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Are Discount Gift Cards Worth the Hassle?

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The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Gift card exchange sites are places where you can buy and sell gift cards. If you’re unfamiliar with the gift card exchange craze, here’s the rundown of how you can benefit:

  • Selling – You can sell unused gift cards on these sites for cash or other gift cards. According to estimates published by Market Watch, $750 million in gift cards were expected to go unused in 2014. Before your card is one of many that go to waste, you can sell it and get your hands on some money instead.
  • Buying – Gift card exchanges also sell gift cards for less than their value. Say you want to buy an iTunes gift card for your cousin Joe’s birthday. You may be able to find an iTunes gift card with $100 on it that’s selling for $95 or a 5% discount.

There are quite a few gift card exchange websites you can use to find deals.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at the popular gift card exchange sites to compare savings and how each one works. We’ll also dig into the major gift card search engine, Gift Card Granny, to review the process of using it to shop for and sell gift cards.

Lastly, we’ll give you our take on whether or not the deals you can get from buying and selling cards are worth your time.

Buying and Selling Gift Cards

The how-to process of buying and selling gift cards is pretty similar for each gift card exchange site so we’ve broken down what you need to know in the following two sections.

Buying gift cards

Most sites allow you to buy both e-cards and physical gift cards. E-cards are delivered to you by email after purchase. Physical gift cards can take from several days to over a week to get to you through snail mail.

A factor that can make shopping for gift cards tedious is finding a site that has the card inventory that you need. Gift card availability varies from seller to seller. Some sites have loads of cards you can buy, and others have very few on sale from restaurants and stores you may never visit.

One very important to thing to mention before we compare savings is that customers have complained about buying cards from popular gift card sellers that didn’t work or had no money on them when they arrived. This is why gift card exchanges have money-back guarantee policies.

If you buy gift cards, you must choose an exchange site that has a money-back guarantee that lasts at least several weeks. This way you have enough time to receive the card, test the card, and request a refund if it doesn’t work. We’ve included the guarantee period in our savings comparison below.

How gift card discounts compare from site to site

For our shopping example, we want to buy a Macy’s gift card and we want the card to have as close to $50 on it as possible because it’s for a gift.

We searched for deals on CardCash/ABC Gift Cards, Cardpool, GiftCardBin, Giftcard Zen, and Raise because each of these six exchanges has no fees, a money-back guarantee, a variety of cards for sale, and a user-friendly website.

Here’s what we found:

Gift-Card-Purchasing

*CardCash and ABC Gift Cards are the same company but can offer different savings rates on gift cards. For Macy’s the savings happens to be the same.

ABC Gift Cards and CardCash take the cake for the best percentage off discount in this example at 13.25% savings.

But GiftCardBin gives you a Macy’s gift card with exactly $50 on it. The person receiving the gift will probably be more appreciative of getting a full $50 on the card than $43.90 (unless it’s a gag gift).

Overall, in this example we can get between 5% to 13% off of our Macy’s gift card.

Savings will vary depending on the type of card you’re looking for. Even the inventory and discount can change for Macy’s cards from day to day, but this gives you an idea of what’s offered.

Selling gift cards

Now let’s move on to selling those gift cards you have piled up from Christmas and your birthday.

Some exchange sites will take both e-cards and physical cards. For sites that will take e-cards off your hands, you type in the e-code that’s on the e-card to go through with the transaction. The company will give you a free shipping label to send in physical cards.

How deals for gift card sellers compare from site to site

Let’s say you’re sitting on a $50 Macy’s gift card and you don’t intend to shop at that store.

We searched for trade deals from CardCash/ABC Gift Cards, Cardpool, GiftCardBin, and Raise.

Here’s what you can get for a Macy’s card:

Gift-Card-Selling

As you can see, the most value is given when you trade a gift card for another gift card.

At a quick glance, Raise appears to give you the most cash back for the trade, but you have to factor in the listing fee and whether someone will buy the card for that asking price.

