I’ve developed an appreciation for using gift cards to make purchases at my favorite retailers. The benefit is great in Maryland where the value of gift cards never expire. Check before stocking up to see how long you have to use your funds. The savings are small but they add up- I find that I save about $8-10 per month. Here’s how:
Where to buy the gift card?
Depending on which credit cards you have, you may earn rewards for purchases at certain stores. For instance, with my Chase Ink card, I earn 5% back at office supply stores. When there is no better option, I will purchase my cards in person at Staples or Office Depot. Don’t order the cards online as there are usually fees associated. Likewise, you may have a card that gives great rewards at grocery stores. With my Chase Freedom card, the categories change quarterly. With my Target RedCard, I instantly get a 5% discount on the gift cards I purchase in-store. Using credit cards for rewards only works if you have a card with no annual fee and are paying the balance in full every month.
Also consider if a store is offering a special on gift card purchases. I’ve seen awesome promotions at my grocery store for a free $20 grocery card with purchase of $100 in gift cards.
How using a gift card saves you money:
In addition to the obvious benefit of getting cash back rewards or promotional rates on gift cards, I’ve discovered a hidden benefit. Many of the stations near me offer a cash discount of approximately 5 cents per gallon. I’ve found that when using a gift card to pay at the pump, many stations will automatically give the cash discount. Occasionally this isn’t the case, but it happens many more times than not.
Don’t forget about station loyalty cards!
Several of the stations near me (Exxon, BP, Shell) have recently rolled out loyalty programs. Snag a free loyalty card (many times they’re right on the pump) and scan it before you make your purchase. After a few uses, you’ll notice offers on the screen. If you accumulate your credits, you can get as much as 20 cents off per gallon.