Previous to this, it was somewhat of an issue to drain gift cards that were purchased for points. That's why many people flocked to Vanilla Reload cards (see The Bluebird). It was an easy and cheap way to earn points and get cash right back into your pocket.
The problem with Bluebird/VR was twofold. The reload cards themselves could be hard to find. I've personally got at least two CVS that I go to that have them regularly. I'm even friendly enough with the staff now that I got them to order more for me. Many people are not as lucky and have found supply thin.
The second problem with Bluebird/VR was that you could only fund your Bluebird account with $5,000 worth of reload cards a month. That *might* sound like a lot, but its really not. We can do better. Using my 5x Citi card, that's only $250/mo. Weaksauce.
Moving on from Bluebird, I started using a MyVanillaDebit card. It allowed for reloads of up to $2500 a day (I only hit that limit once). And it allowed free cash advances to get the money back out at any Bank of America. I think I probably did maybe $10-15k worth before I upset the MyVanillaDebit people and they shut down my card. Wasn't really a big deal. They were very nice about it. At the time I only had about $1,000 in the account. They reopened the account for 48 hours and allowed me to get the rest off. Interestingly enough, the account still seems open.
So that leaves us with where we are today. Vanilla Reloads can be scarce, but Visa/MC giftcards certainly are not. And now the government (essentially) is mandating that we be allowed to set PINs on gift cards. This opens up a bunch of new avenues, since there are quite a few cash equivalents that require a debit card to purchase. Money orders are one of them generally one of them.
I don't yet know of any place that would take a credit card to buy a money order. However, you can buy them at Walmart with a debit card for .75/$1000. This does *slightly* increase costs obviously, but for me it still works out positively. Here's the math for my Citi 5x card.
$1000 in gift card
7.90 gift card fee
.75 money order fee
Total profit: $41.35
This is a relatively easy churn and if I hit a store at lunch and another on my way home, I've got an extra $80 in my pocket. Let's say it takes me 5 mins per store and 10 minutes to get the money order at walmart. $240/hr isn't too bad.
So there. Don't say I haven't given you free money.
Essentially yes. Another option is buy something extremely cheap from Walmart and get $80 back. Do that over and over again. If you can get the cards at Walmart and instantly drain them for cash, its somewhat of a bonus.
Im going to guess they could hit you with fraud and abuse, as well as violation of terms of service, the 10 pages of legalese those cards come with in 4 point font have someone somewhere that disallows this. Itd be a civil suit,not criminal.