While there are a lot of different ways to save money, some of my favorites are the easy methods that don’t take much time or effort. I love being able to make a quick, painless tweak to my habits to save money on things that I need to buy anyway.
One of my go-to strategies for saving money on everything from groceries, to gas, to clothes, to gifts, to travel is to buy discounted gift cards. By purchasing gift cards below face value I can easily save money with just a small effort.
It’s only been within the past year that I really started buying discounted gift cards on a regular basis, but during that time I’ve tried to learn the ins-and-outs to make the most of it.
In this article you’ll find an explanation of how it works, where you can buy discounted gift cards, and tips to get the most savings (hint: if you like cash back credit cards you’ll love what you can do with stacking these rewards).
The Basics of Buying Discounted Gift Cards
There are a few different ways that you can get gift cards below face value and we’ll look at those options in more detail in the section on how to buy discounted gift cards.
While there are a few options and possibilities, the easiest way to get them is to visit one of the many sites listed below that sells gift cards below their face value. Sites like Raise (my personal favorite) will buy people’s unwanted gift cards and then re-sell them to people like you and me.
That store or restaurant that someone else doesn’t like may be a place that you visit frequently, and these gift cards make it easy for you to save money.
One of the keys to using this approach to save money is to only buy gift cards for places that you would shop at anyway. If you buy gift cards simply because they are discounted, you’ll wind up spending more money than you should, and that ruins the whole point of using this method to save money.
The gift cards that you buy can be digital or physical, and you should be able to see which before making a purchase. The physical gift cards will be sent to you in the mail, and the digital cards will involve a code that is emailed to you. In most cases, you can print the digital card if you want to.
Most of the sites that sell the digital cards will send the email to you very shortly after you make a purchase. With the digital cards, you don’t have to do that much planning ahead. If you’re heading out to eat you can buy a digital gift card for a restaurant and use it right away.
How Much Money Can I Save with Discounted Gift Cards?
The savings will vary depending on a few factors, but in general you can save anywhere from 1% – 30%. The demand for cards at specific stores, websites, and restaurants will impact how much you can save. For example, discounts for grocery store gift cards tend to be low because everyone would love to save on groceries. Restaurants and retail stores tend to have higher savings because people have more particular tastes, and there may not be as much demand for these cards. Most of the restaurant gift cards I’ve purchased have come with a discount of 8% – 20%, but some were higher and some were lower.
Towards the end of the article I’ll share some tips that will help you to maximize your savings, so be sure to read on if you’re interested in getting the best discounts.
When it comes to saving with gift cards, one thing I like to keep in mind is that I am buying gift cards to save on things I need to buy anyway. I love to earn 2% cash back on purchases with my Citi Double Cash credit card. Even though 2% is a small amount, it adds up. The same thing is true with discounted gift cards. A 4%-5% discount at Lowe’s may not sound like that much, but I know I’m going to spend money there anyway, so I’m pretty happy if I can save that 4%-5%.
→ Related reading: 11 Ways to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards and Cash Back
Where to Buy Discounted Gift Cards
There are several different places where you can buy discounted gift cards, and I’ll mention some of the best options here.
Buy One Get One Offers
Many stores and restaurants run some sort of promo, usually around the holidays, when you can buy a gift card for a friend and get one for yourself as a free bonus. For example, a restaurant may offer you a $10 gift card for free if you buy a $25 gift card to give to a friend. Of course, you could use this approach to earn some gift cards from your holiday shopping. But you could also buy the gift card for your own use and look at it as a way to save some money. In this scenario, you’d pay $25 but you’d wind up with $35 worth of gift cards.
Keep an eye out for these offers around the holidays and you can get some nice deals.
Shopping Portals Through Your Credit Card
Many cash rewards credit cards have a shopping portal where you can redeem your points/rewards. For example, I use the Chase Freedom card to get 5% cash back on purchases in a specific category each quarter. Chase has the Ultimate Rewards portal where you can redeem your points for cash, travel, or gift cards. It’s very common for there to be some discounted gift cards available through this portal.
