How to Get an Instant 20% Return on Investment

It's the holidays and you know what that means?

Gift card purchase bonuses!

A gift card purchase bonus is when the store gives you a small gift card in return for you buying a bigger one. Like a $5 gift card for you when you purchase a $25 gift card for a friend.

There's no rule that says you can't buy them for yourself. You spend $25 for a gift card, you get $5 free. That's an immediate 20% risk-free return on investment… can't beat that with a stick.

Companies love gift cards because they get guaranteed money and they get it right now. You, as the proud gift card holder, will spend it sometime in the future. That time in between now and later, the store will turn that into even more money ($146 million more, in Starbucks' case).

There are a handful of stores, usually restaurants, that I know we visit often enough for this to be worth it. We go to Noodles and Company once every 4-6 weeks. The kids enjoy it, we enjoy it, and they serve wine and beer. 🙂

I just got the following email from Noodles & Company:

Instant 20% return!

The only gotcha to watch for are the terms of the bonus. The bonus often has a short time limit and other terms. In the Noodles & Company case, you can only use it in January of next year. Not a big deal for $5 but if you bought a lot of them, you might be hard-pressed to use them in a single month.

Finally, you often need to be subscribed to the store's email list or membership to get an offer. Sometimes they advertise the bonus, sometimes they don't. They always email their lists though.

Are you going to take advantage of these offers? If so, which ones?

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a forty-something father of four 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 farms in Illinois, Louisiana, and California through AcreTrader.

Recently, he's invested in a few pieces of art on Masterworks too.

>> Read more articles by Jim

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  1. Jon says

    You just saved me as much as $75, thank you very much! I just stumbled on your blog for the first time, found this article and got to thinking. I knew discover has a 5% back on up to $1500 of certain online purchases going on through the end of December and it didn’t occur to me that that may work on gift cards as well. Sure enough, that includes gift cards. If that’s not as good as buying cash, I don’t know what is. I’m sure we already spend quite a bit in qualifying online purchases considering the holidays but you better believe I’ll be doing the math and making an order before this promotion runs out to clean up the remainder. Thanks again!

    • Jim says

      In our house gift cards are as good as cash!

      And I’m so glad I was able to help, sometimes as a blogger you write posts and you never know who it might help out or if anyone finds it helpful, so thank YOU for leaving a comment letting me know it helped. It really does mean a lot to me.

  2. Expat Warrior says

    Using a cash back credit card to buy these gift cards equates to an even greater savings.

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