July 29, 2014
If you’re in the market for gift cards, you’re probably interested in finding the best options for saving money and/or earning extra points. Or, if you’re planning big purchases, you might want to consider buying gift cards first in order to increase your savings or rewards. Either way, here is a run down of the best options I know of for buying merchant gift cards.
Note: a post of the same title was originally posted about a year ago, but many of the options presented there are no longer available.
GiftCertificates.com + Portal = Up to 13.2% cash back
The uPromise portal is currently offering 7% cash back for clicking through to shop at GiftCertificates.com (find current rates here). If you pay with the uPromise credit card, you’ll earn an additional 5% cash back. And, if you have the Sallie Mae High-Yield Savings Account, you can earn an additional 10% annual match on your uPromise earnings. This will give you an additional 1.2% cash back for a total of 13.2%!
Hat Tip: Pledge Pat
Ink + office supply store = 5X
Staples, Office Depot, and OfficeMax all carry a wide selection of gift cards in-store. If you purchase these gift cards with your Chase Ink card, you’ll earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar.
Backup plan: Pay with your American Express SimplyCash card to get 5% cash back at office supply stores.
Ink Visa + Staples + Visa Savings Edge = 5X + 1%
For the past year, Chase Ink cards have been issued as Visa business cards (they used to be MasterCards). If you have a Chase Ink Visa card, make sure to register it with the Visa Savings Edge program. At that point, any purchase of $200 or more made in-store or online at Staples will result in an automatic 1% statement credit. Staples offers a wide variety of gift cards both in-store and online, so this can be a great overall go-to option. For a list of available gift cards available in-store and online, please see: Staples Gift Cards.
Ink Visa + Staples + Visa Savings Edge + uPromise = 5X + (maybe) 6%
It used to be possible to earn extra cash back and/or points when shopping for gift cards through a portal at Staples.com. As of mid-May, though, Staples has stopped paying out to portals for these purchases. One current loophole, though, is through uPromise. uPromise has not added a gift card restriction to Staples as of the time of this writing. As a result, people have reported success in contacting uPromise after Staples’ gift card purchases to request cash back. uPromise generally offers 5% cash back for Staples’ purchases, so you can combine that with the Visa Savings Edge 1% cash back and the Ink 5X points to potentially get a total of 5X + 6% cash back.
Blue Cash Preferred + Grocery store = 6% savings + fuel points
Grocery stores tend to have huge selections of merchant gift cards. Some stores even offer extra rewards (fuel points) for gift card purchases! So, buy gift cards at such a store with the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card to get 6% cash back (up to $6K of grocery spend per year) and hopefully earn fuel points as well!
Backup plan: Use one of many other credit cards that offer grocery store bonuses. See: Best Category Bonuses.
5X card + drugstore (or gas or grocery store) = 5X
There are a few cards that offer 5X at drugstores, gas stations, and grocery stores either for a limited time or after meeting certain requirements (see “Playing 5X everywhere Whack a Mole”). Drugstores and grocery stores tend to have terrific gift card options.
Citi Forward + Bookstore = 5X
The Citi Forward card that offers 5 ThankYou points per dollar at bookstores (and several other categories) is no longer available to new applicants, but if you already have one you can use it to your advantage. Find a bookstore with a gift card rack (try B&N campus bookstores) and pay with your Forward card to earn 5 points per dollar.
Credit card / bank offers
Sometimes your credit card company or bank will offer automatic incentives for shopping at certain vendors. A good example of this is American Express “Offers for You” and “Sync Offers”. Amex sometimes offers deals such as an automatic $15 statement credit when you purchase $75 or more at Home Depot (the exact deals vary. This is just one recent example). In cases like these, you can go to the store in question and buy enough gift cards to meet the deal requirements and get automatic savings. For more concrete examples, please see: Maximizing Amex Sync offers. Part 3: shopping elsewhere.
Second hand gift cards
There is a thriving resale market for gift cards. It is often possible to buy merchant gift cards at a significant discount through one of many resellers. The site giftcardgranny.com does a pretty good job of aggregating the options for you. They’ll even let you setup alerts to watch for gift cards of interest. You can sometimes even increase your savings by going through a cash back portal to the gift card resellers site. Once you pick a reseller, go to cashbackmonitor.com to see if you can get cash back when buying these gift cards.
Buy from merchant
Last, but not least, sometimes the best savings or points come from buying gift cards directly from the merchant for which you want a gift card. For example, Staples sometimes offers a $10 promo e-gift card with each $50 gift card purchased. With some stores, you can earn extra points by starting with a shopping portal before clicking through and buying a store gift card. This does not work with all stores. Please see the Frequent Miler Laboratory to see what works and what doesn’t.
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I know that I didn’t present every combination of solutions available, but did I miss any particularly noteworthy options? Please comment below.
Options no longer available:
In the past I’ve written about a number of options that are no longer available today…
Buying gift cards with Staples’ gift cards is no longer available
It used to be possible to buy Staples’ gift cards at a discount (or to get points) and then use those gift cards to buy other gift cards (and get cash back or points again). Unfortunately, Staples.com now greys out the option to pay with a Staples gift card if you have any gift cards in your cart. In-store it might still be possible to buy gift cards with Staples’ gift cards, but most cashiers are trained to not allow it.
Earning cash back at OfficeMax through Amex OPEN Savings is no longer available
Amex used to offer an automatic 10% cash back when you made a purchase of $250 or more at OfficeMax.com. As of January 1st, 2014, that benefit went away (see more here).
Earning Plink points when buying gift cards is no longer available
There used to be quite a few options to earn Plink Points (which are redeemable for gift cards) when buying gift cards at stores like Sears, 7-11, Staples, etc. However, all of those options have gone away. Current Plink options are quite limited