Frugal NationFrugal Nation

Get gift cards below face value

Using them instead of cash can save you as much as 30% on gifts and everyday purchases.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 21, 2012 3:17PM

Image: Piggy bank (© Corbis)Looking for deeper price breaks on retail purchases, restaurant meals, entertainment and more? Pay with discounted gift cards.

Cards for hundreds of retailers are available on the secondary market at 3% to 30% less than face value.

Companies such as CardpoolABC Gift CardsSwapagift.com and Plastic Jungle buy cards from people who'd rather have cash than plastic. An aggregator site called Gift Card Granny shows the best rates.

You can buy cards for just about kind of retailer imaginable: supermarkets, drugstores, home and garden centers, gas stations, clothing shops, pet supply stores, restaurants, hair salons, housewares, bookstores, bakeries and department stores.

Use them to send flowers, buy spa services, do some early holiday shopping, treat a friend to lunch, pay for wedding gifts, download music or routinely save 20% on movie tickets. (Or don't pay at all: See "Go to the movies for free" and "Want freebies? Drink some soda.")

Don't see the card you want? Yoy can set an alert at Gift Card Granny to be notified when the card you want becomes available. (Post continues after video.)

Most gift cards have no expiration dates, according to Gift Card Granny. The federal Credit Card Act requires gift cards to remain valid for at least five years from the date of issuance or, if money was added to a card later, five years from when funds were reloaded. The law also limits inactivity and service fees. (Read "It's in the cards," from the Federal Trade Commission.)

 

How to save even more
If the best deal is at Cardpool or Plastic Jungle, order your card through a cash-back shopping site. Currently the best rebates are at Extrabux.com, which pays up to 1.5%. (For details, read "Get paid to buy stuff.")

Incidentally, Gift Card Granny can also let you know who's paying the most. Selling your unused gift cards is a good way to make some extra cash.

As with any other gift card, it's important not to lose track of what you have. A gift card sitting in a bureau drawer isn't doing you any good.

Discounted gift cards aren't an excuse to go shopping, either. If you don't need it, it's no bargain -- even at 20% off.

More from MSN Money:

4Comments
Jun 22, 2012 2:04PM
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or you could walk in to your local Sam's Club if you have one and buy them right off the racks without having to hassle with online exchanges with people. Gift cards at Sam's generally have a 20% savings on them (ex: Buy a 4-pack of $25 cards for $80)
Aug 25, 2012 9:19PM
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Although not mentioned in this article, I recommend buying from www.ecardexchange.com I buy a lot of discounted gift cards and not only do they have the best website but they have the best rates and are always adding new cards. 
Jun 22, 2012 2:40PM
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99.9 % of the time it would be moronic to buy a gift card at face value. Think about people - you are wiling to give someone $20 for a piece of plastic that will earn you the right to spend that same $20 in that chain of stores? That's just stupid! What if they go belly up, what if there are exclusions on the cards redemtion, what if the same item is onsale at another store instead? Why would anyone turn a universal $20 bill into a monopolized card with $20 purchasing power at select locations UNLESS it was because a discount was offered?
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.

ABOUT DONNA FREEDMAN

Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.

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