My Secret Obsession With Discounted Gift Cards

I have a confession to make…I like saving money whenever possible. One of the ways I save money shopping is by buying discounted gift cards online. Before I make a large purchase online or in person, I look to see if I can save a few extra dollars. Discount gift cards are one way we thrive on $35,000 a year and I hope to instill this virtue of saving into you too.

What is a Discounted Gift Card?

Here's my lazy definition of a discounted gift card: A discounted gift card is a card you buy–digital or physical–for less than the actual cash value.

For example, you can buy a $50 iTunes gift card for $48 and save $2. Or, you can get a Starbucks gift card for 5% off.

While these savings might not seem like much with each individual purchase, the savings compounds over the course of a year or decade. As Ben Franklin puts it, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” And you don't have to read great money books to start saving money 😉

Digital Gift Card vs Voucher vs Physical Card

When you order a discount gift card, you have three different types cards you can buy:

  • Digital-Can be redeemed online only
  • Voucher– Redeem online or print the voucher and have cashier scan barcode (or show the barcode to the cashier on your phone)
  • Physical Card– A physical gift card that is mailed to you. It usually takes 3-5 days to receive and can be redeemed online or in-store only depending on the merchant's gift card policy.

Why I Love Discounted Gift Cards

For the past year, we've been playing musical cars in our driveway as we have sold two cars and bought two new-to-us vehicles. In the process of getting our cars ready to sell and buy used ones at a discount, we're on track to spend $1500 in DIY auto repairs as we change our own oil, recharge the air conditioning system, getting new brake pads and rotors, and minor engine repairs like replacing the alternator, car battery, spark plugs, and flushing the radiator.

Yes, Advance Auto Parts has become our best friend the last few months as we've purchased $751.58 in gift cards (so far) for only $677.78. That's a 10% savings!

As our sales tax here in Tennessee is 9.75%, the savings help offset the sales tax on our purchases.

How I Spend Even Less for Discount Gift Cards

I call this tactic my razzle-dazzle punch to get the discount gift cards for even less:

  • Buy gift cards during flash sales on Raise
  • Shop through TopCashback for an extra 2% back
  • Complete purchase with a 2% cash back credit card

On top of each purchase, I'm guaranteed to get an extra 4% discount as a cashback reward with the razzle-dazzle. On the $677.78 I've spent so far on Raise, that's an extra $27 in cash savings for a cumulative 13% cash back rate.

Buy Discounted Gift Cards
I get an extra 2% back on every gift card purchase!

The lone exceptions to the 2% TopCashback portals are major retailers like Sears, Kmart, Amazon, Starbucks, and Best Buy; you get 1% with these retailers instead!

When to Buy Discounted Gift Cards

My #1 recommendation for discount gift cards is Raise. (Get a $5 bonus when you use my referral link!)

I've ordered 12 digital and physical gift cards with them so far and have been pleased with the quick delivery. So far, I've only had one card that didn't work because the number was invalid and they issued a prompt refund.

Flash Sales

In addition to having the widest selection of gift cards with competitive prices, Raise is constantly running sales to help move inventory. If you know the normal discount for the gift card brand and can get an additional percentage off, you're money ahead. But, you need to act quick before the good deals are gone.

As a personal rule of thumb, I only buy gift cards if I can get them for at least 5% off. With Advance Auto Parts, I wait until they're at least 10% off because the everyday discount is typically around 5%. While I love to save money, my time is equally valuable and I try to make every second count–that's why I don't do online surveys.

Buy Before You Buy Something Online

I've done this a time or two, but I will go to Raise before checking out online and look for a discount gift card to save some extra moolah. If one's available, I buy it and the gift card code and pin are usually delivered within five minutes.

This money-saving hack only works when you can get a digital card or voucher.

Can Shop In-Store or Online

When you buy a voucher, you receive a gift card that can be redeemed online by typing in the gift card code or in-person by showing the barcode to the cashier on your phone or printable voucher.

When possible, I get these cards because of the flexibility. Unfortunately, not every retailer offer vouchers.

When to Avoid Discount Gift Cards

There are times when a discount gift card doesn't hold water and you should just pay for the entire purchase in cash.

Gift Card Cannot Be Redeemed for In-Person or Site-to-Store Purchase

If you buy a digital gift card, it cannot be redeemed in-store. I found this out the hard way with AutoZone. I didn't read all the bullet points and was solely focused on the savings. AutoZone lets you redeem gift cards for orders that get shipped to your house, but not site-to-store. Some of the items I needed were store pick-up only.

Now, I make sure there's a “pay with gift card” option at the checkout screen before I buy a card.

Digital Gift Cards
When buying a digital gift card, make sure it works for your site-to-store order before buying it.

Physical Gift Cards That Can't Be Redeemed Online

Some merchants only accept gift card payments in-store. Thanks to my AutoZone experience mentioned above, I know to pay more attention to detail. Advance Auto Parts only sells physical gift cards that get mailed to you and their cards can only be redeemed in-store. But, their website says they are working on a way to accept merchandise gift card online and in-person.

As a consolation, I always shop online with a cashback portal, so I get 8% back on the occasional online order at Advance Auto Parts.

Total Discount is 2% or Less

I only buy discounted gift cards when it's a buyer's market. For me, the card needs to be marked down at least 5%. Generally, if the card is selling for a 2% discount or less, don't waste your time. However, it can be a great opportunity to sell gift cards because of the small discount that benefits sellers.

Some of the gift cards I recommend avoiding as a buyer because they rarely sell for more than 2% off are:

  • Grocery stores (*Shop with the iBotta app instead)
  • Walmart  (*Ditto)
  • eBay
  • Panera Bread
  • Gas Stations

Unless you can buy the card with one of Raise's many flash sales that help you save between 5% and 15%, pass on these brands.

Summary

Discounted gift cards won't make you a millionaire by themselves, but it's a fun way to save money each time you go shopping. Whether you save 5% or 30%, that's extra money in your pocket! I've never seen anybody complain about that.


Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.