How To Get The Most From Your Gift Cards

This time of year, lots of people have gift cards for various stores. This can lead to losing the cards, not using them for a year, or using them, but buying something that exceeds the amount on the gift card.

Here are some easy ways to get the most out of your gift cards:

1. Keep Track Of Them

Keep them in a drawer, an envelope, or your wallet so they are all located in the same place. If you leave them all over the house, you are bound to lose track of your cards and let them go to waste.

2. Buy necessities

Don’t buy just anything with your gift cards, they’re valuable, so use it to buy what you normally buy. With a Target card, restock your shampoo or buy groceries. This essentially turns your gift cards into cash, which is what you honestly wanted anyway.

3. Buy On Sale

Use your card before the post-holiday sales disappear. Don’t wait until February when the prices will go back up. This year especially, stores won’t have as much excess merchandise because they began the season with smaller inventories.

3. Stay Under Your Budget

Some people say that leaving $2 on your card is just a waste of money. I say that making a $60 purchase with a $50 gift card is a waste of $10, so try to get the most out of your cards, but don’t spend extra money on the transaction if it means you have to pay for your own gift.

4. Trade, Sell, Or Regift Them

If you don’t need your gift cards, try regifting them. Maybe someone else can get the most out of it. Head over to a gift cards exchange like cardpool.com, thegiftcardtrader, cardhub.com, or plasticjungle.com and try to trade your card for one you actually want, or sell it at a discount and get cash in your pocket.

It seems like most people misuse or waste more than just a dollar or two of each $100 holiday gift card they receive. Will you be more careful?

11 Responses to How To Get The Most From Your Gift Cards

  1. Ken says:

    I like your ‘regift’ idea. If I know someone who would like that gift card, I’ve just bought for someone without paying a cent :-)

    • Daniel says:

      It’s definitely not easy, though. Make sure the person will actually go there. A card to a major store you don’t have near you or don’t shop at anyway is the easiest to regift, but avoid giving cards of stores that you dislike. The person you’re regifting to might not like it either!

  2. Check out http://cjbowker.com/2009/12/yankee-swap/

    There’s a reference to my post about gift cards and then he goes on to talk about the ‘double edged sword’ of trying to spend all of the gift card without overspending. It’s a tough balance. I know I went out and used a Barnes & Noble gift card. The gift card was for $25 but I bought two books at $15 a piece. I didn’t find any books I wanted for closer to $25 so I didn’t really have a choice I guess.

    • Daniel says:

      A lot depends on how you think about it. If you think that you bought 2 great books you really wanted for $5, then you got the steal of the century. If you think, “great, now I have to spend money on my own gift” then you’re getting screwed. As long as you’re not overdoing it and using a bunch of money that you wouldn’t have otherwise spent, I think you come out ahead.

      I really liked your post by the way, I had no idea that 10% of gift cards go to waste!

      For everyone else, check out Evan’s post about why he hates gift cards. It’s a great article full of useful information.

  3. Lauren says:

    I don’t think that if you get a gift card you should use it on daily items that you need, its supposed to be a GIFT… get something you wouldn’t necessarily buy yourself so it actually feels like a present, that’s the whole point of a GIFT card!

    Speaking of gift cards… its my birthday! Anyone have any gift cards to send me so I can go grocery shopping?

  4. Suzie says:

    Happy Birtdhay Lauren! I agree with you, I think the gift card should be used for something special. If you use it for everyday purchases, you haven’t really received a gift. On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to buy something you don’t want just to use the card.

  5. Daniel says:

    I had the choice at work to take a $20 gift card to Best Buy or one to the supermarket. I chose the supermarket because to me that was $20 in cash. I didn’t need anything at Best Buy. What would you have done?

  6. You made the right choice Daniel. I got a gift card to BestBuy as well and I have no idea what to get or how to use it. It might fall to #4 on your list. We’ll see.

  7. I tend to use gift cards to buy gifts for other people. Does that count as regifting? i just got a a $25 card for Kohls (which is a great store anyway, I used part of the money for me and then bought a birthday present that was in their post holiday clearance. Plus with their ten dollars off $20 coupon, it was like christmas all over again.

    • Daniel says:

      That’s a really great idea, I’m not sure where we draw the line, but you are using a gift to buy someone else a gift, so can throw it in the group. Definitely a great way to save when you don’t need the card anyway!

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