There was a 5% off sitewide sale at Raise (plus 1% cash back at Mr. Rebates), but I was having a hard time pulling the trigger.
I’ve talked before about the benefits and dangers of discounted gift cards. The benefits are pretty obvious: savings, savings and more savings! But recently I’ve been thinking more about the dangers.
The first is that someone will be dishonest, using up the gift card after selling it. Of course, gift card resale sites have guarantees — anywhere from 60 days to a full year — that the gift card balance will be correct. So at worst you’d be minorly inconvenienced, then receive your money back.
The second danger is the wait. That is, you have to ask yourself when you’ll see those savings.
If it’s something like 10% off a $100 gas station GC, then you’ll probably use it up within a month. Which means those savings will be be realized before the credit card bill comes due. In other words, it’s saving money on charges you were going to incur in that billing period anyway. That’s a good investment.
But there are GCs that may not come in handy right away. For example, it’s great to save 20% on AMC gift cards. Most of us will go see a movie in the future, and we all know that tickets ain’t cheap. But how long before you make it to the theater? Meanwhile, that $25 or $50 will come due on your next credit card statement.
Similarly, 8.6% off $50 sounds pretty good, until you realize that it’s for Netflix. That $50 is almost five months’ worth of service, which means I’m really saving just $0.95 a month. Granted, it’s still $4.30 saved overall; but that $45.50 charge for the GC comes due long before the savings have much of an impact.
Your money on hold
The third danger of discounted gift cards is that you can simply tie up too much money in the dang things, especially when there are sitewide sales. If you can get an extra 3% to 5% off on all GCs, you’re far more likely to load up — which means also loading up your credit card bill. Eventually, those savings will be worth it but, again, how long are you willing to wait?
Meanwhile, let’s not forget that you have to keep track of all your gift cards, lest you forget you have one at all. It can be more difficult than it sounds, especially if you’re juggling multiple GCs. Yesterday I found a $23 GC to Walgreens when I thought we’d used them all up. It’s been sitting there for at least a couple of months, and it’s now past the time that the balance is guaranteed. Fingers crossed that the seller was scrupulous.
They have their uses
That’s not to completely disparage discounted gift cards. They can be invaluable. When Tim hit the donut hole last year, we were forking over $300 to $400 a month for his prescriptions. Those 10% to 12% CVS gift cards saved us big time, so it made sense to load up on them.
Every time Pandora or Josie’s food starts getting low, I order a 20% off Petco GC from CardCash. That’s some pretty huge savings.
And when we do go to the movies, I can get online and buy a digital Fandango or AMC gift card that will save us 15% to 20%.
But those are things that get used in the short-term future. Loading up on gift cards that will be used at some indeterminate date… That puts pressure on both your bank account and your memory.
Do you use discount GCs? If so, do you load up or take them on a case-by-case basis?
P.S. If I haven’t completely scared you off discounted gift cards, then I recommend using Gift Card Granny to compare deals across sites. You should also always check CardCash, which isn’t on Gift Card Granny, as it often (but not always) has some of the best discounts — and very fast shipping.