The concept of buying discounted gift cards is simple enough. You “stack” your savings by combining Black Friday sales with discounted gift cards as payment.
And most retailers let you use their cards in-store or online.
Here are five ways you can buy gift cards for less than face value.
1. Online Gift Card Vendors
Sellers that specialize in gift cards normally sell them at face value, but they do have sales.
Typically, quantities are limited and the deals sell out fast, so check often. You can sign up on Doctor of Credit to receive phone notifications of these types of deals.
2. Discounted Gift Card Sites
Many websites help you buy discounted gift cards with unused balances. Discounts vary according to demand, and from site to site.
Gift Card Granny currently shows that a Cold Stone Creamery gift is available for 14% off and a 1800Flowers gift card is available for 8% off.
3. Local Store Promotions
I once bought gift cards for several retailers at Dollar General for 15% off.
To find these deals, check weekly ads online for various stores near you. Gift card promotions are usually on or near the last page.
Gift cards at Sam’s Club (online and in-store) often sell at a discount, but the selection is limited and the best deals are usually for restaurants. You can currently get two $25 cards for Olive Garden, Subway or Starbucks — a total value of $50 — for $39.98 online.
4. Use a 5% Cash-Back Category Reward
If you have a credit card that pays 5% cash back on certain categories, you can use it to get 5% back on gift cards for non-category retailers.
For example, Discover’s 5% categories currently include Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.
Discover doubles your cash back after the first year, so you actually get 10% back if you’re a new card holder.
Chase Freedom is another card with rotating 5% cash back categories (new ones every three months). Just remember that with both Chase and Discover, you have to activate your 5% bonus online at the beginning of each quarter.
5. Use Amex Offers
If you have an American Express card, take advantage of Amex Offers to get discounted gift cards. Just watch for offers at places that sell gift cards.
For example, my offers (each account theoretically gets different ones) once included a $10 statement credit for spending $50 at JCPenney. I can go to JCPenney, find their gift card rack, buy a $50 card for some other store, and get $10 back.
American Express says they’ll credit your account within 90 days, but it has never taken more than two weeks for my credit to appear.
You might even get gift cards for free. I used an offer of $10 back for any purchase at Newegg to buy a $10 Home Depot gift card — three times. There was no shipping charge, so I got $30 in Home Depot cards for free.
Get Ready for Black Friday
To prepare for Black Friday, you may have to guess where you’ll spend the most money, and how much, in order to buy the right gift cards in advance.
If you’re uncertain, just buy cards for places where you usually shop. That way, you can easily “liquidate” them after Black Friday if you haven’t used them all.
If you wait until the last moment (or are reading this on Black Friday), you can still buy digital gift cards as necessary and print them out at home. Most vendors say it takes up to a day to email you the link to print your “card,” but I’ve always received it within two hours.
If you’re a scientific shopper, you’ll prepare a list of doorbusters and other items you plan to buy, and where. Then you’ll find the necessary gift cards at the best discounts available. You’ll also use…
More Advanced Gift Card Strategies
Paying for Black Friday purchases with discounted gift cards is a simple way to “stack” your savings.
But you can save even more if you add additional savings tactics, like using the right rewards credit card. Here are some examples of how to really stack up those savings.
Suppose Gap and Old Navy gift cards are currently on sale for 20% off at Staples. Buy a $50 card with a Chase Ink or American Express Simply Cash Business card (I have both), to get $2 cash back on the $40 purchase (5% back at all office supply stores).
Spend $50 on half-priced gifts on Black Friday, and pay with the gift card for a total net cost of $38 for things that would normally cost $100.
That’s how you stack three savings tactics: a sale, credit card cash back and a discounted gift card.
You plan to spend $140 on gifts at Michaels, so you do this:
Go to Cashback Monitor and enter Raise to see which cash-back portal pays best for shopping at that discount card vendor. At the moment, the best rate is 5% from Mr. Rebates.
Go to Mr. Rebates and set up an account, because they offer 5% cash back if you shop at Raise through their link.
Use the Mr. Rebates portal link to go to Raise.
Search through the many Michaels gift cards. As I write this, a card with a balance of $202.25 is listed for $174.95, a 13.5% discount.
Buy the gift card with a credit card that gives you cash back, like Citi Double Cash (2%) or Barclaycard CashForward World MasterCard (1.5%).
Buy stuff at Michaels for at least 50% off on Black Friday.
Here’s the breakdown on what you would save on the first $140 of purchases, if you buy only Black Friday deals that are 50% off:
- Half-off sale savings: $140.00
- Gift card discount: $27.91
- Portal cash back: $3.36
- Credit card cash back: $2.24
By stacking four savings tactics, you save $173.51, and pay just $106.49 for gifts that would have cost $280 at the regular prices.
Add a coupon to the last example to use five savings tactics for one purchase. I once a five-level stack recently (not for Black Friday).
I earned portal cash back (1) when I bought a discounted gift card (2) with a cash-back credit card (3), and then I used the gift card and a coupon (4) to buy items already on sale (5) — all just to get cheap cat food at Petco in that case, but the strategy can also work at all of your favorite Black Friday stores.
Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).