Here’s How Blood Donors Can Score Free Gift Cards and Other Perks

A man donates blood at a blood donation bus.
Donating blood takes about 45 minutes and one pint can save three lives. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder


There’s a shortage of blood at many hospitals around the country, but no shortage of places to roll up that sleeve and give a pint.

Along with helping save a life, donating blood is also a good way to get free stuff like $10 gift cards, beach towels and movie tickets. You could also get the chance to win a few thousand dollars, a vacation or tickets to a big game. 

Blood bank Vitalant, which operates in 28 states, is citing a “blood emergency.”

“The blood supply for about 900 hospitals nationwide recently dipped to its lowest level in a year,” the nonprofit said in a recent press release. 

One in seven people who go to the hospital need a blood transfusion including accident victims as well as people battling cancer, leukemia, sickle cell or chronic anemia.

While high school and college students are the biggest donors by age group, much of the blood donated for decades has been collected at workplace blood drives. With the transition to remote work workplace donations have taken a big dive. Vitalant alone saw a 50% decrease in business-hosted blood drives last year compared to 2019. 

“Just like our pantries need constant restocking, so does the blood supply,” said the American Red Cross said in a statement. 

To attract donors, blood banks offer gift cards, chances to win money and even tickets to major sporting events.

Perks for Pints

These days you get a lot more than a T-shirt and some peanut butter crackers when you donate. Of course, for many donors, knowing that one pint of blood can save three lives is enough. And it only takes 45 minutes to donate.

With blood collection organizations routinely giving out $20 worth of gift cards to Amazon, restaurants and major retailers at blood drives, a couple who gives six times a year can average $240 worth of free stuff and save 36 lives. 

For a family of four with kids above 16 and old enough to donate, that’s about $500 in gift cards per year and 72 lives saved.  

“One time we went to Kohl’s and there was a blood drive in the parking lot,” said Beverly Mattis of Wake Forest, N.C. “They gave us each a $20 Kohl’s gift card so my daughter and I went in and did some shopping afterward.”

You can net much more than $20 for giving blood depending on the promotion. Right now, OneBlood, which serves Florida and parts of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, is offering a set of two tickets to see the Orlando Magic to anyone who donates.

Give blood through the Red Cross March 1 to March 31 and you’ll have a chance of winning a $3,000 prepaid Visa card. Five will be given away. Everyone who gives will get a $10 Visa card.

A man wearing a face mask shows off his gift certificates after donating blood.
Restaurant certificates, store gift cards and other rewards, sometimes even cash, are often offered to people who give blood.  Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

How to Get the Perks of Being a Regular Blood Donor

If you register to be a blood donor with the blood collection organization in your area, you will receive texts or emails with dates of upcoming blood drives and the perks. There are many blood collection organizations around the country. Here are three of the biggest, and how to register:

Most people can donate every two months. There’s no requirement that you give a certain number of times a year, but there is encouragement. Some blood banks offer a second gift card of a higher value if you give blood twice within a certain period. 

OneBlood has a new Blood Donor Milestones Program that rewards repeat donors with points toward merchandise and gift cards as they achieve certain levels of giving. 

Along with gift cards and tickets, many blood collection groups also give out swag such as beach towels, fleece blankets, car sun shades and insulated water bottles.

More Perks for Donating Platelets

Platelets are small cells that stop bleeding by forming clots. Donated platelets are used for cancer patients, transplants, burn patients and traumatic injuries. 

When someone donates platelets, a machine extracts them from whole blood then returns the rest of the blood back to the donor. The process takes about three hours.  

Because it takes longer than donating whole blood, often more perks are offered for people who give platelets, which can be donated every seven days. OneBlood has a big offer ongoing: Donate platelets six times before March 31 and you will collect $420 in egift cards, which can be used at most major retailers as well as many smaller stores and restaurants. Each time you donate, you get a egift card worth more money as well as one worth $20. You can accrue $420 worth of cards after six donations. That’s a good way to afford that new TV or buy groceries for a while. 

Vitalant is also encouraging people in certain regions to organize a “platelet party” with friends the same as they might host a party at their homes selling Tupperware, jewelry or clothes. An organizer can invite eight friends to a private catered party at a collection center where donors receive gift cards and other swag.

People line up at a blood donation bus to donate blood.
With many people working from home because of the pandemic, donations at mobile facilities during traditional work hours has fallen. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Organize a Blood Drive and Win a Scholarship

High school blood drives are crucial to supplying the nation’s hospitals with much-needed blood. About one-third of the blood collected nationwide comes from high school students.

Many adult donors started as high school kids lining up in the gym to do a good deed and get out of Algebra class. In most states, 17-year-olds can donate blood and 16-year-olds can give with a parent’s consent. They must weigh at least 110 pounds and be in generally good health.

Blood collection agencies across the country offer competitions for local high schools.

The Red Cross is offering gift cards and the chance to win college scholarships worth $1,000, $1,500 or $2,500 to high school students who organize blood drives in the summer of 2023. The number of pints collected determines the amount of scholarship money they could win in a drawing. But you definitely get a gift card worth $50 or more if the blood drive collects at least 25 pints. 

Along with the gift cards and chance for a scholarship, organizing a blood drive shows leadership skills and really stands out on a resume for a job or college application. 

How to Make Donating Blood, Scoring Gift Cards or Game Tickets Easier

Here’s some info from the American Red Cross to make your donation go smoother before you even get to a donation site. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in.

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions on the site or download the Blood Donor App from the Apple Store or Google Play.

 

Veteran journalist Katherine Snow Smith is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She covers ways to make money, save money and other topics. Her work has appeared in the Tampa Bay Times, Charlotte Business Journal and Greenville (S.C.) News