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MMMT: Buyer Beware When Purchasing Sam’s Club Gift Cards Online!

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How to Activate Sam's Club Gift Cards Purchased Online

Monday Morning Miles Talk is a regular series that has some smaller, more quirky ideas to kick off the work week.  These are essentially random ideas that I wanted to share with you.  Here are the previous 4 entries.

If you would like to read even more of the other articles in the series you can click HERE.

How to Activate Sam’s Club Gift Cards Purchased Online

Let me start this off by saying that Sam’s Club may have the worst set up possible for gift cards purchased online.  Sam’s Club also has some of the least empowered front line employees in their customer service call centers. I was unable to speak to the gift card department at any point when I ran into issues.  I was promised a call back numerous times and that never happened.

Getting back to why I needed to call them in the first place.  I had ordered multiple $60 gift cards online with the recent Amex Offer for Sam’s Club.  I was pretty excited about this offer and wrote about ways to maximize it in a previous MMMT article.  While it was not as good as the Amex Offer in 2016 it would still be a pretty profitable one!

My plan was to purchase Sam’s Club gift cards at 50% off and then resell them for over 90% in value.  Clearing an easy 40% in profit!  That was the plan at least.

How to Activate Sam's Club Gift Cards Purchased Online

Sam’s Club Gift Cards Come Deactivated!

The big difference from Sam’s Club online and EVERY OTHER RETAILER is that they decide to send their gift cards deactivated (Walmart does this occasionally too but they are essentially the same company).  Sounds ludicrous right? I am sure it is for security reasons.  What makes it even more asinine is that the activation email they send for gift cards has the same subject line as their shipment announcements. So you just assume is was a double sent email or a junk email and don’t open it.

When you get the activation emails you are supposed to click the link which will activate the card.  Then within 30 minutes the cards should be ready to go….should be!  The funny thing is you get these emails shortly after they ship the cards, but before you actually have them in hand. Exactly how is that any different than sending them activated?  You tell me…because I don’t get it.

So I originally tried to use the cards, unaware of the activation issue even though I should have been, and they were of course not working.  I went to check online and they showed no balance.  Remembering then that they needed to be activated I clicked all of the emails and waited.  After about an hour I checked the balances again and only 2 of the 6 cards had been activated.

How to Activate Sam's Club Gift Cards Purchased Online
Can you tell the difference between the 2? I sure can’t!!!

Activation in Store?

My assumption on why only 2 of the 6 gift cards were properly activated is because I checked the balance on them before clicking the activation links.  I didn’t check all of the cards and I think it may be a security measure that locks up the cards if their balance is checked before activation.

I would recommend keeping the cards with their paperwork (if you have separate order numbers) until you can verify their balance.

Before calling in I decided to go to a Sam’s Club store to see if they could help.  I had read online that people had received cash refunds for similar issues in the past so I thought that would be a double win!  I would get the spend on my card and an increased profit since I would get 100% back instead of 90%!

It didn’t work out that way. They said there was nothing they could do at the store level.  They couldn’t even contact the gift card department on my behalf.

One good thing did come from it.  They were able to tell me which order numbers had been activated. Since I didn’t keep the paperwork that was shipped with the cards that helped out immensely. Make sure you keep your paperwork until you verify the card’s balances!

How to Activate Sam's Club Gift Cards Purchased Online

Calling Online Customer Service

The next step was to give the online department a call.  I called 1-888-746-7726 and hit extension 3 then 5 then 8.  I ended up calling on 6 separate occasions and getting a similar response each time.  We will alert the gift card department of the problem.

I asked if there was a contact number for the gift card department and they said no.  On the 5th call the agent said she would “code red” my issue since it had been ongoing for a month.  That got some movement.  I finally got an email saying my gift card (not cards) were activated.  And of course only 1 of the 4 had been activated.

I called back the 6th time and asked for a supervisor.  That didn’t go anywhere so I told the agent I needed a “code red” on the other 3 order numbers too.  She complied and within 24 hours I received another email saying the rest had been activated.  Bingo – CODE RED is key to getting this situation resolved.  How very “A Few Good Men” of Sam’s Club there!


After all of this would I order Sam’s Club gift cards the next time around?  I am not sure, I may wait until a 3rd party gift card goes on sale and go that route instead.

If I do end up ordering Sam’s Club gift cards again online I will be sure to look out for, and click, the activation emails after placing my order.  Then I will wait an hour or two before checking the balances.  And if that doesn’t work I will initiate a code red with the customer service representative early on in the process.


Anyone else have issues too?

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. We had trouble using them even after activation. Once activated, you can use them at after getting there from ebates. Sam’s Club and Walmart are interchangeable. Fyi, Victoria’s Secret store cards work at Bath n Body Works stores, just not online. Useful to know.

  2. I am also having a problem with a Sam’s club gift card that was issued for a promotion. I called and customer service told me they had to push it forward to management. Really??!! I can’t believe a big store like this can have so many issues with their gift cards! Something has to be done!

