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 we don’t shop at or which aren’t located near us.
Rather than letting them collect dust or take up space in your wallet, you can easily sell them 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 a gift card reselling site to see how the deals compared to buying a gift card at face value. With a move coming and our new home needing a bit of work, I knew I would be spending hundreds of dollars at The Home Depot, so my test is based on its gift cards.
Gift Card Zen
Gift Card Zen differs from other sites in a couple of ways. As a security measure, it calls all first-time users, and it also adds a short delay to your first order. But once that is out of the way, ordering becomes much simpler.
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, the site has cards from about 200 retailers. The site will not refund for buyer’s remorse, but says it “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.
Raise is another option for buying discounted gift cards, though they tend to go quickly. Most cards sell within 24 hours, so if you see one you like, you might want to buy it rather than watching it for too long.
The site says it lists gift cards from “thousands” of brands, and you can search the assortment by brand or filter by amount, category or type of card (physical or electronic).
The best price I saw on a gift card to The Home Depot would save me 10%.
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 seller had actually listed the card.
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.
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?
Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).