You may notice Giftcard Zen doesn’t make our list for places to sell your Macy’s card when it made our list for places to buy a Macy’s card.

We went to Giftcard Zen to see what the site offers for a card trade and found the company is not currently accepting cards from Macy’s. Again, inventory and what a site will accept is ever changing.

This is where Gift Card Granny comes into the picture and tries to make your life easier.

Instead of having to search each and every gift card site for deals, Gift Card Granny is where you can compare buying and selling opportunities in one place.

Gift Card Granny — The Gift Card Exchange Aggregate

If you want to search a number of gift card exchange websites all at once, Gift Card Granny is a great source. The shopping experience on Gift Card Granny is like shopping for hotels and flights on Kayak.

You type in the gift card you’re looking to buy or sell, and the Gift Card Granny search engine pulls up deals from various gift card sites, including sites we mentioned above.

We went through a scenario with Gift Card Granny to weigh in on the recommended deals. Here’s what we found.

Finding places to buy cards using Gift Card Granny

Let’s go back to our initial scenario where we were buying our cousin Joe an iTunes gift card for his birthday.

Gift Card Granny came up with a bunch of options after we typed iTunes into the search bar.

gcg-options-iphone

We clicked on Card Kangaroo first since the check mark means it’s a Gift Card Granny Premier Partner. After getting redirected to the Card Kangaroo site, we discovered that there are no iTunes gift cards available even though the deal is listed on Gift Card Granny. It may be because Gift Card Granny has a lag in inventory updates.

This doesn’t come as a complete shock since Card Kangaroo was left off of our roundup from above for having a pretty slim gift card stock for buyers.

itunes-giftcards

So we decided to dig into two more options, GiftMe and Gift Card Spread. GiftMe has the highest savings percentage on the list, and Gift Card Spread is another Gift Card Granny Premier Partner.

GiftMe turns out to be an app that you need to download to your phone first before you can buy and sell your cards. We downloaded the app and found that there is indeed a $100 iTunes gift card available for $88.52.

GiftMe-App

To buy a card on GiftMe, you have to fill out your name and address. You also have to take a photo of the front and back of your credit card to be verified before purchase.

According to the app FAQ page, GiftMe will delete the photo after verification, and the app is PCI compliant. PCI is a security standard for transmitting credit card data, but to err on the side of caution, you probably shouldn’t be sending photos of your credit card to anyone.

That leaves the third and final top savings option that we looked into, Gift Card Spread. Gift Card Spread has iTunes gift card inventory for a little over 10% savings.

Gift-card-spread

You need to sign up for an account to buy a card from Gift Card Spread. In some cases, you may have to verify yourself as the credit card holder before purchasing by answering questions or going on a three-way call with the company and your credit card issuer.

Based on this experience shopping on Gift Card Granny, you’ll probably have to click around through several deals before you find a gift card seller that has the right stock and that doesn’t have a buying process that’s asking for too much of your personal information.

The exchanges we listed in our large roundup above appear on Gift Card Granny but not as one of the top savings options.

Finding places to sell cards using Gift Card Granny

Gift Card Granny will tell you the offers available for the type of card you want to sell.

The options will include places where you can sell your card instantly and others where you have to list your card for sale until someone buys it, such as Raise (we talked about Raise above) and eBay.

gcg-giftcard-sell

Be careful when selling cards on eBay because scams are rampant. You can even take a peek at the eBay community discussions here and here where someone shamelessly explains how they’ve scammed sellers out of gift cards.

A common way buyers seem to scam sellers is by asking for the serial number of a gift card to “confirm the amount” and then draining the card before paying. Scammers may also receive the card and then, to get a refund, complain to eBay that they never got it.

The bottom line is, proceed with caution when selling gift cards on eBay. It may be best to avoid the risk entirely.

Overall when it comes to buying and selling gift cards, Gift Card Granny does make it easier to compare options head-to-head even though you have to do some detective work to find good deals.

