Ways to Save Money

The Sneaky (But Simple) Way I’m Saving Money on Every Single Holiday Gift

Updated September 19, 2016
by Steve Gillman
Contributor

Editor’s Note: Gift Card Rescue has closed down since this post was originally published. You can check out the other links in this post for more sites that sell discounted gift cards.

If you go into your favorite store with a $100 gift card, you can spend it just like a Ben Franklin. But what if the gift card only cost you $90? That extra $10 stays in your pocket. Using discounted gift cards this way could help you save hundreds of dollars each year.

A previous post on The Penny Hoarder reported on selling unused gift cards to make some extra cash, and that’s not a bad idea. Most of us have received cards for stores that we don’t shop at, or which aren’t even located near us. Rather than letting them collect dust or take up space in your wallet, they can be easily sold online… but at a discount.

The flip side? Other people are selling discounted cards that you actually want — and taking advantage of these discounts could save you money on things you’d buy anyway.

To investigate how this process works, I tested out the gift card reselling sites to see which ones offer the best deals. With a move coming, and our new home needing a bit of work, I knew I would be spending hundreds of dollars at Home Depot, so my test is based on their gift cards.

Gift Card Test #1: Gift Card Rescue

The first thing I noticed on Gift Card Rescue is that the discounts vary quite a bit from one store to the next. Gas station cards were discounted less than 2%, while you could save 22% shopping for clothes at Lane Bryant.

I searched “Home Depot” and found about 100 listings. I bought two: one with a balance of $73.12 that cost $66.17, and one worth $63.07 for $57.07. Basic shipping is free, so I stood to save $12.95 or 9.5% on my purchases. Then, when I accidentally tried to close the page too soon, a pop-up ad offered me a $5 discount for completing the order, so my total cost was only $118.24 for cards worth $136.19. That’s a discount of over 13% on things I planned to buy anyhow. To save even more money, I used a cash-back credit card.

I was a bit put off by Gift Card Rescue’s Terms and Conditions, which included conflicting advice. I was to contact the company immediately if I didn’t receive the cards within ten business days, but the terms also state that they “are not able to investigate or refund claims reported after 10 business days.” So do I call on day 11 just to be told no refund is possible or do I call before that?

I called after waiting a week and was told the cards were on their way and I shouldn’t call until 10 business days had passed. Fortunately my order arrived the next day. The balances were correct (you’re supposed to check within seven days) and I used the cards without any problem. I’ve bought and used two more Home Depot gift cards through Gift Card Rescue since then.

Gift Card Test #2: Gift Card Zen

Gift Card Zen differs from Gift Card Rescue in a couple of ways. As a security measure, they call all first-time users. It adds a short delay to your first order, but once that is out of the way ordering becomes much simpler.

I liked the fact that they have thousands of “printable gift cards” instead of just physical ones. After the initial phone call, I was able to order and immediately print out a gift card barcode that I used at Home Depot without any problem.

Gift Card Zen keeps it simple by dealing only with gift cards that do not have expiration dates, so you don’t have to remember to check or worry that you’re on a tight deadline. At the moment, they have cards for about 200 different retailers. They will not refund for buyer’s remorse, but say they “will never leave you with a card that is not working.” The only downside? The best deal I could find only saved me 8% on my purchase.

Other Gift Card Sites

You’ll find many other discount gift card vendors online. Typically you find cards with balances between $2 and $100, although some have balances as high as $500. Make your first order a small one if you haven’t used a particular website before.

Some sites do not sell directly, but facilitate sales between individuals. For example, Gift Card Granny had 1,600 Home Depot cards available when I checked, but each listing linked to a different site where the card was actually being sold. You can also buy gift cards on eBay, but you need to watch the auction prices and consider shipping charges.

Making Discounted Gift Cards Work for You

If you value your time, you won’t want to spend five minutes buying a $2 gift card to save 20 cents. It also doesn’t make much sense to buy cards for stores you aren’t sure you’ll be shopping at (although you could always sell them back to one of these websites). A good strategy, once you find a site you trust, is to buy large quantities of cards at one time for stores where you’ll definitely be shopping. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it!)

If you’re a risk-taker and an entrepreneurial sort, you might experiment with gift card arbitrage. Buy cheap on eBay and then find the best places to sell your gift cards for a profit. Or you might buy all the unused gift cards owned by family and friends for 50% of face value and sell them for a profit online.

Even if you don’t have any interest in the profit opportunities, the potential to save money is clear.

Your Turn: Have you ever bought discounted gift cards?

by Steve Gillman
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

Share Your Thoughts

Top Articles