Middle Age Miles

MS DPs – Episode 8 – $500 VGC from Kroger

manufactured spend ms data points dp visa gift card vgc us bank usbank kroger amex gold liquidate doxo doxoplus
[IMPORTANT UPDATE as of 8/24/2019 – This article talks about successful online liquidation for US Bank VGCs for low fees using the DoxoPlus subscription feature at Doxo.com. At this time, these cards are no longer working with Doxo. If you purchase US Bank-issued GCs at Kroger, please be aware that you will probably need an alternative liquidation method. However, the MS method discussed in this article can still be useful with liquidation through Bravo at a 2% fee.

We have added a more comprehensive update article on Middle Age Miles, which you can access here: Update to MS DP Episode 8 – Doxo No Longer Working to Liquidate US Bank VGCs (August 26, 2019).]

In Episode 8 of our Manufactured Spend Data Points (MS DPs) series, we’ll review our purchase of a $500 Visa Gift Card (VGC) that we purchased from Kroger on July 27.

We’ve been excited to get to this episode in our MS DP series, as this has been the best deal we’ve discovered so far. (And it’s funny that the 8th episode of our series is running on 8/8!)

As always, remember that we’re total rookies when it comes to manufactured spend (MS), and we’re sharing experience far more than expertise in this series – including our own mistakes! The trial-and-error process is a huge part of the MS learning experience. Also, remember that we’re exploring online liquidation methods, as we know many people prefer doing this online rather than using methods that require an in-person visit to a store.


  • Total purchase price = $505.95
    • GC value: $500
    • Purchase fee: $5.95
    • Note that we added some grocery items to our GC purchase
  • Rewards from cards, offers and/or portals
    • Dosh, 5% with a $10 cap = $10
    • Paid with Amex Gold earning 4x at supermarkets = 2,024 Membership Rewards (MR) points
      • Worth about $30.36 at our baseline value of 1.5 cents per MR point
  • Acquisition summary for this card:
    • Acquired $500 VGC
    • Net cost = $495.95 (considering fee and Dosh cash back)
    • Points earned = 2,024 MR points, worth about $30.36
  • We’re ahead by about $34.41, pre-liquidation
  • VGC characteristics:
    • Variable-load VGC with $500 max load
    • Issuer: US Bank
    • Can be registered? Yes (but we didn’t see a way to set up a PIN)
    • Website: www. prepaidgiftbalance.com
    • Card was registered prior to any attempted use

Other questions related to acquisition:

No problem with Amex MR points posting, right? Correct. Everything looks to be in order on the MR-earning side. Here’s a screenshot of the relevant entry from our Amex online account:

Haven’t people had problems with GCs issued by US Bank in the past? Yes, US Bank-issued GCs have been the subject of some fraud. There is a good article by Grant at Travel With Grant here, and another by Sam at Milenomics here. We don’t know the extent to which hacking of US Bank GCs may still be an issue today. We would say to inspect the packaging of each card you purchase carefully before buying, and perhaps stay away entirely if you’re in a hot area for fraud mentioned in the articles, like certain parts of southern California.


Given that this was a new type of GC that we hadn’t experimented with before, we tried a payment to a Citi credit card account using Doxo. We discussed Doxo at some length in Episode 3 of this series, and you’ll recall from that episode that we had subscribed to Doxo’s premium service, DoxoPlus, for $9 per month.

DoxoPlus allows a subscriber to make up to $2,000 per month in fee-free payments using certain payment methods. The bad news is that Doxo isn’t transparent at all about what payment methods qualify as fee-free. I challenge any reader to peruse the DoxoPlus FAQs and DoxoPlus Terms of Use and tell me with any certainty what types of payment methods will qualify for fee-free payments (“approved financial instruments”).

Our first several attempts to use GCs for fee-free payments with our DoxoPlus subscription had failed, as we reported in Episodes 3, 4, 5 and 6 of this series. We had become frustrated with this service and were on the verge of canceling it. But we had already paid for a month, so we figured we’d keep experimenting during that time. We entered this VGC into Doxo and set it up for a payment directly to Citi on one of our credit card accounts.

And – believe it or not – this US Bank-issued VGC worked for a fee-free payment on DoxoPlus!

This has been the best find so far of our online liquidation experiments. With the fee-free payment using a DoxoPlus subscription, liquidation costs on this type of card are minimal. Here is the detailed info:

  • Liquidation method: Doxo, using DoxoPlus service
  • Payment made to: Citi Cards, for an outstanding credit card bill
  • Payment: $500.00
    • Payment was scheduled to be delivered electronically, 3 business days after we requested it
  • Direct fee: $0
  • Indirect fee: $2.25 (effectively 0.45%)
    • To get this number, we’re prorating the $9 monthly fee, allocating 1/4 of it to this transaction, since this $500 transaction uses 1/4 of our $2,000 monthly DoxoPlus fee-free limit.

