Last Updated: 2/12/15
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 11.0% cash back
The uPromise portal is currently offering 5% 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.% cash back for a total of 11.0%!
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 + Staples + Portals = 5X + ??
While most cashback portals do not pay out when purchasing merchant gift cards at Staples, some mileage portals do. It may be possible to earn up to 2.5 additional miles per dollar (current rates) by using a portal to purchase merchant gift cards online from Staples. You will also earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points by paying with a Chase Ink or an additional 5% cash back if paying with an American Express SimplyCash card.
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 “Amex 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
Visa Savings Edge 1% rebate at Staples no longer available
Staples & Visa Savings Edge were partners until the end of 2014. They used to pay a 1% rebate on purchases over $200 when a Visa business card (such as the Chase Ink) was used at Staples.