Now that there is a secondary market for gift cards, you can also buy gift cards at a discount to face value and use them at your preferred retailer. Better yet, you can combine them with whatever coupon or sale is already going on. A good use is for larger purchases at stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s, where an additional 7% off means $35 savings on a $500 appliance. These guys often also have 10% off coupons floating around, for example in US Postal Service moving kits or in exchange for signing up for 0% financing.
The downside to this is that for physical gift cards and brick-and-mortar stores, this takes advance planning. You have to buy it, wait for it to come in the mail, and then use it in a store on a future purchase while hoping the sale/promotion is still going on and the item is still in stock. It would be great if you could simply go a store, pick up your items, and then buy some discounted gift cards right before reaching the cash register. This turns out to be possible, but it was a bit clunky. This will only work with retailers that accept online gift certificates in their physical stores.
- Find it. You need to find a website that sells discounted Home Depot “eCodes”, which are electronic gift certificates. I used Plastic Jungle (PJ), which currently offers a good selection of Home Depot codes at 7% off. Now, the PJ site says that these codes are for online-use only, but but both the HomeDepot.com website and my actual conversation with an HD employee confirm that you can use them in-store.
Where can I use my eGift Card? You can use your eGift Card at any The Home Depot store in the United States, its territories or possessions, and in Canada. You may also redeem your eGift Card online at homedepot.com.
- Buy it. Browse the website on your mobile device, and purchase the required amount. You’ll have to decide whether to buy a little less than you need, or a little more and use the rest later. I prefer just buying a little less if I can, like $100 worth for $110 of stuff. PJ uses Paypal, but you can still use a rewards credit card to get extra savings.
- Hope it comes instantly, and use it. Now, the extra-clunky part is that most websites don’t promise instant delivery. For example, at Plastic Jungle this was in their purchase confirmation e-mail:
The PayPal payment you authorized is pending, your order will be processed within 1 business day. You will receive a notification when your payment has been approved. Please note eCODEs purchased after 1PM PST will be delivered via email the next business day.
However, my gift code did indeed come immediately, literally 30 seconds after the purchase confirmation. Perhaps this is how it goes with Home Depot cards, as I even bought after 1pm PST. I checked the balance and it was legit. You may get a cashier that doesn’t know how to enter the code, in that case ask for a supervisor.
So here is my suggestion for gift card reseller websites. Create an iPhone/Android app or mobile website that allows quick and easy purchases of gift certificate codes that can be delivered and used immediately. Let me save “favorite stores” and secure payment information to make things even faster. As consumers, we should encourage stores to allow online codes to work both online and in-store.
By Jonathan Ping | Frugal Living | 8/10/11, 5:00am