Gift Card Exchanges: A Much Better Deal for Buyers than Sellers

An honest opinion about the gift card buying process is that going through tedious sign-up forms and verifications for minimal savings (i.e., a $1.50 discount on a $15 iTunes gift card) may not be a good use of your time. Companies don’t want to get burned in the transaction, so they take extra precautions to confirm that your form of payment will work before releasing a gift card to you.

It’s an entirely different story if you can get something like 20% off of a $200 iTunes gift card. The $20 savings could be well worth the wait but only if the verification process is secure. Taking photos of your credit card or ID is still a little much even for $20.

As for the selling aspect, be aware again that this isn’t quick money (unless the site you exchange with has physical locations). The exchange website will need to confirm your gift card balance, which can take several business days, before they’re willing to send you cash or another card of your choosing.

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Fine Print Alert

Fine Print Alert: Beware of Buying Gift Cards and Falling Victim to Santa Scams

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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In our weekly Fine Print Alert we call out any good news from the financial community and shine a spotlight on any sneaky changes in the fine print. We also share our favorite reads from the week.

FINE PRINT ALERT

Be careful with gift cards…

The holiday season means a lot of people will be purchasing (and receiving) gift cards. Be careful this year when you purchase gift cards – especially cash gift cards – to ensure you keep the most money in your pocket and avoid fees for the gift’s receiver.

Consumer Education Specialist Alvaor Puig recommends following these steps to avoid gift card traps and tricks:

  • Are there fees to buy or use the card? Read that tiny print to find out what kind of deal you’re giving – or getting.
  • Does the card’s packaging look OK? Inspect it to be sure. If the PIN is showing, a thief might already have it – which could mean the thief can get any money you load onto the card.
  • Buying gift cards through online auction sites? Those could be fakes. Stick to sources you know and trust.
  • Sending a store card to a friend in another city or town? Make sure that store is close enough for him to shop there.

Read more tips at National Consumer Protection Week (ncpw.org).

Santa may be scamming you…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately, scam sites have popped up to con unsuspecting parents into forking over credit card numbers in exchange for a nice Santa letter that never arrives. The Better Business Bureau issued an alert, warning parents not to share personal information on sites and ignore emails being sent directly to accounts. Instead, make sure a payment is through a secure connection and note any poor grammar or misspelled words on the website. You can also look for the Better Business Bureau on the website to see that’s verified or look it up on the BBB.org. Then again, you can always just hand make your own letter to be 100% sure your information won’t be stolen.

Our blog provides more details about how to prevent falling victim to a Santa scam.

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6 Things You Should Do With Your Holiday Bonus Now, there is always that heavy temptation to buy something really fun, like a super expensive pair of shoes. But while a splurge is sometimes ok, you may want to consider using that money in other ways. Here are a few of our best suggestions. Meredith Lepore shares six tips on Go Girl Finance.

How Media Makes More Money Publishing About Fake Self-Made Millionaires, Whiz Kids Every now and then, a story would catch my eye. It was someone like me; passionate about the markets, but they were making boatloads of cash. They made me jealous, and I wondered how I could emulate their success. That was until I realized most were fake, underreported, and often, downright lies. These were hardly the role models I should’ve been following. Today, I wanted to point out a few recent stories that highlighted frauds — willingly and with seriously poor reporting. Sam Lustgarten shares his take on trumped up investor stories on his site Frugaling.

How to Spend the Remaining Balance On Your Cash Gift Cards Have you ever tried to use the last remaining balance of a cash gift card – only to have it rejected by the cashier during check-out? Or, you just have a few tiny amounts left on some leftover cash cards you got from your birthday? Here’s an easy way to get those balances off your card and to good use. I’ve written about this before – but thought I would repost for those of you who may have missed it. Check out this neat hack from Aaron at Three Thrifty Guys.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @Magnify_Money and on Facebook.

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