How Unwanted Gift Cards Saved Me $300 Last Year

A simple tactic helps me score deep discounts that are otherwise impossible. Here's everything you need to know to do the same.

How Unwanted Gift Cards Saved Me $300 Last Year Photo by Africa Studio /

I bought about 20 gift cards last year — for my own household.

They were discounted gift cards, meaning I paid less than face value for them. For example, I bought a Petco gift card for 26 percent off its face value and CVS gift cards for 15 percent off.

I used them to buy everyday items as well as restaurant meals — a simple tactic that saved me about $297 last year.

If that sounds too good to be true, it’s partly because discounted gift cards enabled me to score deals that are otherwise impossible.

Gift card marketplaces

So where can you buy, say, a Petco gift card that’s worth $95.74 for only $70.76?

Well, wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club sell a limited selection of discounted gift cards on their websites:

I’ve never seen pet store gift cards at wholesale clubs, though. For a broad selection — and discounts that can beat those of wholesale clubs — you must use a gift card marketplace such as or

These websites — also referred to as gift card exchanges — are platforms where individuals with unwanted gift cards can sell them for less than their face value and savvy savers can buy them at a discount.

To be clear, these are secondary marketplaces. So, unlike the gift cards sold at wholesale clubs, the cards you buy on these sites are technically secondhand.

The prior owner may or may not have spent part of a gift card’s value. This is why you often see cards with odd values, like $95.74. But either way, gift card marketplaces tell you the current value of cards upfront, so you know what you’re getting before buying it.

Additionally, many gift card marketplaces, including Cardpool and Raise, guarantee cards sold on their sites.

For example, Raise offers a one-year money-back guarantee. To learn more, check out “ Now Guarantees Discounted Gift Cards for 1 Year.”

Otherwise impossible gift card deals

Still skeptical? Let’s go back to my examples of the Petco gift card I bought for 26 percent off its face value and multiple CVS gift cards I’ve bought for 15 percent off.

No one sells my dog’s food cheaper than Amazon, but matches Amazon’s price. So by ordering dog food from with that discounted gift card, I effectively got it for 26 percent less than Amazon’s price.

Plus, by making that purchase via the cash-back portal Ebates, I earned 4 percent cash back, which I wouldn’t have received by ordering the dog food from Amazon. So in the end I effectively paid 30 percent less than Amazon’s price.

To learn more about cash-back portals, check out “4 Websites That Pay You to Go Shopping.”

Another steal: prescription medications. By paying for $10 copays with discounted CVS gift cards, I effectively pay $8.50 instead.

Try pulling off discounts that deep without a discounted gift card. As far as I know, it’s impossible.

Getting started with discount gift cards

If you’re ready to try a gift card marketplace, just sign up for an account with one or more marketplaces. This step is free and fast at Cardpool or Raise.

From there, you can start buying (or selling). Here are a few buying tips I’ve learned along the way:

  • Always compare prices: Before you buy a gift card from any marketplace, check out prices at other sites. Different marketplaces price cards differently. For example, Raise lets sellers set their own prices and change them at any time. Prices vary even for the same retailer and change frequently.
  • Understand what type of gift card you’re buying: Certain types of gift cards sold on marketplaces are good only in stores or only online. So pay attention to a gift card’s description on a marketplace’s website.
  • Sign up for emails: You’ll be notified of sales and other special discounts that aren’t necessarily broadcast across a marketplace’s home page.
  • Know the guarantee: Look up the guarantee policy of any marketplace you shop — and spend discounted gift cards within the guarantee time window. This is how I got all my money back on one or two discounted gift cards I bought that turned out to be duds.
  • Use a rewards credit card: To maximize your savings from discounted gift cards, buy them with a rewards credit card. I always use a cash-back credit card. If you’re considering a new or better credit card, use our “Finding the Perfect Plastic” tool to search based on the type of rewards you want.

Have you ever used a gift card marketplace? If so, tell us what you thought by commenting below or over on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.


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