Gift cards and your Kindle

Gift cards and your Kindle

There’s a pretty good chance you got an Amazon gift card recently (see my post, Really last minute gifts: e-books and gift cards for more on giving cards).

You might be wondering how you can use it…I’ve seen lots of confusion about it in the Amazon Kindle Forum. In this post, I’ll explain how it works.

The first thing to know is that your gift card isn’t just for a specific Kindle on your account, or for a specific product.

Some people are confused by the fact that Amazon lets you buy a gift card with a picture of a Kindle on it. That doesn’t mean the amount can only be used for Kindle purchases: any gift card balance you have on your account can be used for any eligible item.

So, could a grandparent give you a gift card intending you to get

and it ends up being spent on paper towels?

Sure…it could even happen by accident.

What you do is apply the gift card balance to your account…the whole account. Then, when you use 1-click to buy something, it draws from any available gift card balance until there is none left (and then it goes back to the payment method which your account has set up for 1-click).

While you can only use 1-click to buy Kindle books, you can also use it to buy other things.

If you don’t use 1-click to buy the paper towels, you’ll be given the choice whether or not to use the gift card balance. If you use 1-click, it automatically goes to the gift card…letting you choose whether or not to use the gift card would add clicks, and it wouldn’t be 1-click any more. 🙂

I’m sure this has happened a lot. Somebody gets a gift card, intends to use it for a specific purpose, and it gets used up by more mundane purchases before the person realizes it.

That’s one reason why it is a good thing that you can gift a specific Kindle book from the book’s Amazon product page! Do that, and the person has a choice to get a gift card instead, but it arrives ready to be used just for that one book.

So, that’s the first big thing: your gift card isn’t “siloed” away from other purchases.

Oh, something which is siloed:

Amazon Coins

You can gift those, and they can only be used for apps and for in-app purchases.

The other thing is that not everything can be purchased with a gift card.

Here are the

For example, you can’t use a gift card to buy more gift cards…I guess that is like using one of your three wishes to wish for more wishes. 😉

One important one which does not appear on this page is about subscription items (blogs, magazines, newspapers). Weirdly, it used to explicitly say that it was prohibited. I alerted Amazon to the fact that it doesn’t have that prohibition in Help any more, and they confirmed for me that it is still prohibited to use your gift card for a subscription. Hopefully, they will update the page.

They do say it explicitly on another page:

“You can use an Amazon Gift Card, Gift Certificate, or Promotional Certificate to purchase Kindle devices, books and accessories. Any available balance will be used for your Kindle store purchase before your credit or debit card is charged. Your Gift Card balance cannot be used to pay for subscription content from the Kindle store.”

Why isn’t that okay?

With a subscription, they need something they can bill in future months, too…not just the first time. Let’s say you get something which is $10 a month, and you could pay for it with a $10 gift card. What would happen when the $10 came due for the next month’s subscription? They wouldn’t have a way to get the money, so they would have to contact you, which might delay it.

When you buy a subscription with a credit card, there is a much better chance that card can be billed the following month.

That said, it appears that Amazon has made it possible to gift some subscriptions…I believe that is new. When you go to pay for some magazines in the Kindle store, you’ll get an option to gift them to someone.

At least, that’s what I’ve heard: I haven’t seen it yet myself.

My guess is that it works one of two ways: either it works like gifting Prime, where it doesn’t autorenew…or they just continue to bill the gift giver’s payment method.

Those are the key points.

There are links at the top of this page

both to redeem your gift card (apply it to your account) and to check your balance.

If you have any other questions about them, feel free to let me know by commenting on this post.


* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


11 Responses to “Gift cards and your Kindle”

  1. You can now apply a gift card directly to an e-book purchase | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Gift cards and your Kindle […]

  2. Steve Says:

    Am i being dumb or is there a way to find what my amazon gift card balance is via my kindle? Do I really have to log onto my Amazon account to see if I have enough, before then going onto my Kindle & buying something?


    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Steve!

      Not being dumb, just missing part of the picture, I think.

      In many cases, people who are users on the account do not have access to the financial information on the account. Children, for example, may have Kindles registered to their legal guardians’ account…but not be able to get in and change the credit card number.

      That’s also true when it may be a group of friends, or co-workers.

      The gift card balance is part of that financial information, so even when there is access to it through a Kindle device (by using a browser on a Kindle Fire, for example), you still need to know the credentials for the account. I refer to people who legitimately have the credentials as managers of the account.

      The workflow you suggest isn’t the only option, though.

      First, once the gift card balance is exhausted, the account automatically goes back to whatever payment method has been authorized (if there is one…there doesn’t have to be). So, if you are willing to pay the difference on the item you are buying, there’s no real reason to check.