  3. Ugh. I wish I had known this before buying 2 Sam’s gift cards, one for $1000 and one for $500. And I sit, after having shopped and found the mattress we want to buy, and the cards won’t work. 🙁 Why buy gift cards, you ask? Well, because we knew we were buying a couple of big ticket items and would place our order online, and we use Ebates and other tracking sites to get money back on purchases we make. Right now, Walmart has the mattress we want to buy, along with a few other things, and we get 10% cash back from Ebates. That’s $150. But gotta get those cards to work first. Ugh.

    • Did you get the activation emails for them? Make sure to check your junk folder for them too. When you call in make sure to tell them to make it a code red so it gets fixed since you have an urgent purchase, if the activation email doesn’t work.

  4. Ugh. I ordered a bunch of gift cards when they were 5x with the Chase Freedom.

    I don’t remember if they were physical or Electronic but I seem to remember they were physical as I had to scratch off the little sticker area. I think. Regardless, I have everything in a database that I create just to keep everything good to go.

    Question: is this for ANY gift card that they sell online or just certain ones? I don’t remember if it’s a Walmart or Sam’s card come to think of it.

    What do you do if you don’t have an order number anymore? Thanks for the heads up!

    • I am pretty sure it is just for physical Sam’s Club cards. Maybe the occasional Walmart but I haven’t had the issue. If it was from the 10x Freedom deal then it is Walmart cards.

      Check the balance first on the cards. And if they are zero then go back through your sam’s club online account their should be order numbers in there.

  5. Yes, this is the exact same experience I’ve had with Sam’s Club. It’s beyond ridiculous to call in 6+ times for a gift card issue. Mine was for $10. The time I’ve wasted on this one card make’s me really despise such lack of basic customer service. I’d rather never do business with a company that doesn’t even give it’s customers the time of day after repeated contacts.

    Unfortunately, I had a similar issue with Walmart after trying to use a store bought gift card that Walmart deemed fraudulent when trying to buy something before Christmas for a present. 1.5 months later and more phone calls than I care to remember, that issue was resolved too.

    Please continue to highlight this shoddy behavior as these companies don’t seem to care the moment they have your money.

    • Michael it is pretty pathetic that one of the largest companies in the world can’t quickly activate a gift card when issues arise. And it isn’t like they don’t know they have a problem with their system. Pathetic really.

  6. You said “The funny thing is you get these emails shortly after they ship the cards, but before you actually have them in hand. Exactly how is that any different than sending them activated? You tell me…because I don’t get it.”

    No offense Mark, but the answer should be obvious. It’s different because Sams figures the purchaser should be smart enough not to activate the cards until they have them in hand.

    • I am saying giving people the option – I think a lot will click it before receiving the cards to ensure they are activated. What if you shipped it to a family member as a gift etc. then you may want to do it before they try to use it. How would that be that much different than just sending them activated?

      It is an asinine system.

  7. I bought a bunch of $10 giftcards before learning the $60 trick. Some of my $10 giftcards would not activate either. I tried their customer service line several times and eventually gave up on any hope of receiving a call back, and have filed chargebacks with my credit cards.

    • I was getting close to that point but I didn’t want to lose my amex credits – can you let us know if those ended up getting refunded or not.

  8. FYI I ordered a bunch of $20 + $10 Sam’s Club GCs to take advantage of the Amex offer on several Amex cards. For most cards, the activation went smoothly, but one $20 and one $10 (on separate orders) did not properly activate. I wound up going to a Sam’s Club and brought my order info showing order number and payment. The customer service rep was very helpful and got the GCs activated, though it took 48 hours before the balances updated. Not sure whether the deal was worth the hassle.

    • That is kind of where I am at – probably not worth the hassle with the issues. Going the 3rd party route next time. What a terrible set up!

  9. And now for a good news gift card story.

    I gave my brother a $100 gift card for Home Depot gift card (purchased at the HD store) and the receipt. Then both somehow disappeared. I called and even without me knowing the card number they replaced it with an e-card. << DON'T GET ANY IDEAS!

    Since then I do the e-gift card and print it out. Then I always have a record.

  10. Yes, I had this issue twice. Such a pain. First time it happened, the cards were activated the next day. The second time took two weeks any many phone calls. The customer service was awful. I think it’s very odd that a $60 gift card has to be activated by the customer, then it may or may not be activated. You don’t know it’s activated until you try to order something.

    I can order $150 of Disney gift cards and they come ready to use.

    • Shannon it is a terrible set up and they know it is an issue and do nothing to correct it. This from one of the largest companies in the world too.

      I will probably stick with 3rd party gift cards going forward!

  11. I am in the same boat with one of my gift cards, and I have had it code red three times already, each time they have said it is activated and yet when I call the gift card balance number it says it is still not activated. And mine iis for a $20 gift card, so gift cards under $25 do not come activated.

    • Hmm interesting I had heard reports that they did – maybe it is under $20 then? Such a terrible system and worthless support line too.


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