Gift cards remain one of the most popular gift options out there, with nearly 93% of American consumers surveyed saying they have either given or sent a gift card (as of 2015). So chances are you are “involved” in this industry.
We want to help you become a master of it by sharing some of the well- and lesser-known gift card hacks… so you could save even more. And become that much savvier shopper. Here’s what we’ve got…
1. Take advantage of gift card trade-in programs
If you have a gift card that you don’t need and would rather exchange it for some other gift card — try posting an ad about it on Craigslist. People do this all the time, and perhaps someone else has a gift card you need.
Also, you may want to try Target’s program that lets you bring gift cards from leading consumer brands and exchange them for a Target gift card that can be used for online purchases at Target.com or in any Target store.
Said list of “leading consumer brands” includes the likes of American Airlines, Apple (not iTunes), Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, Bed Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, Bloomingdale’s, Claire’s, Foot Locker, Gap, Hewlett Packard, Home Depot, Nike, Patagonia, Safeway, Sam’s Club, Sephora, Staples, Starbucks, Toys R Us, Under Armour, Walmart, Zara, and many others. Check out this page for the full list of gift cards Target will accept for trade-in.
2. Buy and sell gift cards at discount gift card sites
One of the easiest way to save at just about any merchant is to buy a pre-owned gift card. Those are gift cards people got as a present but for one reason or another, didn’t want to use them.
There are quite a few websites you can visit to buy pre-owned gift cards, including Gift Card Granny and Raise. Both of them have a wide selection of gift cards, “covering” just about any vendor you can imagine. And based on the vendor you can save anywhere between 1 and 40 percent.
You can also use these two sites to sell gift cards you don’t need.
3. Exchange gift cards for cash
This option is available in 12 states, but rules are somewhat different:
- In California, you can get cash back if a gift card has less than $10 in value;
- In these states you can get cash back if your gift card has less than $5 in value: Colorado, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington;
- In Connecticut, you can get cash back if your gift card is worth less than $3;
- In Texas, you can get cash back if your gift card is worth less than $2.50;
- In Rhode Island and Vermont, you can get cash back if your gift card is worth less than $1; and
- In Massachusetts, you can get a cash refund if a non-reloadable card has less than 10 percent of its value, or a reloadable card has less than $5 in value.
Hopefully, your state is on the list.
4. Get discount gift cards at warehouse clubs
There are many things you could buy at warehouse clubs to save, and guess what — gift cards are on that list, too. Here’s an example what the three major clubs have been offering at one point in the past:
- Sam’s Club: a $500 Southwest Airlines card for $485.98 and three $20 gift cards to Dickey’s Barbecue Pit for $47.98.
- Costco: two $50 P.F. Chang’s gift cards for $79.99, and four $25 Cold Stone Creamery gift cards for $69.99.
- BJ’s: 25 percent off on gift cards from the likes of The Cheesecake Factory and AMC.
So yes, make sure to check out the gift cards shelf on your next visit to a wholesale club.
5. Buy restaurant gift cards in December
Restaurants are notorious for offering free or discounted gift cards at the end of the year. Some of them will get you a buy-one-get-one-free deal, and some will sell you gift cards with a steep discount. So remember to stock-up on restaurants gift cards in December, and enjoy a more affordable meals throughout the next year.
Some of the restaurants that used to offer free gift cards (with a gift card purchase) include California Pizza Kitchen, Carrabba’s, Chili’s, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Golden Corral, Olive Garden, Panera, P.F. Chang’s, Red Lobster, Texas Roadhouse, and Noodles & Co.
6. Do tasks, get gift cards in return
You can earn your way to gift cards, and essentially get them for free. There are a number of sites that will reward you for performing certain tasks with points that can be redeemed for gift cards. In most cases, you will be filling out surveys, but there are other things to do, as well.
Start with Swagbucks, which is our favorite destination for earning rewards. This site goes beyond survey taking to also include other activities like playing games, watching videos, searching the web and so on. And it happens to offer a nice $5 sign-up bonus to new users.
Another service to try is EarningStation, which will pay you to complete “daily online activities” such as taking surveys, shopping online, watching videos and signing up for great products. In turn, you will be rewarded with gift cards from popular stores like Amazon and Walmart, or the good ol’ cash.
Then there’s Harris Poll Online, which lets you provide opinions on the topics that matter most to legislators, companies and organizations around the world. The site offers valuable points which can be redeemed for gift cards (among other things).
7. Install the Ibotta app
With the Ibotta app running on your phone, you get cash back on the things you buy and do every day. Start with Ibotta before you shop, travel, dine out or use an app and discover easy cash back rewards — which you can redeem for gift cards from companies such as Walmart, Target, Apple and Sephora, and many others.
Ibotta works with leading brands and retailers to help you pick up easy savings without the hassle of coupons, discounts or promo codes. For what it matters, its customers have earned over 200 million dollars in cash back rewards. So try it out.