Between Swagbucks, MyPoints and our credit card rewards programs, we have lots of opportunities to earn gift cards. While some people consider gift cards “free money,” around here we use gift cards just like we would hard-earned cash. We stretch them as far as they can go. Here are some tips to help you do the same.
Choose your gift card wisely
Which cards are the best bargain? For example, on Swagbucks, the $5 Amazon gift card is 450 points. All other $5 gift cards are 500 points. Unless there is a strong reason to do otherwise, I will get Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks.
The point value to gift card denomination ratio varies considerably on MyPoints. For example, a $50 Target gift card is 7,600 points, but a $50 Children’s Place gift card is 6,450. When choosing a gift card, I list several cards that I know I will use, most likely places I’m already spending money, and see which of them will give me the most gift card for the least points.
Consider saving up for a gift card of higher value. Depending on the site and rewards program, getting a $50 gift card is a better deal than buying five $10 gift cards. Instead of cashing in for a $10 gift card, consider saving until you have enough points for a larger gift card.
Don’t pay shipping
If you are shopping online and want the most bang for your gift card buck, you will want to avoid paying for shipping.
We love Amazon Prime. You can get a 30-day free membership to try it out! I love being able to shop the huge selection of merchandise and not even have to think about calculating in a shipping cost to decide if the deal is still good. If you are a college student, you can get free 2-day shipping with Amazon Student. Mom’s can get a free 3-month trial of Amazon Mom which will not only get you free 2-day shipping like Amazon Prime, but also get you 20% off diapers and wipes.
A couple years ago, I got a free trial to ShopRunner through my credit card. I thought it was a one year trial, but we have had it for at least 2 years (and counting) for free. It comes in handy when my husband makes purchases on Newegg.com. There are lots of popular stores that get free shipping, so if you do a lot of online shopping on sites besides Amazon, it might be worth it to you.
Most online stores offer free shipping once your total reaches a certain amount. If you plan to use your entire gift card at once, you may be able to qualify for free shipping. Often around holidays or for special promotions, stores will have “free shipping, no minimum,” meaning even the smallest order qualifies for free shipping.
Luckily, there is almost always a way around paying for shipping, though sometimes it just takes patience!
Wait for a sale
If you’re like me, you don’t like to pay regular price. That shouldn’t change just because you are using a gift card instead of cash. Don’t let those gift cards burn a hole in your pocket! Be patient and wait for a sale.
Consider signing up for the email list for the stores you have (or want to earn) gift cards to. You will be notified of all the sales. If you stick around for a while you will get an idea of what is a great sale and what is just a standard sale. If you have gmail, they will go to your promotions tab. I only look at the emails when I am actively watching for a special deal.
A couple years ago, I got four no-iron white dress shirts from Lands’ End for less than $15 each (regular $60). If I remember right, the shirts were on sale, plus there was a percent off coupon code, plus free shipping. My husband wears white dress shirts six days a week, so I am always on the lookout for them. I have $100 of Lands’ End gift cards just waiting for another killer sale on white dress shirts.
Find a coupon or coupon code
During law school, I would often get Olive Garden gift cards through MyPoints or my credit card reward program. I know that Olive Garden has coupons available fairly frequently, so when I have a gift card I always find a coupon to go along with it. We didn’t go out to eat very much (still don’t), but you’d better believe I always brought a coupon.
If you’re making an online purchase, it’s as easy as searching “[store name] coupon code.” There are plenty of sites, such as retailmenot.com that keep track of current coupon codes. Make it a habit to always search for a coupon code before submitting an order.
Use a rebate site
Before you make an online purchase, start at a cash back site. My favorites are the ones with low minimum payouts. Both Deal Action and Ebates have a $5 minimum payout. Ebates has been around for a while, but Deal Action is a newer site that has an even larger listing of online stores. You can read more details on my round-up of cash back sites and apps.
If you have student loans, SmarterBucks might be the prefect rebate site for you. When you sign up, you connect your account to your federal student loan account. When you get cash back rebates (or rewards for surveys, and other online activities), they go straight toward your student loans. SmarterBucks will make a payment toward your student loans when the balance reaches $10. We have used SmarterBucks and received student loan payments from them, so I can vouch for them being legit!
How about you?
- Do you have any other ways that to “get the most bang for your gift card bucks”?
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