How Big a Discount is Worth Dealing with Gift Card Hassles?

by Darwin on April 2, 2013

Life’s about trade-offs.  Is it worth driving the extra mile to another gas station to save 5 cents a gallon?  Is it worth paying a shipping cost for the convenience of making that purchase online instead of picking it up yourself?  These are the decisions we make daily and often depend on everything from total savings to the value of our time.   Another consideration is hassle.  I’ve looked at our budget top to bottom and came to the conclusion that aside from saving several hundred dollars per year in credit card rewards (primarily from saving 6% on groceries), we could also save hundreds of dollars per year if we switched out use of credit cards for purchases (where we only get 1% back for many categories) to using discount gift cards where we can still buy them online and get the 1% back for the card purchase, but then – save anywhere from 5% – 15% on the card.

Identify Your High Spend Categories and Stores:

For real high spend categories like Target, Walmart and other shopping destinations, this could easily shift more savings your way.  For instance, I just bought a $500 Target gift card and told my wife to use that over the next couple months for all our large bulk purchases like paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, water, cereal, etc.  That was $25 saved since they were 5% off.  Many families conceivably spend that much per month at Target if they buy a lot of grocery items and gifts there, so that could translate to $300/year for that store alone! Another huge category for us is the home improvement bucket.  Since we have a Lowes up the road, I always have a rotating series of Lowe’s cards that I buy in $200 buckets.  At 7% off, that’s $14 every couple months as we zip through various home repair and upgrade projects.  We always need something there ranging from filters for the HVAC unit to lightbulbs.  My wife also loves eating at Bonefish Grill and I scored 13% off there!  That’s almost covering the tip!  When I see double-digit discounts, I snag those cards up too if I know for certain that I’ll use them.

Take a Look at These Discounts!

There are a few different online discount gift card sites out there, but some seem a bit shady.  For instance, some are almost a direct peer to peer sale where you’re buying a card directly from an individual in an ebay-type fashion.  I don’t really like this because it seems like an easy scam or problem resolution is probably difficult.  I’ve used these two services on a routine basis:  They both tend to have many of the same cards but occasionally there’s one card offered in one spot that isn’t offered at the other.  The discounts are usually the same too, but you can sometimes get 1% more off at one over the other.  I’d just open both in separate browsers and run through all the stores that look familiar to you and buy a few cards!

Worth the Hassle?

So, the question is, where these savings are worth the hassle.  You have to carry around a few different gift cards and hope you don’t lose them.  You also have to have them with you at the right time when you’re in the store so you don’t forget!  What I do to tackle both of these issues is I keep all the gift cards in my store.  I also use the “Catch” App on my iPhone for my shopping lists for each store and I have an entry to “use gift card” as a standing item so when I shop I know to bring the gift card into the store with me.  In the case of my wife, she has a massive purse with everything but the kitchen sink, so she always has the cards on hand.  So, for us, it’s worth the minor hassle.  The online purchases take under a minute and I have yet to lose a gift card.

So, if you want to save the hundreds per year and can cope with some added tracking and hassle, then check out what deals you can get at and


Sell your gift cards for cash $$$!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Grayson @ Debt Roundup April 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Interesting. I wouldn’t do this with Target because I already have a red card and get 5% off anyway. This could be good with the many other stores that I use. Thanks for the tip.


Darwin April 2, 2013 at 5:08 pm

That’s a great tip – same exact discount! (well, i suppose you save the extra 1% with a typical cash-back rewards card when buying). But if you don’t mind the credit issue, probably easiest to just get the target card


Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin April 3, 2013 at 11:56 pm

I have the target red card as well! It’s a great benefit, but I can see the possibility with gift cards. Typically when I plan on making a big purchase at home depot or lowes I stock up on these discounted cards and combine them with a coupon for even more savings.


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