Which Store Gift Cards Have The Highest Resale Value?

All this talk about converting free Membership Rewards points into cold hard cash got me to thinking – how much do you net after fees, and which stores have the gift cards or certificates with the highest resale value? My initial guess was that stores that everyone shops at (Wal-mart, Home Depot, etc.) would be the easiest to resell, while the higher-end boutique shops might be tougher due to a smaller customer base and less bidding frenzies.

I decided to test this hypothesis by looking at eBay’s archives. Here was my not-statistically-sound-but-let’s-just-try-it methodology – I took 10 recently completed auctions for each store’s gift cards, taking a variety of gift card values and different sellers. I would then take 5% off the average ending bid to estimate eBay auction fees and then calculate the net resale percentage (ignoring shipping since at most it would be a stamp):

(Ending Bid x 95%) / Face Value = Estimated Resale %

Results
Instead of doing every store under the sun, I tried to take a small sample of different types of stores. Even with only 10 data points per store, the cards often sold in a tight price range, with the relative standard deviation of this small sample size being about 2%. The results are on the right.

As one might have guessed, Amazon.com has the highest resale value, as you can easily spend it online, and they sell everything from groceries to bedding to electronics. Big Box stores Target and Home Depot followed closely behind. Surprisingly, even with a limited presence and fancier products Crate and Barrel also did quite well. My theory behind this is that people tend to spend a lot of money there, so people can buy a bunch of gift cards online, combine them, and still save a large amount – 12% off of $1,000 is $120 saved.

The worst performing out of this limited sampling was Gap. Pottery Barn, Banana Republic, and Old Navy also hovered about the 80% range. Some specialty stores had very few completed auctions, so I skipped them.

Which are good bets for each Rewards program?
Not every points systems offers gift cards to the same stores. Here are my favorite conversions (all 10,000 points = $100 Gift Card):

Starwood Starpoints » Amazon.com Gift Cert.
Citibank ThankYou Points » Target Gift Cards
AmEx Membership Rewards » Crate and Barrel/Home Depot Gift Cards

You can find $100 bonus offers all three of these points programs here.

Keep in mind though, that this is assuming that you aren’t going to convert to other things like hotel or airline rewards. Free flights can also be sold for cash, especially if you have enough to redeem for a business or first class ticket. This can be worth 3-7 cents per mile depending on the route and if you sell directly or through a broker. More on this somewhat tricky practice next.

Comments

  1. You are wrong about shipping. I would definitely get some sort of tracked delivery service to cover your ass.

  2. From a seller’s perspective, you’re right – 88%. However, a person bidding on the card wouldn’t save 12%- they’d only be receiving the benefit of (Ending Bid)/(Face Value) – so only 7% or so. Even still, 7% is 7%.

  3. Jonathan, I think you should consider adding restaurants to the mix. People do not have to buy books/home depot products regularly, but people have to eat something somewhere every day.

    I have consistently topped the 90% return threshold on Applebees gift cards. Not that my own anecdotal experience means much, but some restaurants may be even better.

    Restaurant gift card resale can even be profitable. Some restaurants occasionally offer promotions whereby if you buy a $20 card, they throw in a $5 one (or somesuch). If you then resell the whole thing for $22.50, you’ve actually turned a profit.

  4. This applies equally well in the opposite direction. If I’m going to buy something from The Gap, I know that its worth it to buy a gift card via eBay first. Anyone have insight as to how safe buying gift cards on eBay is?

  5. i recently sold my home depot GC on ebay for $92. the listing fee was $0.35 and ending fee ended up around $4. i sent my GC certified mail for $3.46 (i don’t trust ppl on ebay any longer). still a profit of $83-84 dollars. i cashed in on the amex gold card that i got from your site..thanks!

