Can I use gift cards to save money?
Gift cards are a popular gift for any occasion. You can use them to show someone you care while giving them a chance to choose a gift you know they’ll like. But there’s more to them than that.
There are many ways you can use gift cards to save money on everyday purchases.
Gift Card Hacks to Save Money on Everyday Purchases
These tips can help you use gift cards to save money on things you buy every day.
1. Buy Discount Gift Cards From Gift Card Reselling Sites
There are many gift card reselling sites, including Raise, GiftDeals (formerly Cardpool), Gift Card Granny, Giftcards.com, and CardCash. These sites allow you to buy gift cards for popular retailers like Starbucks, Chipotle, Home Depot, Sephora, Old Navy, CVS, Macy’s, and Walmart.
Depending on the store, you can sometimes find gift cards available for 20% off or more. That means you could get a $50 gift card for just $40, saving you a significant amount of money on purchases you were going to make anyway.
For example, if you frequently shop at Kohl’s, invest in one or more discounted gift cards to save up to 20% off the top. Or buy gift cards to your neighborhood grocery store rather than paying with your credit card. You can do the same for one-off purchases, like bedding from Bed Bath & Beyond.
2. Look for Retailer Gift Card Deals
Another way to save money is to look out for gift card deals.
Some stores run specials, especially around the holidays or events like Mother’s Day. During the special, you can get a gift card for less than face value or when you buy a certain amount. For example, you get a $10 bonus gift card when you purchase a $50 gift card.
Wholesale clubs like Costco also sell other retailers’ high-value gift cards at a discount. So if you’re part of a wholesale club, you can sometimes find good deals that way. Amazon Prime members can also occasionally find gift card deals on Amazon’s website.
If you see the gift card of a store you shop at regularly available at a discount, picking it up can save you money down the road. Just ensure you only use this tip for places you’d shop anyway. Any gift card you use for purchases you wouldn’t otherwise make is money down the drain.
3. Buy Gift Cards With Cash-Back Credit Cards
Using a cash-back credit card to buy gift cards lets you turn your purchase into rewards, even if you have to pay face value for the card.
The trick here is to buy gift cards from a retailer where you can earn a higher rate of rewards than is typical. For example, if you have a credit card that offers 1% cash back on most purchases but 5% cash back when you shop at office supply stores, you have an opportunity.
Just drop by your local Staples and buy a gift card to a place you frequent, such as a grocery chain or restaurant. You’ll get 5% cash back on the purchase instead of the 1% you would have received by buying directly from the retailer. That effectively saves you 4% of the purchase.
Note that some credit card issuers consider gift cards cash equivalents and don’t offer rewards on them. Check the fine print of your credit card agreement first.
4. Redeem Credit Card & App Rewards for Gift Cards
There are a couple of ways to earn free gift cards with rewards.
First, many credit card rewards programs let you redeem your rewards for free gift cards. But think carefully about how you can make the most of your rewards before using them for gift cards.
Credit card companies have multiple options for redeeming points, so do the math to figure out which is best for you. And as always, never take a gift card to a place you don’t frequent.
For example, if you can redeem 2,500 credit card points for $25 sent to your bank account or $25 Target gift cards, it’s a better idea to take the cash because it’s worth just as much and is more flexible. You could even use it to buy Target gift cards at a discount to get more than $25 in spending power.
But if you get more value for the same points, such as a free Amazon gift card worth $30 for 2,500 points rather than $25 in cash, then redeeming for a gift card is a better deal if you shop at Amazon.
There are also receipt-scanning apps like Ibotta and Fetch that reward you for buying certain products or scanning your receipt after you shop. These apps can pay out in cash or gift cards to popular stores.
5. Time Your Purchases
Time your purchases to buy discounted gift cards at their cheapest. Gift cards don’t typically expire, so you can buy them months in advance and hang onto them for when you need them.
This tactic takes a bit of planning, but it can be worth it.
To get started, follow your favorite stores and look for patterns in gift card prices. One common strategy is to buy in January. Many gift cards dip in price around that time because people are looking to sell unwanted gift cards they received as holiday gifts.
6. Stack Your Savings
To save even more money, stack your savings by using a discounted gift card with other sales or deals the store offers. For example, use a discounted Walmart gift card to buy your groceries, use coupons, then scan your receipt into a cash-back app like Fetch.
A more advanced trick is to buy a discounted e-gift card while waiting in the checkout line. Just be aware it can sometimes take time to get the email, so you order it before getting in line if the store is slow.
7. Turn Unwanted Gift Cards Into Cash
The gift cards resale websites sell have to come from somewhere. That somewhere is regular people just like you.
If you get a gift card you can’t or won’t use, you don’t have to let it languish in your wallet. You can use one of the same resale websites to turn it into cash.
How much you’ll get for your unwanted gift card depends on a few factors, including the popularity of the store and the amount on the gift card. Cards for more popular stores move more quickly and at a lower discount, so you can expect to get more value from them.
8. Organize Your Gift Cards With Your Phone
If you have a lot of gift cards, it’s easy to lose track of them or leave them at home when you need them. But you can save them on your smartphone instead of carrying them around with you.
With apps like Card Smash (available on Mac App Store or iTunes for iPhone or Google Play for Android devices), you can take photos of your gift cards (plus store loyalty cards) to ensure you always know what cards you have. Card Smash also helps you track the balances.
9. Cash Out Low-Balance Gift Cards
Having a gift card that has just a few dollars left on it can be annoying. It’s hard to spend exactly the value of a gift card, which means you either have to spend money out of your pocket or accept losing the money left unspent.
Fortunately, depending on where you live, you may be able to get cash for your low-balance gift cards.
For example, you can redeem gift cards once you’ve spent at least 90% of their face value. The rules vary by state, but states with laws about redeeming low-balance cards include:
- New Jersey
Retailers don’t usually advertise this service, so look up your state’s rules. You can typically redeem your gift cards by visiting the customer service desk at the store.
10. Use the Remaining Balance on Generic Gift Cards
Some gift cards aren’t tied to a specific store. These generic gift cards, like Visa, Mastercard, or American Express, function similarly to debit cards. They let you use them at any store in that card network.
But like typical gift cards, these cards are prone to low leftover balances that are inconvenient to use after you’ve spent the bulk of their value.
There are plenty of ways to ensure you zero-out these cards, getting the most value possible out of them. Most stores let you use multiple cards in a single transaction, so one option is to bring a stack of low-balance cards with you the next time you buy groceries.
Another strategy is to use the cards for small online purchases, especially when you can easily control the amount you spend. A popular example is to use these cards to load your Amazon gift card balance with the exact amount left on the generic gift card.
For example, if you have a Visa gift card with $1.37 left on it and a Mastercard gift card with $5.39, load both of them to your Amazon account.
Other online retailers may offer similar options, so you can zero-out your generic gift cards with those retailers too.
These money-saving tips aren’t limited to your daily life.
They can also help you save money if you ever decide to give a gift card as a gift. If the discount is big enough, you may even find that you’re able to be more generous while still saving a lot of money.