It’s not something you’re supposed to admit as a frugal blogger, but I will: I’m a sucker for Hallmark cards.
I can always count on finding a few I like when I visit the store or website, and I also get a kick out of the gold seals for the envelopes. Hallmark cards are anything but cheap, which used to mean I could only admire them. But by combining Hallmark’s two rewards programs with some clever strategy, I can now afford to buy their cards — and I get free gift cards to my favorite stores on top of my savings.
It sounds too good to be true, but I’m proof that this strategy works. Here’s how I earn free gift cards to retailers like Starbucks, Chili’s, The Gap and Best Buy, simply by buying Hallmark Cards.
Step 1: Join the Hallmark Crown Rewards Program
Simply go to Hallmark.com and create an account. Next, go to the drop-down menu under your name and select “Crown Rewards.” Follow the instructions to join the program.
Once you’re registered, you’ll earn points every time you make a purchase and present your card (which you’ll get in the mail), or provide the phone number associated with your account. The points are turned into reward dollars that can be used to buy any Hallmark product, not just cards.
How Many Points Do You Get?
The program is a bit complicated. It’s organized in tiered categories, with members achieving silver, gold and platinum status based on the number of cards they purchase and/or the amount of money they spend.
You earn more points as you move up the program tiers. For instance, silver-level members earn 10 points for every dollar they spend, plus an additional 10 points per dollar for every card they purchase. Gold and platinum members earn more points, and you can earn bonus points by buying multiple cards at a time.
Every time you accrue 1,500 points, you’ll receive a $5 reward certificate to use in stores or online. That sounds like a lot of points, but given how you earn them and your ability to use coupons to maximize your spending, you can start reaping the benefits fairly quickly and easily.
Step 2: Join the Hallmark Card Rewards Program
Remember that drop-down menu where you found the Crown Rewards Program? Go back, and choose “Card Rewards Program” this time.
Ready to start earning those free gift cards? When you join this program, you’ll earn a free $5 gift card for every five cards you buy.
When you purchase your cards in store or online, show your Crown Rewards Card or give your phone number. You’ll receive a credit for each card, and once you accrue five credits, you’ll earn a reward that can be redeemed for a $5 gift card. Using your Crown Rewards Card also means you’ll earn points, which will net you other discounts and coupons.
If you forget your card, simply log into your account when you get home and enter the UPC numbers located on the back of the cards. You can even purchase your Hallmark cards from non-Hallmark stores, like Target, and enter the UPC number this way.
The program doesn’t consider the cost of the cards you purchase, so make sure to keep an eye on the sales. I get most of my cards for $0.99 rather than the regular price of $3.50 or more. Spending $5 on five cards and a $5 gift card feels great!
There is a limit to the fun: you can only get free gift cards four times per month. However, that gives you $20 in free gift cards per month, or up to $240 a year.
While you might not have enough card-giving occasions to use this strategy to its full potential, consider whether you can help your friends or family members stock up on birthday or wedding cards. Or, take advantage of the timing and hit the post-Valentine’s Day sales on love-themed cards. If you have kids, you’ll be all set for their classroom celebrations next year! And of course, make sure to use a rewards credit card to make sure you earn points or cash back on your purchase.
What Gift Cards are Available?
Compared to other reward programs, the gift card selection is admittedly on the small side, and hopefully it will grow as the program matures. However, it’s been easy to find cards to retailers I love, such as Starbucks, Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic/Athleta, Best Buy, Staples, Chili’s and Burger King. You can also redeem for RedBox rentals or yearly subscriptions to magazines like Better Homes and Gardens and Every Day with Rachael Ray.
One downside is that you can only redeem one of each gift card per month. So when I earned enough for two $5 gift cards in a single month and really wanted two Starbucks gift cards, I could only get one. I used the other reward to get a clothing store gift card. This is a small concern, though — I can’t complain about free gift cards.
In addition to gift cards, you could also choose to redeem your rewards toward other offers such as $50 towards the purchase of Omaha Steaks. However, these offers are fairly common online, so I’d recommend avoiding them and sticking with the gift cards for the best value.
How I Get 10 Cards and $10 in Free Gift Cards for $5
This is where your coupon strategy really comes in handy. If you already have a “$5 off a purchase of $10 or more” coupon, you’re all set. If not, check sites like Retail Me Not and Coupons.com for printable coupons, or simply wait for the Crown Rewards Program to send them out in the mail. Then, combine it with your program memberships to make the most of your purchase.
On my last card-buying trip, I bought ten cards at $0.99 each, plus a small piece of $0.25 candy to get me to the $10 mark, and presented my membership card and “$5 off a $10 purchase” coupon. Here’s what I got for five dollars and change:
- 10 Hallmark cards
- Two $5 gift cards
- Points toward future discounts
- A piece of chocolate
That’s what I’m talking about, Hallmark!
Your Turn: Do you use the Hallmark Rewards Programs? Will you sign up and start earning free gift cards when you buy cards?
Kim Owens believes that living life richly and being frugal is not an oxymoron. Her blog Money Under the Cushions is dedicated to sharing her favorite ways of accomplishing just that.