For example, right now I could buy gift cards to several stores/restaurants/websites for a 10% discount. If you’re going to spend money at these places anyway, you might as well take advantage of the discount.
Anywhere That Gives You Good Credit Card Rewards
If you have an Amazon Prime credit card you’ll earn 5% cash back on purchases. You can buy gift cards for lots of different stores/restaurants/websites at Amazon, so it’s an easy way to save 5%.
Likewise, if you have the Chase Freedom or Discover It cards you can earn 5% on purchases at grocery stores during certain times of the year. A clever trick is to stock up on gift cards when you’re getting 5% cash back.
Stores like Sam’s Club, Costco, and BJ’s sometimes sell gift cards to other stores and restaurants at a discount.
Raise is my favorite place to buy discounted gift cards. I love Raise for a few important reasons:
- They have a great selection of gift cards available.
- The discounts are better than what you’ll find at some other similar marketplaces.
- They offer a 1-year money-back guarantee.
- You’ll get access to the digital gift cards very quickly (usually within minutes)
As I’ve tried several different sites for buying other people’s unwanted gift cards, there are two basic issues that I run into at a lot of the sites.
First, they may not have the gift cards that I want when I want them. Raise tends to have more available and I can usually find what I want there.
Second, I don’t want to get stuck with a gift card that’s been already used and doesn’t have the value that I paid. Some sites don’t have any guarantee, or a short one. Raise gives you a full year.
Raise sells both digital and physical gift cards, and you can see which one you’re buying before you buy it. The digital cards will be available very quickly, usually within a few minutes. You’ll get an email when it’s ready, plus you can view it in the order history within your dashboard.
I’ve bought a lot of gift cards at Raise over the past year and I’ve yet to have a problem with any of them.
Cardpool is another great place to buy gift cards. Like Raise, Cardpool sells both digital and physical gift cards and offers a 1-year money-back guarantee. Although Cardpool is a great option, from my experience the selection at Cardpool is not quite as good as the selection at Raise. The discounts are similar, but a few times I have been able to buy a gift card at Raise that was not in stock at Cardpool.
CardCash is also similar to Raise and Cardpool. The discounts are comparable. The biggest difference is the guarantee. CardCash does have a money-back guarantee, but only for 45 days. For that reason, I prefer Raise and Cardpool.
Restaurant.com is different than any of the other sites listed here. As the name implies, you can only buy restaurant gift cards. You can enter your zip code and find offers near you. The gift cards are at major discounts. You might pay $10 for a $25 voucher. And they often run sales that make the savings even better.
There are a few things to be aware of with Restaurant.com.
First, the selection will mostly include local restaurants, not major chains. It’s mostly places that are new or looking for more exposure.
Second, be sure that you read the terms before buying a voucher. There is usually a minimum amount that you’ll need to spend at the restaurant, and there may be certain exclusions.
If you love to save money you may be interested in these other articles:
Tips for Saving the Most Money
Now that we’ve looked at the basics and covered some of the best places to buy discounted gift cards, let’s take a look at some ways that you can get the most out of this.
1. Focus On Places Where You Already Shop
I mentioned this earlier, but it’s important so I am going to mention it again here in the tips. The key to truly saving money with this approach is to only buy gift cards for things that you would spend money on anyway. You don’t want to buy a bunch of gift cards that you’re never going to use, even if you can get them at a great price.
Most of us have certain stores, websites, and restaurants where we tend to spend money. I know I can put a gift card to stores like Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, or Home Depot to good use. I may not have something that I need today, but I’ll keep the gift card until there is something I need to buy. Gas stations and grocery stores are other places where most of us spend money on a regular basis.
2. Stock Up During Sales
One of the reasons I love Raise is because they have sales and promotions that make the savings even better. Sometimes the additional discounts are available on gift cards in a certain category, and other times you can save an additional percentage on any purchase at the site. A 5% sale may not seem like a big amount, but adding that 5% on top of the other discounts you can already get will make a noticeable difference.
Since Raise offers a 1-year guarantee I try to take advantage of these sales whenever I can. I’ll buy gift cards that I know I can use later while they are available at the best price.
