How to save 18-37% on your purchases with a little used gift card trick

I really dislike getting gift cards over the holidays…

… but I love that everyone else gets them. Because then it means they try to sell them.

And that means I get to buy gift cards at a huge discount on gift card marketplaces sites.

I use Gift Card Granny to do my research because they aggregate data from different marketplaces, including Raise. They have a comprehensive list of cards, their leaderboard and historical tracking is kind of useful, and it's easy to navigate. They don't sell any cards themselves, they get referral commissions when you buy a card through their site.

Every so often, I load up Raise, look at the popular gift cards and biggest drops, and buy them for the places we regularly spend money.

How Big Are These Savings?

Ever buy shoes from Payless? Doesn't it feel good to Payless? I routinely see gift cards available for 30% off.

Love the movies? AMC and Regal Cinemas have gift cards that are in the double digits.

I stock up on Home Depot and Lowe's gift cards on the regular because those cards are as good as cash money for me.

I'm looking right now and there's a 1-800-Flowers gift card at nearly 40% off. People look to sell gift cards because they can't use them, you get to benefit.

I routinely look to buy gift cards to Netflix, or to stores that sell Netflix gift cards. I can log into my Netflix account and load up the value of the card directly to my account, where it will draw down on a monthly basis. It is one my favorite Netflix hacks.

Word of warning, this will not work at some stores like Rite Aid – they don't let you buy gift cards with gift cards.

We love going to Seasons 52 for happy hour. Their food is good, the drinks are tasty, and the prices are great. Seasons 52 is a Darden Restaurant and you can get Darden Restaurant gift cards at 12-18% off. It's a no-brainer.

How am I protected against fraud?

The biggest risk in buying gift cards is that you get a bad card.

Whether it's the wrong balance, not active, or whatever… it's on the shoulders of the marketplace. I usually end up buying a card through Raise, since Darden cards aren't available on any of the other sites GiftCardGranny searches and Raise offers a 100% money back guaranteed for 100 days. “Gift cards on our marketplace are provided by verified sellers. We guarantee all cards are valid at the point of sale or your money back.”

I have yet to get a bad card so I haven't put the guarantee through its paces.

GiftCardGranny isn't a direct seller, they're just a search engine, so you have to review the policy of the marketplace you buy from.

Last minute tips…

  • Some cards are digital, some are physical. If it's digital, delivery if usually pretty quick so I buy them as I need them. The terminology will vary for the digital cards (digital, electronic, voucher, egift, etc.) but the marketplace will tell you how long it takes to reach you. They typically say within 24 hours. Physical cards are mailed, which means 3-14 days.
  • Double check protection policies. They're not all the same.
  • Get something to organize the cards. I use a business card book that I got from my last job, it's really convenient and I keep an index of cards on a piece of paper near the front. This ensures I never lose a card or forget that I have it.
  • Don't buy like crazy! I only buy cards that I know I will use in the next week or two. Most fraud protections are long but I don't want to buy a card and then sit on it for months.

For a limited time, Raise has a referral program where you get $5 off your first purchase in 30 days (and I get $5 when you make that purchase).

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Jim Wang

About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a thirty-something father of three who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and a farm in Illinois via AcreTrader.

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  1. Physician on FIRE says

    Thanks for the tip, Jim! I have been using Raise.com for Home Depot gift cards. It’s usually a 4% to 6% discount. Not huge, but it eliminates most of the sales tax. When you spend hundreds of dollars at a time, the “savings” add up. The HD cards are always instant download, so I can buy, print, and go to the store. No pre-meditation or waiting period required.

    I’ll be sure to check out Gift Card Granny. Sounds like a Kayak.com for gift cards.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    • Jim says

      Every little bit counts! Plus there’s something to be said about optimizing…

      Gift Card Granny is a great resource, I’m pretty sure they check every marketplace worth using.

  2. Brian @ Debt Discipline says

    I have never purchased discounted gift cards, other than at Costco, but have sold a few at these sites and have worked really well. They are great resources for unwanted gift cards or if you are looking to save a little money to a particular store.

    • Jim says

      I’ve never sold one because the cut they take seems to be massive, but if you’ve had a gift card for years and never used it… something is better than nothing!

  3. Vic @ Dad is Cheap says

    I love Raise! Usually I buy CVS or Target gift cards (if it’s around 5% like their Redcard). I wait for the weekends since they usually have 5% discounts for CVS cards. If you go through Swagbucks or Ebates you get an additional 1 or 2% off.

    I’ve also used Raise to sell unwanted gift cards that I might have gotten as a gift. Even though the cut might be steep, I’d rather make a few bucks than go to a store I never intended to and risk spending more than the value of the gift card for something I didn’t plan on buying.

  4. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply says

    I’ve generally used card pool to buy discounted gift cards. And I go through topcashback portal to get additional cash back on my purchase. I also sold a $300 Apple gift card I got as a bank bonus (I didn’t plan on buying anything at Apple…I buy my iPhones refurbished =) The cut they took wasn’t too bad I think for that specific card…and if you opt for Amazon credit you take a bigger cut and Amazon credit to me is as good as cash.

  5. Millennial Moola says

    Do you use gift card buying to spend on credit cards as well? Curious as to your take on that because the minimum spending requirements on the airline cards are hard to achieve if you don’t spend a lot.

    • Jim says

      You could if you were near the end of the promotional period as a way to time shift your purchases (and get a few percent off), but generally I don’t view gift card buying as a way to manufacture spend. I’d rather just buy Amazon gift cards for that since I know I’ll spend them within a year.

  6. Shaun says

    I’ve done this when buying furniture a couple years ago and saved 20%, which amounted to about $130 in savings. (I wrote about my experience with them on my blog.)

    But I’ve found lately the deals aren’t so great. There are still good deals to be found for some specialty stores, like Pier 1, but I’ve noticed that most of the sites that sell these cards have changed their business model. Rather than buy mainly from consumers, it seems they mostly now buy in bulk from the retailers directly. As a result, the discount are more in the 7% – 10% range – something similar to a deal you could get at Costco.

    • Jim says

      I do see that the marketplaces, which used to match sellers and buyers, have now included what appear to be the retailers directly. A lot of $100 gift cards available at a set discount – smells more like a retailer than an individual.

  7. Kairi Gainsborough says

    I’ve heard about buying gift cards online to save money, but I haven’t tried it yet. These are some really great tips for finding good deals from reputable sources. I like the point you made about checking the protection policies. I will be sure to read up on that when I find a good site to buy from.

  8. robert says

    Awesome post, I love giftcardspread here I found always great discount and saved a lot. I brought 20 cards and almost saved 100$.

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