Gift card exchange pays off

| Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

I'm going to take a wild guess and assume that you like money. I'll bet you like free money even better.

Free money is essentially what you get if you buy secondhand gift cards from exchange websites. You can also use other methods to acquire gift cards and get bonus savings.

Buying a $25 Target gift card for $22.25 doesn't look very impressive at first glance. But if you make using discounted gift cards part of your household budget and shopping strategy, those savings you find online can really add up over time., Cardpool, Gift Card Granny and Plastic Jungle are popular places to sell unwanted gift cards -- and to pick up discounted gift cards secondhand.

It makes sense to sell a card that you know you'll never use. Depending on the card, you may be able to get as much as 80 to 90 percent of face value. will give you 5 percent more for an unwanted card if you take an Amazon gift card in lieu of cash.

To buy gift cards, bookmark your favorite sites and shop around. One site might have more cards and better deals than another site on any given day. If cards for one of your favorite retailers are unavailable at the moment, you can set an alert.

Best Buy gift cards often sell at a 4-6 percent discount. You'll see similar savings on cards from Home Depot and Lowe's.

You can usually choose to receive a physical card in the mail or buy an electronic gift card. Electronic card codes will be emailed to you instantly, but they can only be used online.

Try to buy cards with no fees and no expiration dates for the best savings and least amount of hassle. Keep in mind that some exchange cards are partially used and have odd amounts on them. They wouldn't be appropriate for gift-giving.

If you're already a member of a warehouse retail club, such as Costco, Sam's Club or BJ's Wholesale, you can often pick up discounted cards for a number of outlets and sites that don't otherwise discount -- for example, iTunes.

If you're in a hurry, or need to buy a gift card for an actual gift, it's easy to buy one at the grocery store. You'll have to pay face value, though.

If you're purchasing a full-price gift card, consider using a rewards credit card to buy it.

A Blue Cash Preferred card from American Express, for example, earns 6 percent cash back at grocery stores.

Discover has a similar plan. Chase, Capital One and Citi offer a variety of rewards Visa and MasterCards.

Most rewards cards let you redeem for cash or discounted gift cards from retail partners.

Be careful, however. The advantages of earning a little free money here and there quickly disappear if you carry any kind of balance and pay interest on the debt.

Read the fine print on qualifying purchases. Bonus categories may rotate throughout the year.

Do the math on whether you'll earn more rewards in a year with a no-fee card or a card that charges an annual fee. Unless you are a very high-volume shopper, it's usually better to use a no-fee card and take the lower-percentage reward.

Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Email her at

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