Buying Discounted Gift Cards Just Before Purchase

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Comments

  1. Just yesterday I got an invite from my favorite giftcard site Cardpool to participate in there beta mobile site doing exactly what you are talking about. I have not had a chance to use it yet but it looks very promising.

  2. I went through the same experience a few weeks ago. I needed filters for my air conditioner and fridge so I logged into American Express and exchanged points for an electronic gift card. Turns out that it had the bar code for scanning in-store on the coupon so I just went rather than trying to order online.

    It would be great if they would make an app, so that you can just scan your phone’s screen for the coupon. Plus think of how many trees can be saved and the reduction in plastic consumption as less physical cards will be needed.

  3. stephanie says:

    Would you lose credit card benefits (e.g. extra warranty, price protections, etc.) by making part of the purchase on a gift card? I vaguely recall reading that the purchase must be entirely on the credit card to count.

  4. Funny, I just posted on this topic today.
    Here’s how I get more bang for my buck. I buy AMEX gift cards through BigCrumbs.
    1% cash back from credit card. 1.6% cash back from BigCrumbs.
    Then, I buy the discounted gift card, as you described. Then I go back to BigCrumbs and shop through them.
    I get an additional discount for using their web portal.
    Like you said, it requires planning, but I usually can save 20% or so, even without extra coupon codes.

    @Stephanie: If you need extra protection, I say go with a CC.

  5. @mike — do you have a code to get NO FEE/FREE SHIP from amex for those?

  6. Nice idea.

  7. About the instant buy thing, I tried purchasing e-gift cards on Plastic Jungle for American Airlines. If you are buying stuff worth more than a pre-set limit (I think its $200 but I am not sure) then they do delay sending the email by 1 day as an anti-fraud measure.

  8. Has anyone used ebillme.com? They seem to offer 10% off some gift cards including Amazon.

  9. I like Eric’s idea about the app. That would come in very handy!

  10. Regarding purchasing Amex cards on bigcrumbs, if you buy a $1000 card from Amex, does bigcrumbs send you a check for $16 (1.6%)? I read over bc’s website, but I’m still unclear on what form you recieve your discount in. Thanks.

  11. @ Brian: BC will send you money via paypal once a month. If you made the purchase today, you’d probably get paid in ~2 months via paypal. I am getting paid on 8/15 for June purchases. (link removed, no referrals please)

  12. The waiver code is expired, but you can still get free shipping if you sign up for a free trial. More on AmEx gift cards here:

    http://www.mymoneyblog.com/american-express-gift-card-fee-waiver-code.html

  13. RE: Big Crumbs: Yes, you can still get free shipping for 90 days with the trial. Try the code “PHONE” and see if that works. If not, do a search on Google and another one might come up…

  14. I buy gift cards at the grocery store using my AmEx Blue Cash Preferred card (6% back) for things I know I’ll be purchasing. In July I was able to combine this with a double gas points on GC promotion. I bought gift cards to cover my vacation.

  15. So cardpool now has mobile gift cards. I haven’t used them yet but would love to see a post on this. I’ve bought other gift cards from these sites but this would be really great since I’m usually buying them for myself for a specific .. don’t trust giving them as gifts. http://www.cardpool.com/buy/mobile-gift-cards

  16. It is great to see ya’ll talking about this topic because CashSwipe (CashSwipe.com) is currently working on this problem. We will be launching an iPhone app soon.

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