According to the National Retail Federation, gift cards were the most popular and requested gift this past holiday season. But contrary to popular belief, buying a gift card doesn't always require paying full price. Likewise, selling unwanted gift cards isn't as arduous as you may think. To help you save money and take advantage of those unspent gift cards, we've created this all-inclusive guide for all of your gift card queries.
Where to Buy Discounted Gift Cards
Buying Deals From Retail Stores
When looking for deals on gift cards, remember this one rule: a retailer will hardly ever discount its own gift cards. (Restaurants are the exception to this rule.) So rather than buy direct from a retailer, your best bet for finding gift card deals is to buy them elsewhere. For instance, rather than purchase an Xbox gift card from Microsoft, you'll find better deals on said gift card via Newegg or another electronics retailer. The same goes for Apple. Its iTunes gift cards sell at face value via the Apple Store, but can be purchased for as much as 50% off when bought at Best Buy or Newegg.
Daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social have also helped change the gift card landscape as these sites frequently sell discounted gift cards (or vouchers/credits) to stores like American Apparel, Starbucks, and Domino's to name a few. In some instances, you may even find gift card deals to stores you wouldn't think offered discounts, such as Amazon, Whole Foods, and Toys "R" Us. However, these discounts aren't as frequent, so be sure to purchase them quickly when available.
Buying Deals From Resale Marketplaces
Yet another source of gift card deals are gift card-oriented sites like CardCash, GiftCardRescue, Cardpool, and Raise.com. These sites sell gifts cards from numerous retailers at up to 35% off the actual cost of the card. They can afford to do this because these sites create a virtual marketplace for gift cards, meaning they buy unwanted cards from owners and then sell them at a discount to potential buyers. Traditionally, the site acts as the middleman confirming and verifying each gift card it sells. However, some sites like eBay require that you buy directly from the seller, who is usually rated by previous customers.
Fortunately, every site has its own purchase guarantee that protects buyers from purchasing fraudulent cards, but you can never be too cautious, so we recommend fully vetting a site before making any buying decisions. That means checking with the Better Business Bureau or other agencies that act as consumer watchdogs. As a general rule of thumb, if a site has received a lot of positive press from major media outlets, there's a good chance it's safe.
Once you've chosen a site with which you're comfortable, simply browse its catalog until you find the card you want. Next, you must decide if you want a physical or electronic gift card. The latter is faster, although as we mentioned, most sites offer free USPS shipping if you prefer having a physical copy. As with all purchases, your new gift card comes with buyer protection. In the case of Cardpool, you get a 100-day purchase guarantee should any problems arise with your card. CardCash offers a similar guarantee, but one that lasts just 45 days, whereas Raise.com offers a 60-day guarantee on its cards. It's worth noting that these guarantees are valid for physical cards only. So while your gift card may not expire, purchase guarantee dates will vary, so the sooner you use your gift card the more likely you are to avoid any problems down the line.
Comparison Shop for the Best Rates
On average, you can expect to see discounts of 8% to 25% or sometimes higher. Keep in mind that the more popular the card you're looking for, the greater your chances of finding it. However, the card you find may not always be in the amount you desire. For instance, at the time of this writing, Cardpool only had two Brooks Brothers gift cards for sale and each was valued at $500. If you wanted a $50 or $100 card, you're out of luck, unless you're willing to wait or check other sites.
Ultimately, we've found that the best deals come to those who comparison shop. While Cardpool, Raise.com, and CardCash are a great starting point, sometimes better offers can be found elsewhere. We've learned, for instance, that Best Buy is the best retailer for iTunes gift cards. At times, the retailer has offered iTunes cards for up to 50% off the full cost of the gift card. Gift Card Mall and Newegg take the second and third spots for iTunes gift cards, respectively. Finally, all sites should sell cards tax-free. Raise.com even has an app you can use to purchase electronic cards from your smartphone, a handy tool for people who prefer to do their shopping in-store.
Buying Deals From Restaurants
As we stated earlier, restaurants are the exception to the gift card rule. Popular chains like T.G.I. Friday's, P.F. Chang's, and Bonefish Grill offer bonus dollars with the purchase of select gift cards. So when shopping for restaurant gift cards, buying direct is usually your best choice. Though again we'd recommend comparison shopping first because oftentimes you may find discounts on sites like Restaurant.com or daily deals sites.
Selling Unwanted Cards
Choosing a Marketplace
These days, unwanted gift cards are just as valuable as cash. In fact, according to advisory company CEB TowerGroup, an estimated $750 million went unused in gift cards in the past year. As a direct result, the sales of gift cards has risen over the past few years, with various sites ready to take your unwanted cards for a few dollars less than their actual worth. (Most sites take a small commission, which is why you're offered slightly less than the face value of your card.) While there are dozens of sites where you can sell your card, we're focusing on the most popular ones, which include CardCash, GiftCardRescue, Cardpool, and Raise.com. So what should you do before selling your gift card?
While price is the highest factor dictating where you'll sell your card, there are other things you should take into consideration. A site like Cardpool will buy your gift card outright, paying you anywhere from 65% to 90% of your card's value, depending on market demand. A site like Raise.com will charge you a $1 fee to list your card on their site and then take a 15% commission when your card sells. Likewise, some sites will offer you free shipping when selling cards to them, while other sites like CardCash require you to pay for shipping, which is usually nominal, but should be taken into consideration.
Another thing to keep in mind is the value of your card. Some sites will not accept cards with a value under $25, whereas other sites will accept any amount, even if the card has already been partially used. In a similar fashion, not all gift cards can be resold. Cardpool, for instance, will not buy iTunes cards, although they will buy Apple Store cards.
Confirm and List Your Card
After you've picked your site, you'll want to confirm your gift card's value with them online. This is as easy as entering your card's PIN and security code. Next, you'll want to choose the type of payment you want, and if applicable, mail out your card. (We recommend using shipping with tracking should your card get lost in the mail.) Traditionally, customers are paid via check, PayPal, or via an Amazon credit, which is emailed to you once your gift card is received. Payments come from the company and not from the original gift card owner. Opting for an Amazon credit typically offers the best value, since many gift card-trading sites have cut deals with Amazon and offer slightly more money if you opt for an Amazon credit. The entire process takes about a week if you mail out your card.
Alternatively, some sites let you sell your cards digitally, meaning you enter your card's information online and get paid instantly. The downside is that this option tends to pay less. For instance, a $50 Best Buy card sent via mail to Cardpool will get you $44.50, whereas the same card sold digitally will fetch you $42. For security purposes, sites prefer physical gift cards so they tend to encourage users by offering slightly more for physical gift cards.
It's also worth noting that not all cards sell for the same amount. For instance, a $50 iTunes gift card will only fetch you $32.50 on CardCash ($33.80 if you opt for the Amazon credit), whereas an Apple Store gift card for the same amount will sell for $45.50 (or $47.32 if you opt for the Amazon credit). The price is set by the demand for the card you're selling. Also, keep in mind that some cards will be harder to sell than others. That's where the Raise.com marketplace thrives. There you can sell any card at the price you want, although Raise.com recommends not selling your card for more than its face value.
Ultimately, it's better to sell your unwanted gift card for slightly less than its face value than let said gift card go unused. The process is simple, and if you're a frequent Amazon shopper, you can retain a healthy amount of your card's original value. Likewise, when buying gift cards, never pay full price. Shop around and you'll find that more often than not, the gift card you want can be purchased for less than its face value.
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