What’s the Smartest Way to Buy Gift Cards Over the Holidays?

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From our kids’ teachers and bus drivers to our postal carriers and landscapers – there are many people in our daily lives who deserve something nice for the holidays. And if we don’t give cash, we usually choose gift cards that we know everyone will appreciate and use.

Some gift cards come with fees, some have expirations dates, and some even charge monthly fees. Here’s a list of some valuable and not-so-valuable ways to shop for gift cards this holiday season.

Smart Gift Card Shopping

Southwest Shopping

Gift Card shopping on Southwest websiteSouthwest Rapid Rewards members looking for an easy way to earn extra points would be smart to check out Southwest SeeMoreButtonRapid Rewards Shopping to see if any of the featured gift card offers are from retailers you would normally purchase gift cards from this holiday season. If so, you can earn Rapid Rewards points just for purchasing the gift cards through the site. And some gift cards offer huge points earnings. For example, purchasing a Restaurant.com gift card through Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping will earn you 9 points per dollar spent on the gift card. If there is a downside, it’s that the site only features about 25 gift card offers at a time, and the gift cards that earn the most points usually are from lesser-known retailers.

AARP’s Rewards for Good

Gift Card shopping on AARP website

You don’t need to be an AARP member to make use of the FREE Rewards for Good program, where you can earn points just bySeeMoreButtonexploring the AARP.org website, taking a few quizzes, reading articles, and more. You don’t have to spend a dime to earn points. Just clicking around the site here and there for one week, for example, earned one of our staffers over 9,000 points. Those points can be redeemed for discounted gift cards from many popular retailers. For example, you can redeem 1,000 points for $10 off a $100 gift card at The Gap. We noticed they did add on a small shipping fee of 59 cents at checkout, but that’s not so bad – especially considering we earned these points for FREE.

Costco

Gift Card shopping on Costco website

Costco members can save money year-round on gift cards. And if you’re not a member, you may want to consider joining sinceSeeMoreButtonthe $55 membership fee can easily be repaid in savings on gift cards. A few examples we found, $100 in Hyatt Hotels gift cards for only $79.99 and a $50 Build-A-Bear Workshop gift card for $39.99. Competing big-box wholesaler Sam’s Club also offers savings on gift card purchases. A recent online search of Sam’s Club’s gift card included a $100 iTunes gift card pack for $84.47, with free shipping.

Discover Cashback Bonus

Gift Card shopping on Discover website

Every merchant gift card you get with your Discover Cashback Bonus comes with a boost in value. You can get at least $5 in extraSeeMoreButton value when you redeem for gift card purchases. And they offer gift cards from over 100 retailers. Some great gift card deals we found were: $40 for a $50 Zappos.com, $60 Brookstone gift card for $40, and a $50 Bed, Bath & Beyond gift card for $40.

Not-So-Smart Gift Card Shopping

Bank-Issued Gift Cards

stack of giftcards

How many times have you purchased gift cards from the huge boards that most supermarkets have hanging near the checkout counter? If you purchased store-branded gift cards, most likely you didn’t pay an extra fee at the register. But if you bought a bank-issued gift card, chances are you incurred a purchase fee upwards of $7 per gift card.

Did you know that Visa gift cards expire within two years and charge a $2.50 monthly administrative fee after six months? This is a gift card that loses value fast. For example, a $50 gift card could be worth only $35 if it isn’t used in a year.

And while American Express gift cards do not incur monthly fees after purchase like the Visa gift cards, they still come with both a purchase fee and an online shipping fee. Purchase fees can range from $3.95 to $5.95. But normally around the holidays, American Express runs special promotions for gift cards waiving either the purchase fees, shipping fees or both.

Gift cards are easy and economical gift-giving options for the holidays. And with a little research, you can find a deal that benefits both the gift giver and receiver.

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