The payment has already correctly posted to our Citi account, and it even happened one business day early – in 2 business days rather than the 3 that Doxo estimated when we set up the payment.

Other questions relating to online liquidation using Doxo, with a DoxoPlus subscription:

Have we been able to successfully repeat this experiment? Yes, we’ve now done it multiple times, and it has worked. We have successfully paid a Chase account in addition to the Citi account in this experiment. An experiment to pay an Amex account is in progress.

Have we found any other types of GCs that work for fee-free payments using DoxoPlus? No, not yet.

What is it about a US Bank-issued VGC that causes it to work on DoxoPlus when other GCs don’t? We don’t know. We haven’t been able to discern anything about why this card would process differently and qualify as an “approved financial instrument” for DoxoPlus. The only thing we know of that’s different about this type of VGC is that it’s issued by US Bank.

Can you set up a second Doxo account and second DoxoPlus subscription, so you can liquidate $4,000 per month instead of just $2,000 (for an extra $9/month)? We believe the answer is yes. We have successfully set up a second account, using a different email address from our first account. We successfully subscribed to DoxoPlus on the second account, and our credit card has been charged for the monthly fee. We have made one payment using the second account that processed correctly. The payment has not yet posted to our account, but there’s another day or two before it would be expected to post.

Is there any other trick about DoxoPlus that might save you a few dollars? Yes. You can actually subscribe to DoxoPlus for $3.99 for your first month. As soon as you enroll in Doxo, before you attempt a payment, click in the upper left corner of your Doxo screen for a drop-down menu, then click on “doxoPLUS Subscription.” There, you should be presented with an offer for a discounted first-month DoxoPlus subscription fee of $3.99.

Final Accounting for This Experiment

We acquired and liquidated a $500 gift card for a net cost of $498.20, leaving us with a cash profit of $1.80. Plus, we earned 2,024 MR points, worth about $30.36.

That’s a great deal, and our best result yet in this MS DP series. And the good news is that this seems to be repeatable, and thus scalable, at least to a point. It doesn’t rely on any promotions to discount the purchase fee, and it doesn’t rely on any one-time offers.

Scalability limitations exist, though, including:

  • The Dosh cashback offer is limited to $10 per day, so it can only be used for one VGC per day (per Dosh account, at least)
  • A DoxoPlus subscription is limited to $2,000 in fee-free transactions per month
    • It does look like you can get a second Doxo account and second DoxoPlus subscription, using a different email address, but at some point this becomes a limiting factor
  • The Amex Gold 4x bonus earning category for US supermarkets is capped at $25,000 per calendar year
    • It’s possible to hold multiple Amex Gold cards, but each one will have a $250 annual fee

In addition, remember that the Dosh offer at Kroger could change or entirely disappear at any time, as we’ve seen with other Dosh offers. A change by Dosh would definitely impact the math on this deal.

Strategically, we’d also note that the strategy outlined in this experiment/article should work to MS on the Amex Hilton Surpass card, in order to hit $15k in calendar-year spend to earn a Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificate. Remember that US supermarkets are a 6x bonus category on the Surpass card, which makes this strategy very attractive. The math on a single $500 card using this deal on Surpass would be that you’d still make $1.80 in cash profit with Dosh net of purchase and liquidation fees, plus you’d earn 3,036 Hilton Honors (HH) points. At our baseline value of 0.5 cents per HH point, the points would be worth about $15.18, which makes this still a solidly profitable deal, in addition to generating spend that should count toward the $15k threshold for a Free Weekend Night Certificate.

We hope you’ve enjoyed Episode 8 of our MS DPs series. This is the best opportunity we’ve found, given the combination of the Dosh offer on the acquisition end plus success with our lowest online liquidation method to date using DoxoPlus. Please feel free to comment on our efforts!

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19 thoughts on “MS DPs – Episode 8 – $500 VGC from Kroger

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi PJ – Great question, and no, I haven’t tried a US Bank MCGC with Doxo yet. That would definitely be interesting. If we get a good opportunity to do that, we’ll test it and report.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the MS DP series. Thanks for reading Middle Age Miles and have a great weekend! ~Craig

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Hi PJ – Many thanks for the follow-up DP – glad it worked!

          I’ve actually been having some challenges with US Bank VGCs and Doxo this week. I’m not sure whether it’s a temporary glitch or whether the problems are more permanent. Still investigating …

          Have a great weekend! ~Craig

          1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

            Hi PJ – I just tried a US Bank MCGC myself. Same problem with errors on Doxo. I’m about to add an update to this article, and I’ll try to post a follow-up article as soon as I can.