      Second, once you check it on your computer, you could buy it there as well…you don’t need to go to your Kindle to do that.

      Third, as I suggested above, some Kindles have the ability to go via browser to the Amazon website and log in.

      I’m guessing you are the only user of your account, so the idea of having users and managers doesn’t really apply to you.

      Hope that helps give you some perspective on it. They could, I would say, have a link for the gift card balance…but you’d most likely need to log in to see it. They could let you stay logged in…but currently, it’s in the same place as your other payment methods, which might be a tad risky.

  3. Laura Says:

    If you do accidentally use your gift card for paper towels, you can reload your gift card balance. Essentially transferring the charge to your credit card. The smallest amount you can add is $10.

  4. Kavita Says:

    I don’t understand why “I love my kindle”. I want to remove my credit card info from 1-click and apply a gift card to it, as the kids use the Kindle more than I do, and I need to control how and what they buy through 1 click using the kindle. Why can’t I have that? Is it too much to ask? It just does not let me remove my credit card info and add a $50 gift card to it, so I can control the amount the kids can spend via my kindle. It’s not just dumb, it’s forcing you to let your credit card info available free for using without any check (through 1-click) and if you try to remove it, you lose all content. The fire becomes a dumb slab of stone!!! The worst digital product that I have ever used. I wish I knew about it before i purchased my kindle.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Kavita!

      I’m sorry you’re feeling frustrated!

      Let’s start out with what you are trying to do, then I’ll explain more about why I love my Kindle (which doesn’t mean you need to love yours, of course).

      First, you can remove your credit card from your account…you can even establish an account without a credit card.

      What I think may be confusing from what you are saying, is that you then think you would enter a gift card as your 1-click payment method.

      What happens is that 1-click will draw from any gift card balance on the account until it is exhausted, and then it will go to the 1-click payment method…if any.

      So, you don’t apply the gift card to 1-click: you apply it to the account.

      Many people have accounts set up that way for their children, where only a gift card balance is used. Some people also do it that way for themselves, just as a way of budgeting.

      Second, removing a payment method will not make you lose any content…feel free to tell me more about what you think is happening there, and I can try to help. If you deregister a device from an account, that device no longer has access to the archives of that account, but that’s not connected to 1-click or to a payment method.

      Third, Amazon gives you a way to stop your child from spending without your authorization: there are parental controls on your device (you mentioned a Fire…do you know what model your children are using?). You can make it so they can’t buy anything, and you can make it so that they can still download from the “Cloud” (archives). That way, they can ask for something, you can buy it, and they can download it when they want…that can work well.

      Fourth, Amazon has a generous thirty-day return policy on these devices. If someone buys a Kindle or a Fire and finds that they don’t like the way the Terms of Service are set up (or for any other reason), they can return it for a refund within thirty days of purchase. If the device is performing as advertised, they would be expected to pay the return postage…that’s usually a few dollars.

      That last part is one of the reasons I love my Kindle. 🙂 Amazon has highly rated customer service, and I think that’s justified. For example, it ranked #1 for at least nine years running in the annual Foresee Experience Index study.

      I’m assuming at this point that haven’t spoken to Kindle Customer Service about your concerns, since they would likely have given you pretty much the same information I did…I don’t work for them, by the way. 🙂 I have had good experiences with them myself over the years (as a Kindle owner).

      You can contact them by going to

      You can call them, have them call you (that’s what I usually do), or e-mail.

      If you have one of several models of Fire, you also have the Mayday function…you can get live onscreen help within fifteen seconds. I’ve been very impressed with that!

      Hopefully, what I’ve said will help you and your family enjoy your Kindle/Fire as much as my family has enjoyed ours. If not, and you are within thirty days of purchase, you have the option to return it for a refund.

      If you have more questions, feel free to ask me…or try Kindle Support at the Amazon page above.

  5. Audrey Clark Says:

    This doesn’t answer why my kindle gift card is not being used for my books.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Audrey!

      If it doesn’t, I’d check with Amazon:

      They should be able to help.

      The basic steps for it to work:

      1. You have applied the gift card to your account
      2. You still have a gift card balance left
      3. You are buying the books on the same account that has the gift card balance
      4. You are buying the books from the Kindle store
      5. There aren’t geographical restrictions (for example, you and the person who bought the gift card are both in the USA)

      Please let me know if you get it solved…I’ll be wondering. 🙂

  6. anne Says:

    how do i find out what left on my gift card

  7. Constance Kriebel Says:

    Please cancel my shoeorder

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