You got a bunch of gift cards for Christmas, or a lot of gift cards for your birthday, and you are wondering, “How do I maximize the money from gift cards?” As always, I’m here for you.
Maximize Money from Gift Cards
Using smart, insider techniques to maximize your gift card value typically involves timing and patience. Selling gift cards for money is almost never the way to maximize how much money you get from gift cards.
Selling Gift Cards for Cash
If you want to convert gift cards to cash, you can always sell them. When selling gift cards, you should expect to get less than face value. How much less than face value depends on how valuable the gift cards you have are. You might think that gift cards to expensive stores are more valuable, but that isn’t usually the case. The most valuable gift cards to sell are those that can be used anywhere, by anyone. That makes a gift card to a local jewelry store much less valuable because there might not be that many of that brand jeweler around the country, and the only thing you can buy with it is jewelry. So, Walmart gift cards are the most valuable to sell for a lot of people. There is a Walmart everywhere, and they have everything. You might be able to get 80% or even 90% of a Walmart gift card for cash.
Use Your Gift Cards AND Get Cash Back
To really maximize the value of your gift cards, layer multiple discounts and cash back offers. For example, if you want to get money for Kohl’s gift cards, time the sales (or better yet, clearance), when they offer cash back, plus, use a cash back program like Rakuten, and then use a credit card that earns cash back, or rewards points.
For example, if one got a $50 Kohl’s gift card, they could find something like a football jersey marked down because the season is over. So, that saves 40% off the first price of $79.99, then get Kohl’s Cash for the purchase price of $40.99, when they are doing double Kohl’s cash, for a Kohl’s Cash amount of $80 or so. If Kohl’s is one of the extra cash back retailers at Rakuten for 8% cash back, then you earn $3.28 on that purchase. Make the purchase with a rewards points credit card that earns double miles, and get 80 miles, or if you prefer, use a cashback credit card earning 2% and get $8. In total, buying that jersey you could earn $11.28 cash back, that’s over 20% cash back, PLUS you still have the Kohl’s Cash. Use that to buy something for your kitchen, or some bedding, or even a Fitbit.
The trick to getting money out of your gift cards is to only use them for something you were going to buy anyway. In the above example, the person could theoretically make money by buying the jersey and then using the Kohl’s Cash to buy something to use up the rest. Of course, that isn’t worth anything if they just end up with two things they don’t need.
Regift Gift Cards Without Regifting
Get a gift card you can’t or won’t use? You can still get maximum value for that gift certificate or gift card by regifting it, even back to the person who gave it to you without anyone knowing.
Let’s say in the example above the person has no use for anything in Kohl’s. They wisely do not just blow it on stuff they don’t need and use dollars they weren’t going to spend. Typically gift cards give you 12 months, or more, to use them without losing value. Surely over those 12 months, there will be a need for a gift?
Use the Kohl’s gift card to buy the gift, using the same rules as above, and you could come out 20% or more ahead all without having to spend any of your money on the gift. Find a Kohl’s sale on a gift for someone else and use the Kohl’s cash for them as well. Now, regardless of getting any other cash back, you have given two lovely gifts that seem thoughtful and maybe even pricey, without spending a cent of your own money. Best of all, no one, including the person who gave you the gift card you can’t use, has any idea that you regifted the original gift.
Ever since the first friend invited one of my kids to a birthday party, I have been using this strategy at Michaels. Michaels frequently has sales such as 40% off or 50% off of certain toys. Combine that with the gift cards I inevitably get to Michaels (I do calligraphy and lettering), and you get awesome gifts that seem like they were more expensive than they really are, and I didn’t use one cent of my money. Add a Rakuten cash back boost, and a credit card like the Venture Card or even the Merrick Card and soak up the cash back as well.
Employee Discounts or Friends Discounts
A gift card is a purchase just like any other means of payment. That means if you have an employee discount, or a friend of yours does, use the discount to make your gift card last.
Tips To Get Max Value Out of Gift Cards
- Wait for sales or discounts to use your card. There is no rush. Most cards won’t expire right away.
- Take advantage of any sort of in-store credit like Kohl’s Cash.
- Use a cash back program like Rakuten.
- Use a miles credit card, or cash back card
- Regift your bland gift with a nice gift from the same store. Take your time, most gift cards expire 12 months or later after they are issued.
- Don’t lose your gift cards — Don’t throw the gift cards or gift certificates or into a drawer thinking you will remember them.
About the Author
By Brian Nelson – Brian is a former Certified Financial Planner and expert in personal finance. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Brian may earn a commission or other reward if you click certain links in this article.