The same thing is true for buy-one-get-one-free deals at the holidays. These types of deals are usually only available for a short time, but you can take advantage during that window and then use the gift cards later.
3. Pay Attention to the Guarantee
If you’re buying other people’s unwanted gift cards at a site like Raise, Cardpool, or CardCash, be sure to check the guarantee. There are a lot of these sites out there, and one of the main reasons I’ve specifically mentioned these three is because they all offer a guarantee in addition to great discounts. Raise and Cardpool will guarantee your purchase for one year, while CardCash only gives you 45 days.
I haven’t had a bad experience yet with a gift card that I’ve purchased, but I’m sure I will at some point. And that’s why I prefer Raise and Cardpool.
4. Stack Rewards
The discounts that you can get from gift cards are awesome, but it gets even better when you stack it with other rewards. I can’t get into too much detail here because it’s a big topic, but you can see my article on stacking rewards for a thorough look at how to do this.
The easiest way to stack rewards is to buy gift cards using a good cash back credit card. I use the Citi Double Cash card to get 2% cash back on every purchase. If you’re looking for a good option you can find more information about the best cash rewards credit cards here.
Ebates also makes it possible to stack rewards. You can earn cash back at thousands of different sites with the help of a simple Ebates account. Ebates currently offers 1% cash back on all purchases at Raise. That 1% isn’t a lot, but it can be stacked. When I use my Citi Double Cash card to make a purchase at Raise and I go through Ebates I get 3 levels of savings. For example, if I buy a $100 gift card for $95 I’m getting a 5% discount on the card, plus I get 2% cash back from Citi and 1% cash back from Ebates, for a total discount of 8%.
5. Set Up Alerts
Some of the sites that sell gift cards allow you to set up alerts to notify you when a gift card to a certain store is in stock. At Raise you can set up an alert to email you based on a minimum dollar value of the gift card and a minimum percentage discount. You can use these alerts to be notified when great deals are available. For example, right now the best deal for a Dunkin Donuts gift card is only 2.1% off. I can set up an alert to email me if/when a Dunkin Donuts gift card is available at a 4% discount or greater, and I can also set a minimum dollar value if I want to.
6. Plan Ahead
Think about the stores and restaurants that you will be buying from over the next few months, and buy gift cards ahead of time. I especially use this trick with Restaurant.com. If we have a family vacation coming up or I know I will be traveling I like to check out the offers in that area at Restaurant.com.
7. Be Organized
This can be a great approach to save money, but if you’re not careful you can also wind up losing some money. You don’t want to forget about gift cards that you purchased or lose the physical cards. I keep a folder in my desk drawer where I put all of the gift cards that I buy. If it’s a digital card I print it and put it in the folder.
I also keep track of every card I purchase and the price I paid. I’ll try to keep receipts with each gift card in case I ever run into an issue with a card not having the value it is supposed to have. I usually have a few restaurant gift cards in there that I purchased at a good price. When our family is looking for a place to go out to eat I can open up the folder and see what options I have for discounted meals.
8. Pick One or Two Sites to Use
There are a lot of different sites where you can buy other people’s unwanted gift cards. I only mentioned three of them in this article because I didn’t want to overwhelm you with options, plus I haven’t personally used the other sites. I tend to use Raise because they have the best guarantee and best selection (usually). In my Raise user dashboard I can see all of my past purchases, and if it’s a digital card I can access it any time I need to. I don’t want to have purchases all over the place at ten different sites, so I’ve kind of singled in on Raise. It’s easier for me to stay organized that way, and if I have a problem with a card I don’t have a hard time figuring out where I purchased it.
Putting it Into Action
If you haven’t been using discounted gift cards I highly recommend giving it a shot. There are a few things you should do to get started:
- If you have a rewards credit card login and see if there is a portal that you can use to redeem your rewards. There may be some good discounts on gift cards available.
- Create an account at Raise (or another similar site) and see what discounts are available at the places where you already shop.
- Read my article on stacking rewards to get the most out of it.