The Power of Gift Cards: An Easy Way to Save a Bundle

January 21, 2015

You might think of gift cards as something you give in lieu of a physical gift, but that’s not the only thing they’re good for. Instead, savvy shoppers use them to save money on everyday purchases – dining out, going to movies, purchasing clothes.

How does it work exactly? You buy gift cards at a discount and use them for the face value of the card, or you acquire them by making purchases you plan on making anyways. It might seem too good to be true, but there are plenty of ways you can capitalize on the money-saving power of the gift card.

Here are a few.

Gift Card Exchanges

These websites serve two groups: those looking to get rid of unwanted gift cards and those looking to buy said gift cards. If you have unwanted cards you know you’ll never use, you can sell them to these sites, making slightly less than the face value of the card.

Check out these sites:

While the discounts and inventory vary by site and can change by the day (I suggest checking multiple sites if you’re looking for a particular card) you can save anywhere from 4-35% on each card. If you’re selling cards, you can earn back as much as 92% of the original value.

Here are a few available cards:
AMC Theaters

If you're interested in scoring some discounted cards on the go, you'll want to check out the Raise app which allows you to purchase and sell gift cards from your phone (iOS only). This app also allows you to track your total savings or earnings, whatever the case may be.

Warehouse Clubs

Costco and Sam’s Club aren’t just good for purchasing an overabundance of toilet paper and cereal – they offer tons of discounted gift cards as well.

Beware, however, that these gift cards are usually sold in bulk like the rest of their offerings. But, if you tend to frequent certain restaurants (i.e. Smashburger, California Pizza Kitchen, Baja Fresh to name a few), or see movies at certain theaters (Cinemark, Regal, AMC), it’s certainly worth it.

The discounts vary, but here are a few:
Restaurant: (2) $50 gift cards for $79.00
Movie Theater: (10) tickets for $84.99

Credit Card Rewards

If you are already dealing with credit card debt or if you tend to carry a balance on your card, opening new cards to earn rewards isn’t suggested. However, if you pay your balance off every month and you’re using your card anyways, you might as well earn rewards in the process, right?

I use my card for every purchase aside from rent and a few other things, so I rack up rewards quickly without spending anything I normally wouldn’t. In turn, I’ve cashed my rewards in for movie, store, and restaurant gift cards, as well as a hotel stay.

The key is selecting a card that offers the best rewards for the types of purchases you make. Some cards keep the rewards consistent while others offer higher rewards for rotating categories. If you’re looking for a credit card that fits for you, check out this list of the best reward cards for 2015 from NerdWallet.

(Feeling particularly adventurous? Or simply struggling with a tight budget? Check out this article which highlights one woman's experience of living off gift cards for one month.)