USA   |   UK   |   Australia   |   Canada
ADVERTISEMENT

Discounts: 8 ways to get gift cards for less

Techniques to pay less than face value or boost buying power

By Erin Peterson and 

Few gifts can beat the ease and appeal of a gift card -- small enough to slip in an envelope and flexible enough to please the most picky friend or relative. Indeed, Americans are projected to spend $134 billion on gift cards in 2015, according to CEB TowerGroup's research.

8 ways to get gift cards for less

While many gift card buyers pay face value, savvy shoppers know that there are plenty of ways to get more bang for their buck -- whether it's saving cash through a discount on the card's face value or defraying costs by earning extra rewards from gift card purchases. Check out these ways to boost your gift-card buying power:

1. Gift-card exchange sites. MonsterGiftCard.com, GiftCardZen.com and Cardpool.com are a few of the niche sites that cater to people looking to buy and sell gift cards. You might find bigger discounts at online auction sites such as eBay, but these sites guarantee the gift card's value.

You'll tend to find a flood of new cards -- and likely bigger bargains -- after major gift-giving holidays such as Christmas, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, says Mark Ellwood, author of "Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World." "There are different times of year that you're going to get better deals," Ellwood says. "Think of it as a yearlong project."

A good place to start is GiftCardGranny.com. The website does not sell gift cards but rather aggregates offerings from a number of gift card resale sites, so you can see thousands of deals in one place, Ellwood says. As you shop among all of the gift cards on offer, consider both the discount on the card and the price of goods sold in the store, he advises. For instance, he recently saw Target gift cards listed on GiftCardGranny.com at a 32 percent discount. Wal-Mart gift cards were selling for only a 3.9 percent discount. "Even if the prices at Target are 10 percent more, you're creating a bigger savings for yourself with a Target gift card," he says.

On the flip side, don't get seduced by a mediocre discount at a high-end store with inflated prices.

2. Warehouse and club stores. Stores such as Costco and Sam's Club offer more than just 20-gallon vats of peanut butter -- they sell gift cards well below retail price. Recently at Costco.com, members could grab a $200 Circque du Soleil gift eCard for $159.99 and four $25 gift cards for The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for $79.99. Sam's Club offered a four-pack of $25 iTunes gift cards for $94.47 and a four-pack of $25 Spa and Wellness by Spa Week gift cards for $79.98.

3. Specialized restaurant sites. Sites such as Restaurant.com offer gift certificates at steeply discounted prices. On one recent search in Williamsburg, Virginia, $15 gift cards at several restaurants were available for $4 (a top rated local Japanese steakhouse) and $6 (an Italian restaurant and a sushi bar). A minimum purchase is required, usually about two times the certificate value, says Tania German, Restaurant.com marketing director.

Other sites, including OpenTable.com and iDine.com, will send you a check or gift card redeemable at participating restaurants once you've used their services frequently enough.

For example, iDine.com allows you to earn up to 15 percent in benefits based on the meal total including tax and tip. At OpenTable.com, every time you book you earn points, which are redeemable for an OpenTableDiningCheck that can be used toward your bill at any restaurant participating in the OpenTable network, spokeswoman Tiffany Fox says. Be sure to check restrictions before you buy or give these as gifts.

4. Employee sites. Check to see if your employer offers access to discounts specifically for employees, says Brian Preston, certified financial planner, CPA and host of the Money Guy podcast. "I know a lot of Fortune 500 companies that offer movie tickets and gift cards at significantly discounted deals," he says. These deals are often available to family and friends. For example, the Home Depot employee website says, "As a valued associate of Home Depot, you have access to deep discounts from thousands of name brand merchants. Enjoy the savings." Time Warner also offers discounts to its employees.

There are different times of year that you're going to get better deals. Think of it as a yearlong project.

-- Mark Ellwood
Author, "Bargain Fever"

5. Miles and points. Frequent flier miles or credit card points languishing in your account can often be redeemed for gift cards for movies, clothing and other retailers' products. For example, United Airlines and American Airlines allow frequent fliers to redeem miles for restaurant and retail gift cards. Same goes for credit card-specific rewards programs such as American Express' Membership Rewards and Chase's Ultimate Rewards.

6. Grocery grabs. You can swing by a clothing store to buy a gift card, but you might also be able to pick up the same card from your local grocery store. You'll pay the same amount upfront, but if you have a rewards credit card that pays you back 2 to 5 percent for purchases made at a grocery store, the best option is clear. If you use a store loyalty card with benefits such as Kroger's gas rewards, you can also earn points on your purchase, Preston says.

7. Rewards-earning shopping portals. If you have a rewards credit card, you may be able to earn extra points by buying gift cards through the card's online shopping mall. But you'll need to read the fine print because policies vary on a case-by-case basis -- not just among the different card portals, but also among the retailers offering gift cards on the portals.

Ebates and Upromise are two rewards-oriented shopping portals (not affiliated with any particular credit card) that definitely give back to you for gift card purchases, says Preston. When you shop at qualified retailers via Ebates, you receive up to 25 percent cash back, according to the site. As a bonus, when you join Ebates, you get a $10 gift card at Macy's, Kohl's, Target or Wal-Mart or a $5 Ebates gift card, according to the site.

With Upromise, you can earn 5 to 8 percent on purchases at qualified retailers, according to the site. You can choose to invest that money in a tax-deferred 529 college savings account or high-yield savings account, pay down student loans or receive a check to use for college or other expenses, according to the site.

8. Smile and ask. Never discount the appeal of a smile, Ellwood says. Smile, tell the person at the register how much you're planning to spend on gift cards, and ask if there are promotions coming up and/or if the cashier can give you a good deal, Ellwood says. "The person at the store knows more than you do," he says. "You'll be amazed at the discount you can get in a store by smiling. I call a smile a discount ray gun."

See related: Don't be 'breakage' – 7 tips to avoid losing gift card value, 5 reasons there's a hold on your gift card

Updated: October 17, 2014



Join the discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

If you are commenting using a Facebook account, your profile information may be displayed with your comment depending on your privacy settings. By leaving the 'Post to Facebook' box selected, your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below.

The editorial content on CreditCards.com is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company's business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.

Three most recent Emerging payment systems: Prepaid, debit, gift cards stories:

Share This Story




Follow Us!


Credit Card Rate Report

Updated: 10-31-2014

National Average 15.09%
Low Interest 10.37%
Balance Transfer 12.82%
Business 12.85%
Student 13.14%
Cash Back 14.98%
Reward 15.07%
Airline 15.46%
Bad Credit 22.73%
Instant Approval 28.00%

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT