The following reprint about buying unwanted gift cards and using the savings as a “coupon” is consistent with the message from our first post, No Coupon? No Problem! Save with Gift Cards.
I’m currently house-sitting in Anchorage, where one of my duties will be kid-wrangling while my niece does the Alaska Run for Women. The first order of the day: Breakfast at IHOP, my treat — and at 8% less because I’ll be paying with a discounted gift card.
Sites like Plastic Jungle, ABC Gift Cards, Cardpool and Swapagift re-sell unwanted gift cards to hundreds of different retailers. A secondary-market aggregator called Gift Card Granny can help you find the deepest discounts.
Discounted gift cards are as good as coupons: They provide a consistent discount of 3% to 30% or more. While I don’t buy a whole lot of Stuff, I do use these cards to save money on haircuts, groceries, movies and more.
Where do they come from? Most often from someone who needs or wants the money more than the card. Since resale sites will pay up to 92% of face value, it’s an easy way to raise some fast cash.
But plenty of cards end up on the market because they were colossal fails. Maybe your well-meaning uncle thinks you’re as interested in fly-tying as he is. Or maybe you unwrapped $25 in plastic scrip to a shop where the cheapest item is $40. (Extra bummer points if it’s an item you don’t particularly want, or a store you’d never visit otherwise.)
Heck, I’ve even heard of a vegetarian being given a gift card to a steakhouse. True story.
A card for every buyer
Suppose you’re an independent-movie-house kind of person who never sets foot in chain restaurants? There’s probably a discounted card out there for you, too, such as:
Even if you’re on a super-tight budget and/or you prefer thrift shops and yard sales, chances are you hit “regular” stores once in a while for things like kids’ shoes, undergarments, OTC meds or school supplies. If so, discounted gift cards will take some of the sting out of paying retail.
Of course, if you’re OK with secondhand aspirin or yard-sale underpants you can just keep on keepin’ on.
How to get the best deal
I suggest going to Gift Card Granny to look for the deepest discounts. Note: If Cardpool is one of the best choices, you can sweeten the deal by purchasing through a cash-back shopping sitecalled Mr. Rebates, which offers a 1% rebate for Cardpool purchases.
Don’t see what you want? Set an alert on Gift Card Granny and you’ll get an e-mail when the card becomes available. This is easy to do and also easy to cancel when (a) you get the card you need or (b) the e-mails start to get on your nerves.
Certain cards sell out fast – especially supermarkets and gas stations – so be ready to jump as soon as the alert hits your inbox.
Some sites offer additional services. I get “retailers of the week” e-mails from ABC Gift Cards, cluing me in about higher-than-usual discounts. Recently I helped a friend buy more than $300 worth of Lowe’s gift cards at 8% off, to pay for landscaping materials. A few days later Cardpool sent an e-mail touting 9% off Lowe’s cards for the next 48 hours. (Now they tell me!)
There’s a subtle danger involved with the use of these cards: That the discount will tempt you into buying more cards than you need. Don’t buy anything that busts your budget. Even if it’s on sale.
Six uses for a discounted gift card
Treats for less
I brought along several other kinds of discount cards on this trip:
I don’t go to restaurants much. But I like to take my niece and her kids out to eat when I visit. So why not do it for 8% less?
Besides, this time around my food will be free. That’s because I have a social media relationshipwith IHOP, which just sent me a coupon for a free “Rooty Tooty Fresh ’n Fruity” breakfast. The downside? I have to speak the words “Rooty Tooty Fresh ’n Fruity” out loud. In public.
28 December 2012
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