to use your Mastercard, Visa, or Amex gift card to buy an Amazon gift card. With Amazon gift cards, the full amount can be credited to your purchase, and any additional funds required can be paid with your regular credit card.
On the next screen, enter the balance on your Mastercard, Visa, or Amex gift card in the "Other" box and click the "Buy Now" button. (If you don’t know it, you can get the remaining balance from the issuing institution – see Step #1 above.) Select the gift card you added in Step #2 as the Payment method.
Assuming you properly registered your card and entered the correct balance amount, the transaction should go through, and you will see the full amount reflected in your Amazon Gift Card Balance. Now, you're all set, and when you make a purchase, your gift card balance will be applied automatically until it’s gone. Try it for yourself.
[Image credit: Josh Kirschner/Techlicious, American Express, Mastercard, Visa]