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How to Save Money by Buying Gift Cards Online

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Starbucks Gift CardWhenever I buy something online, I look to try to reduce the price of the item as much as possible. As a consumer, there are a variety of tools you can use to be a savvier shopper. Most consumers know to use a credit card with at least 1% cash back to reduce the price a small bit. Others shop online to avoid sales tax.

However, one trick I’ve used lately is buying store gift cards on the second hand market. If you’ve seen gift card industry statistics, they’re astonishing. There are billions of dollars lost each year in gift card value and several startups have stepped into the space because they sense an opportunity. The online buying and selling of gift cards is growing and that means opportunity not only for these startups, but savvy consumers.

How This Works

You can buy gift cards online for less than the face value of the card, which means more savings at the register or checkout screen. For example, with Mother’s Day right around the corner, you’re probably thinking about buying Mom some flowers. If you’ve been scoping out the various flower deals, perhaps you’ve settled on a bouquet from 1-800-Flowers. You’ve scoped out the coupons, you’ve checked all the partnership websites giving a small percentage off if you buy through their affiliate link, and now you want a little extra edge.

Buy a gift card online. It’s treated like any other form of payment, plus you can buy it with a credit card and still get the cashback! (incidentally, you can buy 1-800-Flowers gift cards online for 25%-30% off!)

Where to Buy Gift Cards

If you want to buy some gift cards, you have two options:

  • eBay – I’m always hesitant to use eBay because I’m always worried about being scammed. There’s something about buying hundreds or thousands of gift card dollars that makes me a little uneasy. There are plenty of people who have had no problem buying gift cards on eBay, I’m simply not one of them.
  • Gift card marketplaces – The two big ones I’ve heard about are Cardpool and Plastic Jungle, though there are certainly a lot of players in the space. I trust these places more than eBay because they’re larger businesses with funding, rather than individuals.

It’s important that you shop around and find the ones that offer the best deals and selection for the store you’re interested in. For example, Card Pool can save you 14% on a Bath & Body Works gift card but only has a $122.89 card available. Plastic Jungle’s best discount is 13% but you have the choice between a variety of values, one as little as $50. If you only need $50 of value, it makes little sense to buy the $122.89 card just to get an extra percent of savings.

So you get 1% cashback when you buy the Bath & Body Works gift card, you get a 13-14% discount on the face value of the card, plus whatever coupons and discounts you can wrangle from other partners.

So the next time you are going to buy something, consider buying a gift card first.

Have you done this before? If so, any additional tips for squeezing out a little more savings?

(Photo: rahims)

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26 Responses to “How to Save Money by Buying Gift Cards Online”

  1. billsnider says:

    In my prior life we use to sell gift cards and also issue money-off vouchers in lieu of cash. The redemption rate is around 70%.

    Resturant gift certificates are another. The redemption is low there too. It is money to the owner.

    Bill Snider

  2. Olivia says:

    This is a great idea! I have always wanted to use Restaurant.com to get highly discounted restaurant gift cards, but the selection of restaurants in my area is highly limited. I will have to check out Plastic Jungle and Card Pool.

    • govenar says:

      The stuff restaurant.com sells aren’t gift cards anyway. They’re more like coupons (buy one get one free type of things).

      • echidnina says:

        Yeah, Restaurant.com seemed appealing, but the certificates are way too restrictive for me. They probably work well for some people (if you eat out lunches a lot, or pay for several people’s meals), but they’re not a good fit for me and I wouldn’t count them as gift certificates.

        • We use restaurants.com frequently. I love spending a total of $13 for a meal for two including 2 entrees, drinks, appetizer and 2 desserts!!!!!!

          I am not from a huge town, but there are a lot of restaurants listed that I would not normally have ever visited. So, we actually use it to help us scout out new places. We have found a couple of new favs in the process.

          • cdiver says:

            Agreed, I have found a restaraunt that I visit frequently. Well worth it.

  3. Anthony says:

    This is a fantastic idea that I need to look into doing, especially if I know I’m going to make a specific purchase at a specific location.

  4. I try to buy gift cards as much as I can when I am making large purchases. I bought some things a while back at Ikea with gift cards I got on Ebay that were 20% off the price of the card. I had no problems, but there are some sketchy people on Ebay who sell the cards.

  5. Mark says:

    My brother always uses Ebay to get gift cards and sells ones he doesnt want. He has never had a problem, but I think this is a better way to go and seems to be a better deal. Most of the Ebay Gift Card auctions I have seen get close to 90%+ of value. Thanks for the tip, two new sites have now been bookmarked! ;)

  6. echidnina says:

    This is a great idea because you can ‘stack’ savings in ways that otherwise wouldn’t be allowed. To use your Bath & Body Works example, I love their stuff but never have to buy anything there at full price. They always have some % off or buy one get one free coupons floating around. There’s plenty of sale bins, too. However, you can only get one discount per purchase. Getting your GC at a discount in the first place stretches your $ that much further.

