Where to Find Gift Card Freebies This Holiday Season

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Although 25 percent of us still have unused gift cards from last year, 62 percent of us plan to give a gift card as a holiday gift this year, according to a recent Consumer Reports poll.

Maybe that’s why so many restaurants are willing to make their gift cards more appetizing by offering to give you a free gift card in exchange for buying one.

Whatever their reason, you may as well take advantage of the freebie offers if you’re among the 62 percent who plan to give a gift card – or even if you’re not. Paying $100 for a $125 gift card is like getting a 20 percent discount, whether you pass the cards on to loved ones or keep them for yourself.

Below is a list of more than 20 regional and national chains that are giving away free gift cards or meals if you buy a certain amount of gift cards. If you plan to purchase them in person, just call your local restaurant first to make sure their location is participating. If you purchase them online, make sure you see the freebie before you enter your credit card info.

Restaurants

Benihana

  • If you buy: $50 in gift cards
  • You also get: $10 bonus card that’s valid Jan. 2 through March 31
  • Offer available: In restaurants and online
  • Offer ends: Dec. 31

Boston Market

  • If you buy: $25 gift card
  • You also get: $5 bonus card that’s valid through Jan. 31
  • Offer available: In restaurants
  • Offer ends: While bonus card supplies last

California Pizza Kitchen

  • If you buy: $100 in gift cards
  • You also get: $20 bonus card that’s valid Jan. 3 through March 6
  • Offer available: In restaurants and online
  • Offer ends: Dec. 24

Carrabba’s Italian Grill

  • If you buy: $100 in gift cards
  • You also get: $20 bonus card that’s valid Jan. 1 through Feb. 10
  • Offer available: In restaurants and online
  • Offer ends: Dec. 31

Champps Americana

  • If you buy: $50 gift card
  • You also get: $15 extra points card
  • Offer available: In restaurants
  • Offer ends: Not specified

Cheesecake Factory

  • If you buy: $25 if gift cards or e-gift cards
  • You also get: Slice of Joy Card, redeemable for a free piece of cheesecake at a future visit between Dec. 26 and March 31
  • Offer available: In-restaurant availability not specified; online
  • Offer ends: Dec. 25

Cici’s Pizza

  • If you buy: $20 in gift cards
  • You also get: A card for a free meal that’s valid in January
  • Offer available: In restaurants
  • Offer ends: Not specified

Fuddruckers

  • If you buy: $25 gift card
  • You also get: $5 bonus card that’s is valid Jan. 1 through Feb. 29
  • Offer available: In-restaurant availability not specified; online
  • Offer ends: Dec. 31

Hardee’s

  • If you buy: $20 gift card
  • You also get: Quarter-pound Little Thickburger
  • Offer available: In-restaurant availability not specified; online
  • Offer ends: Dec. 31

Hooters

  • If you buy: $25 gift card (or $50 gift card)
  • You also get: $5 bonus card (or $10 bonus card) that’s valid Jan. 2 through Feb. 29
  • Offer available: In restaurants
  • Offer ends: Not specified

Houlihan’s

  • If you buy: $50 in gift cards
  • You also get: $10 dining certificate that’s valid Jan. 1 through Feb. 29
  • Offer available: In restaurants
  • Offer ends: Not specified

IHOP Restaurant

  • If you buy: $25 gift card
  • You also get: $5 off your next visit
  • Offer available: In restaurants
  • Offer ends: Jan. 31

Joe’s Crab Shack

  • If you buy: $25 in gift cards
  • You also get: $5 bonus card that’s valid Jan. 1 through Feb. 12
  • Offer available: In restaurants and online
  • Offer ends: Dec. 31

Long John Silver’s

  • If you buy: $20-plus in gift cards
  • You also get: Free piece of whitefish fillet
  • Offer available: In restaurants
  • Offer ends: Not specified

Macaroni Grill

  • If you buy: $25 in gift cards
  • You also get: $5 bonus card that’s valid Jan. 2 through Feb. 29
  • Offer available: In-restaurant availability not specified; online
  • Offer ends: Jan. 1

Maggiano’s Little Italy

  • If you buy: $100 in e-gift cards
  • You also get: $20 e-bonus card that’s valid Jan. 1 through Feb. 29 and a free subscription to Wine & Food magazine
  • Offer available: Online
  • Offer ends: Dec. 31

Outback Steakhouse

  • If you buy: $100 in gift cards
  • You also get: $20 bonus card that’s valid Jan. 1 through Feb. 10
  • Offer available: In restaurants and online
  • Offer ends: Dec. 31

RA Sushi Bar Restaurant

  • If you buy: $50 in gift cards
  • You also get: $10 promotional card that’s valid Jan. 2 through March 31
  • Offer available: In-restaurant availability not specified; online
  • Offer ends: Dec. 31

Ruby Tuesday

  • If you buy: $50 in gift cards
  • You also get: $15 bonus coupon
  • Offer available: In-restaurant availability not specified; online
  • Offer ends: Dec. 31

Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill

  • If you buy: $50 in gift cards
  • You also get: $10 bonus card
  • Offer available: In restaurants
  • Offer ends: Dec. 24

Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q

  • If you buy: $50 gift card
  • You also get: $10 in bonus cards
  • Offer available: In-restaurant availability not specified; online
  • Offer ends: Not specified

Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes

  • If you buy: $50 in gift cards
  • You also get: Meal pass for the gift recipient
  • Offer available: In-restaurant availability not specified; online
  • Offer ends: Dec. 31

Stir Crazy Fresh Asian Grill

  • If you buy: $100 in gift cards
  • You also get: $25 bonus card that’s valid Jan. 15 through March 15
  • Offer available: Not specified
  • Offer ends: Jan. 3

Taco Bell

  • If you buy: $20 gift card
  • You also get: Chicken flatbread sandwich combo
  • Offer available: In restaurants
  • Offer ends: Dec. 25

Dessert and smoothie places

Rita’s Ice Custard

  • If you buy: $10 in gift cards
  • You also get: Regular-size Italian ice, frozen custard, Gelati, Blendini, or Misto
  • Offer available: In-store availability not specified; online
  • Offer ends: Not specified

Jamba Juice

  • If you buy: $25-plus gift card
  • You also get: 16-ounce smoothie, or a coupon for a free 16-ounce smoothie that’s valid through Jan. 10
  • Offer available: Not specified
  • Offer ends: Jan. 3

Smoothie King

  • If you buy: $25 gift card
  • You also get: Smoothie
  • Offer available: In stores
  • Offer ends: Unknown

Karla Bowsher runs our Deals page, writes “Today’s Deals” posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; and covers consumer and retail issues. If you have a comment, suggestion, or question, leave a comment or contact her at karla@moneytalksnews.com.

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Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • Anonymous

    I will NOT buy cards with short expirations and limited or for future use dates.  I usually find local or regional restaurant cards that off the extra dollars or percentages of bonus on the card purchased, a second card or maybe a meal offer of sorts but it needs to be 20% at min for me to hassle with it.  Then I purchase with a credit card for the bonus points and funnel it and pay it off at then end of the month.  I usually buy what I can afford and expect to use up in a years time.