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Best ways to save on holiday gift cards

Planning to buy gift cards for your family and friends this holiday season? Watch for discounts, and use your credit card rewards

Summary

Whether you plan to give gift cards as holiday gifts this year, or you want them for yourself, you don’t necessarily have to pay sticker price. Here are some tips and tricks to help you save.

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Whether you plan to give gift cards as holiday gifts this year, or you want them for yourself, you don’t necessarily have to pay sticker price.

Gift card deals and discounts abound with brick and mortar retailers and restaurants, and there are even better offers online. You just have to know where to look.

As you put together your final shopping plan for the year and search for the best price on gift cards, experts say you can save big with the following tips and tricks.

See related: How to save on holiday shopping

Cash in your credit card rewards points

Plenty of rewards credit cards let you cash in your points for gift cards or even e-gift cards you can access right away.

This is true for cash back and rewards credit cards from issuers like Chase, Discover and Citi, and the gift card options tend to be expansive. For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards cards let you cash in your points or cash back for gift cards from 191 different retailers, restaurants, travel brands and more.

Jason Steele, a credit card expert at Money.com, also says to watch out for gift card “sales” through credit card portals that can let you redeem for gift cards at less than their cash value. But be mindful of how you redeem your rewards, he says.

For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards has some gift cards on sale, but you only get 10% off, which gives you 1.1 cents in value per point redeemed. However, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can currently use the Pay Yourself Back feature (through April 30, 2021) to get 50% more value when they redeem points at grocery stores, restaurants, home improvement stores and eligible delivery services.

With that in mind, you could buy your gift cards at grocery stores (instead of ordering them with points through the portal) and redeem 10,000 points for $150 in gift cards after the fact.

Chase Ultimate Rewards gift cards

Use your credit card statement credits

In addition to cashing in your points, you can also turn some statement credits your card offers into gift cards if you’re savvy. Steele noted that The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offers a $100 Dell credit for U.S. purchases in both the first and second half the year for a total of up to $200 in credits. With those, you can buy Microsoft XBOX Live gift cards on Dell.com, he says.

Meanwhile, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $60 DoorDash credit in 2020 and again in 2021, which you could use to buy a gift card. Even if you aren’t big on food delivery yourself, DoorDash gift cards make excellent gifts.

See related: Best credit cards for food delivery and meal kit services

Look for BOGO deals

Money-saving expert Andrea Woroch recommends looking for incentives when buying gift cards with specific brands. Why? Because some retailers are offering an extra gift card when you buy a gift card. For instance, DSW is offering a free $10 bonus card when you buy a $50 gift card or a free $25 bonus card when you buy a $100 gift card, though you do have to redeem the bonus gift cards between Jan. 1-24, 2021.

“This is like getting two gifts for one,” she says.

The same is true for Outback Steakhouse, which is offering a $10 gift card for each $50 in gift cards you buy. There are plenty of other restaurants and retailers offering this perk, so make sure to check with your favorite brands.

Watch for discounts

Sometimes stores will have specific discounts that can apply for gift cards. For example, Target gave customers 10% off store gift cards earlier in December, although this promotion has now ended.

Also, check for direct discounts on gift cards or on shipping. American Express recently launched its new e-gift card, which offers an easy way to wrap up your holiday shopping this year. You can use the following code to stock on American Express gift cards with no purchase fees through Dec. 31: AMEXEGIFT20.

See related: Amex adds new limited-time welcome offers

Look for third-party gift card deals

Tiara Rea-Palmer, who is head of retail at CouponFollow, says you can frequently get discounted gift cards with third-party sites if you do some digging. Websites to check out include CardCash, Cardpool, GiftCards.com or Raise.com, she says.

Not only can you buy discounted gift cards on these sites, but they also purchase unwanted gift cards from consumers that they can use toward future purchases. Then, in turn, they sell these unwanted gift cards at a discount to those who would actually use them.

Rea-Palmer also noted that marketplace aggregators like Gift Card Granny will compare costs and even personalize your gift cards with your own photos.

“That adds a more personalized touch, and then your loved ones can even keep it as a keepsake if they’d like,” she says.

Be sure to double-dip on rewards

Finally, don’t forget to earn something when you pick up gift cards, and possibly multiple levels of incentives. For example, you could be using a rewards credit card when you pay for gift cards, which would help you earn cash back or points for each dollar you spend.

Some cards can even be especially fruitful for gift card purchases. For example, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express lets you earn 6% back on up to $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1%) and on select U.S. streaming services, 3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit and 1% back on all other purchases.

Earning 6% back on gift cards purchased at U.S. supermarkets could help you rack up cash back pretty fast.

On top of credit card rewards you can earn, consider buying gift cards through a cash back portal like Dosh or Rakuten.

Rakuten just launched a gift card shop where members can earn cash back for each e-gift card purchase from hundreds of stores and sites. And remember, the cash back you earn in a shopping portal is doled out on top of the rewards you can earn with a cash back credit card.

This means you can potentially double-dip or even triple-dip on rewards. To triple-dip, you would find a retailer or restaurant that is offering a bonus gift card when you buy one, pay with your rewards card and click through a cash back portal before you shop.

There are plenty of ways to save on holiday gift cards this year, so there’s no excuse.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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