  7. Jessica says:

    I believe you can also go to LeverageCard.com and swap gift cards or buy them online. I think they offer discounts and I believe you can earn interest on a gift card so when you are ready to spend you have more money. I have never used them myself but I read something about them

  8. Kent says:

    You can also get about 3-10% back by using sites like ebates.com on top of your discounted gift certificates and 1% cash back.

  9. fairydust says:

    Love it! I have checked out Cardpool in the past but shied away because I rarely spend money at most of the places for which there are gift cards listed, so it seemed more like a waste of money in the end than a discount. But when I looked at PlasticJungle after reading this blog, I saw a $100 Walmart gc “on sale” for $96. Not a huge bargain, but I’ll definitely spend $100 at Wally world anyway, so by buying this gc first, I’m still saving $4. I’m not counting the 1% reward from the cc I used because whether I buy the gc with the credit card or just pay for $100 worth of goods with the cc, I get basically the same kickback.

    Anyway, using that discounted gc along with the coupons I usually use at Walmart, I get even more savings. Thanks!

    • echidnina says:

      That’s a good point on the credit card rewards – Whether you pay for the GC or you pay for the purchase itself, you’re only getting the cash back once so it doesn’t really factor into the savings.

  10. retire@50 says:

    I’ve bought a $100 Walmart giftcard at 4% off from Plasticjungle and it worked great. This week I bought a $50 Staples card for $46 an 8% discount. I even set prompts that let me know when a gift card I want is available.

  11. wpr4u says:

    I earn a ton of miles on my Starwood Amex credit card by purchasing large equipment in my business through vendors that take credit cards. Then I redeem the miles into Amazon gift cards. I get a $150 Amazon gift card for every 14,000 miles I redeem. It’s been years since I’ve paid out of my own pocket for clothes, electronics, music, gifts, sporting equipment, etc. I buy it all using miles.

  12. Lisa says:

    Whenever I buy something online, I look to try to reduce the price of the item as much as possible. As a consumer, there are a variety of tools you can use to be a savvier shopper. You can buy gift cards online for less than the face value of the card, which means more savings at the register or checkout scree.So you get a 13-14% discount on the face value of the card

    So the next time you are going to buy something, consider buying a gift card first

  13. BrianC says:

    Thanks for the site recommendations–I’ve been leery of buying gift cards on ebay as well.

  14. Carlos says:

    Another money saving option if you get your gas at Kroger/King Soopers:

    King Soopers has a good selection of gift cards. When you buy $50 worth of gift cards, you get $0.10/gallon gas discount. You can earn up to $1.00/gallon discount per month, so if you buy enough gift cards you’re getting up to 25%-30% discount on gas. If you plan to shop someplace that they have gift cards for (Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, Sears, etc, some restaurants, amazon, starbucks), get gift cards at King Soopers for those places and then get a discount on your gas at the same time. Plus if you use a rewards credit card, you’ll get that rebate as well.

  15. Some cashback shopping sites, such as Mr. Rebates and Sunshine Rewards, give a 1% or 2% cashback on purchases. The variety isn’t as great, but if you’re looking for Amex, Borders, Barnes and Noble, Home Depot et al., then why not get the extra amount? Especially if you’re doing home remodeling: Buy the Home Depot card, then use it to buy the supplies you need?
    I’ve only bought a gift card online once. When I first left my marriage and moved to Seattle, my daughter suggested I bid on a $500 Macy’s card. I wound up paying $310, I think. Out of that I obtained a set of flannel sheets, a nice set of pots and pans, a couple of bathrobes, a bed-in-a-bag (including comforter), a microwave oven, a set of decorative shower curtain rings and a few articles of clothing. Some was for me (I hadn’t been able to bring much with me when I left) and some was for her.
    As you can imagine, we were careful to buy only on sale/clearance.

  16. Oops. I meant to say, “give a 1% or 2% cashback on the purchase of gift cards.”

  17. eric says:

    I definitely don’t trust eBay for gift cards either, or any other place really to be honest. It’s too easy to be scammed.

  18. zapeta says:

    This is a great idea! I usually use Bing cashback when I purchase stuff online from participating retailers, but I never thought to pair that with a discounted gift card.

  19. hoosierbee says:

    Great idea to stack it with ebates!

  20. rtbeal says:

    I have never had any luck at resturants.com. I guess I need to move to a bigger city.

  21. jsbrendog says:

    i have to learn to use the chase ultimate rewards better because if you buy a gift card/certificate through there not only do you usually get a little bit of a discount but you also get extra rewards. bad lazy attitude. bad!


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