            Thanks for sharing your experience here. I’m sorry that this isn’t working. It was reliable for about 3 weeks. Something changed on the US Bank end this week, as you can see from the changed interface for registering the GCs. Not sure if something changed on the Doxo end too. ~Craig

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Rogbre – Unfortunately, no fuel points on *variable-load* VGCs or MCGCs at Kroger. ~Craig

      1. Rogbre

        Kroger has a coupon for 4x fuel points for the next few days on VGC ad MCGC, but it has to be fixed denomination. I don’t know how easily those are to liquidate but 4x fuel points would be quite valuable. I have bought restaurant and Lowes cards at Kroger many times but not the VGC and MCGC. My husband and I take both cars and switch cars during the fill-up to maximize the savings.

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Good point. I’ll edit my previous comment to make clear that *variable-load* VGCs and MCGCs don’t earn fuel points at Kroger, so no one reading this later is confused.

          We haven’t used Kroger fuel points, as we have had a 10% Amex Offer for ExxonMobil almost constantly for the past year. We stack that with payment with Amex BB+ for 2x MR plus ExxonMobil SpeedPass rewards, plus we have an ExxonMobil station that’s very convenient to us. It’s hard to beat that! Plus we like to support ExxonMobil as Middle Age Miles son Andrew recently started working there as a chemical engineer. All that said, we recognize that using Kroger fuel points can be quite valuable, as you said. Good info, and thanks for sharing the tip! ~Craig

  1. JBTx

    No issues with the Dosh credit posting for the GC purchases at Kroger? Was that part of why you also bought a few regular items or was that just incidental? Thanks Craig.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      No issues with Dosh posting for GC purchases at Kroger so far. I’ve purchased extra items with my GC each time so that Amex doesn’t see a string of $505.95 charges – but we also needed the groceries! Plus, the dozen roses on sale for $6 bought me way more than 6 bucks worth of marital goodwill with Philly! 🙂 ~Craig

  2. Wes

    Signed up for the plus accojnt after reading your post. Went to try a $200 test usb vgc payment to a chase card. Made it to completion. However an hour later the payment was cancelled/refunded. Doxo offered no explanation. Any suggestions?

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Wes – Oh man. That blows. I’m really sorry. We’ve done several DoxoPlus payments now and all of them have processed fine. Most recent one was on Saturday (Aug 10). All of ours have been $500 variable-load VGCs issued by US Bank and purchased at Kroger. Not sure if that helps diagnose things – or if it’s just random bad luck on your end.

      Best of luck in figuring things out and please let us know if you learn anything useful. Thanks again for reading Middle Age Miles and taking time to comment! ~Craig

  3. ES

    First time reader here, having heard about your blog from Sam and Robert over at their Milenomics podcast. Not doing much MS anymore but I certainly qualify as middle aged 😉 . You write well and explain concisely so I’ll be back. Every now and then I find myself needing a current MS option but my expertise is older than middle aged, so for me, your blog is a great find. Thanks and I hope you keep at it!

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi ES – Thanks so much for the awesome compliment! I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. I hope some of the things we’ve shared can help you. It’s been fun to do the experiments and share the data points. And finally, I hope you continue to enjoy Middle Age Miles! ~Craig

  4. Beechy

    Hi Craig,
    I have been reading over your series. I am working on my spend for the Hilton Surpass for a free night. When purchasing giftcards at grocery stores, is it best to buy only one $500 giftcard at a time ? My grocery store makes us pay for giftcards in a separate transaction 🙁 I was planning on using the Just4U giftcard deal to offset the fees on 2 – $500 cards but want to make sure the spend counts on my Surpass. Any thoughts ?

    Thanks for all the info and love the blog,

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Beechy – Great questions. I have been buying only one $500 GC at a time at grocery stores. I don’t know that this is absolutely necessary (some advanced MS’ers may laugh at me), but it makes me feel less anxious, in terms of perception at my local grocery stores and also in terms of trying to fly under the radar with Amex.

      Weird about having to pay for GCs in a separate transaction. I like putting at least 1 or 2 items in the transaction, so that the amounts vary a little bit and it’s not repeatedly $505.95 (or $495.95 with the current $10 J4U coupon deal). Again, I don’t really know if this matters, but it makes me feel more comfortable.

      At this time, it seems that GC purchases at grocery stores are counting toward the free night credit. I’m not seeing the tracker on my Amex online account for my Surpass any more, but all of my grocery store GC purchases have been earning HH points with no problem. And I’ve never seen a DP of people having problems with this. My only hesitation in just answering “Yes, they count” is that Amex may change how they’re handling things at any time.

      Hope this helps. Thanks again for the nice compliment, and good luck! ~Craig

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