  6. Great analysis. I love it! I hope you don’t mind that I linked to this article from my website.

  7. Gregory says:

    I usually get Shell gift cards for my Citi Thank You points. I need to get gas not matter what, but I don’t need to buy stuff at Amazon or GAP necessarily…

  8. So, I was curious to see if any cards would re-sell ABOVE face value and I only found one– a $75 iTunes gift card sold for $78 this morning, 4% above face value.

    Your post also makes me think of BUYING cards as a way to save money. For some of these cards you can get at 20% off face value. That means if I go to Home Depot and they have a 20% off sale, couple with an eBay card, I get 40% off! For our consumer spending, my wife goes to Target almost exclusively. It’s like buying discount cash!

  9. For some reason restaurant gift cards are never on my radar, that’s an oversight by me. I rarely eat at chain restaurants, I suppose.

    Gas cards! Yes, Shell cards are good as well. I think Citi ThankYou is the only program that gives gas cards now.

  10. Yes getting Target cards is like getting cash to me. I generally spend at least $50 a week there. But when you use giftcards you give up your rewards too — so I’ll just use my credit card for now.

  11. Nony-mouse says:

    Ur forgetting the listing fee, seller fees and paypal fees!

    One more thing I should warn people….never ever send the gift card pin number over the email.

    I had one buyer who bought a $100 Barnes and noble card and said i didnt need to physically send the card. I just had to send them the pin number from the back.

    Well after 1-2 months later, paypal took out the entire amount from my account saying that it was a fraudulent buyer and in order to get my money back, please provide proof for shipment.!!!
    (Even if i did send the item, i doubt i would have had the receipts to show shipment)

    After telling them the situation, paypal said tough luck!!

  12. kaitlin says:

    It should be noted that best buy giftcards seem to sell at a decent discount for anyone who would shop there.

  13. Are you sure about converting 10,000 Citibank ThankYou Points to a $100 Target Gift Card? I don’t see that option.

  14. SavingEverything says:

    Thanks for the pointer Nony-mouse, and sorry to hear about your situation. Another thing i noticed; what would happen if you buy someone’s giftcard who actually registered there card. For example, Starbucks Gift Cards can be registered by an owner; and if lost or stolen, s/he can call them, and Starbucks will cancel the old card and send you a replacement immediately of remaining balance on card. Other stores, like CVS, cannot replace gift card if it’s lost or stolen. So, an Ebay artist would sell you a card, and once s/he receives funds, and sends card and waits a few days, and reports it lost, the buyer could be screwd, i think.

  15. I never knew free flights could be sold for cash. That’s interesting thanks.

  16. I’ve been working on compiling the history of gift cards and a paper I came across called “Markets: Gift Cards” from the Journal of Economic Perspectives did essentially the same thing you did on a larger scale, in an attempt to calculate the “deadweight” loss of gift cards as a gift (how much less value it provides to the recipient than paid for by the gift giver).

    Here are the results (sorry for the bad formatting):

    Home Depot 89.2%
    Lowe’s 89.0%
    Office Max 88.8%
    Circuit City 87.9%
    Nordstrom 87.8%
    Starbucks 87.6%
    Old Navy 87.6%
    Wal-Mart 87.4%
    Target 87.4%
    Staples 87.1%
    Best Buy 86.7%
    Sears 85.1%
    GAP 84.5%
    Toys “R” Us 84.5%
    JCPenney’s 83.9%
    K-Mart 83.9%
    Macy’s 82.3%
    PetSmart 82.2%
    Banana Republic 81.8%
    Tiffany & Co 79.7%
    Victoria’s Secret 79.0%
    Abercrombie & Fitch 78.2%
    Bloomingdales 77.2%
    American Eagle 77.0%
    Express 74.5%

Trackbacks

  1. bankpig.com blog » Blog Archive » FREE $50 Gift Card AMEX Deal says:

    [...] I was trying to decide which store to redeem my points at, and I found a very helpful article at MyMoneyBlog: Which Store Gift Cards Have Highest Resale Value?. [...]

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