How Unwanted Gift Cards Save Me Hundreds of Dollars a 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 Save Me Hundreds of Dollars a Year Photo by Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com

I buy more gift cards for my own household than I buy as actual gifts.

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

I use these discounted gift cards to buy everyday items as well as restaurant meals — a simple tactic that can easily save me hundreds of dollars a year.

If that sounds too good to be true, it’s partly because discounted gift cards enable me to score deals that are otherwise impossible. Before I explain those deals, though, let’s start with the cards themselves.

Gift card marketplaces

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

Wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club’s sell a limited selection of discounted gift cards. For a broad selection, you must use a gift card marketplace such as Cardpool.com or Raise.com.

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 guarantee cards sold on their sites. Cardpool and Raise offer one-year guarantees.

Scoring otherwise impossible deals

Now, 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. For I used them to pull off deep discounts that, as far as I know, are otherwise impossible.

I find the dog food I buy is generally cheapest at Amazon and Petco.com. I usually order it from Petco.com, though, because I can often get discounted Petco gift cards from marketplaces. (Discounted Amazon gift cards are hard to come by, presumably due to high demand.)

So, when I ordered dog food from Petco.com and paid for it with that Petco gift card, I got for 26 percent off — effectively getting the dog food for 26 percent less than Amazon’s price.

Another example: prescription medications. By paying for $10 copays with CVS gift cards I get for 15 percent off, I effectively pay $8.50 instead.

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 and 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 retailer’s gift card, check out its price elsewhere. Different marketplaces price cards differently, so prices often vary between marketplaces. Fortunately, the website Gift Card Granny makes it easy to compare prices at various marketplaces.
  • 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: A marketplace will notify you of sales and other special discounts.
  • 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 Money Talks News’ free credit card search tool to find cards 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.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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