Are you still shelling out full price to buy gift cards? You shouldn't be. There are plenty of ways to acquire them without paying face value.

Gift-Card Exchange Websites
Gift-card exchange websites buy consumers' unwanted gift cards at a discount and then resell them at a lesser discount to consumers who do want them. In other words, a site might purchase a $100 gift card for $80 then sell it for $90. That means you can buy gift cards to dozens of stores for less than their face value.

PlasticJungle.com offers discounts ranging from 2% at Walmart to 25% at Newport News. At the time of writing, 58 of the 87 available gift card brands had discounts in the 10-15% range. You'll find similar discounts at sites like GiftCards.com and Cardpool.com.

Shop around because different gift cards will sell for different prices and have better or worse availability on different sites. Then, add to your savings by purchasing your discounted gift cards through eBates, which gives you 1% back on purchases at Plastic Jungle and GiftCards.com.

Gift-card exchange sites will either mail you the physical gift card or deliver the gift card code to you electronically. Of course, you can only use electronic codes for online and phone orders, not in-store purchases. Many of these gift cards have been partially used and aren't appropriate for gift giving, but they're great for getting a discount at your favorite stores.

Look out for fees that will diminish the value of your savings. GiftCards.com charges a $2.95 handling fee per physical gift card; electronic code delivery is free. Cardpool, on the other hand, doesn't charge shipping fees. Protect yourself against fraud by checking the gift-card exchange company's guarantee before making any purchase.

It's also possible to buy gift cards for less than face value on eBay. Look for well-established sellers with a long history and excellent feedback to make sure you're dealing with someone reputable.

Citi Extra Cash
Holders of certain Citibank credit cards who are invited to participate in the program can use Citi Extra Cash to purchase gift cards for retail stores, travel and restaurants at a 10% discount. There are gift cards for Macy's, Kohl's, Zappos, Sephora, Hertz, T.G.I. Fridays and quite a few other companies.

Cardholders earn Extra Cash based on a percentage of their monthly credit card spending and redeem it in amounts determined by Citibank. Usually, you can redeem $5 in Extra Cash toward the purchase of a $50 gift card and $10 toward a $100 card. Shipping is a nominal 59 cents per gift card. You pay the balance with the Citibank credit card that's tied to your Extra Cash account.

You can also save 28% to 35% on movie theater tickets through this program. The shipping charges are a surprisingly high $2.99 per order on these, but the overall discount is still substantial.

Warehouse Clubs
Costco, BJ's and Sam's Club all sell gift cards to members at a discount. The deals aren't so steep as to be worth the price of membership for most people, but they're a nice perk. Here are some examples of what you can get.

Costco offers significantly discounted gift cards to six restaurant chains. Each option will save you 20%:

  • Two $50 Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que gift cards for $79.99
  • Two $50 McCormick and Schmick's gift cards for $79.99
  • Two $50 Wolfgang Puck gift cards for $79.99
  • Four $25 Ghiradelli gift cards for $79.99
  • Four $25 Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf gift cards for $79.99
  • Four $25 Baja Fresh gift cards for $79.99

The club also sells discounted movie tickets to AMC, Cinemark and Regal theaters.

BJ's offers significantly smaller but still worthwhile discounts on gift cards for restaurants, movie theaters and iTunes. For example, you can buy $25 gift cards to a small selection of restaurants like Chili's, Outback and Hard Rock Cafe for $23.99 each or $50 gift cards for $47.99. The best deal is four $25 Uno Chicago Grill gift cards for $79.99.

Of the three major discount chains, Sam's Club has the smallest selection of discounted gift cards. It offers a slight discount on multipacks of iTunes gift cards. A pack of four $15 cards goes for $56.88. There are also discounted gift cards for the Olive Garden and Cracker Barrel, but at $24.64 for a $25 gift card, they're hardly worth the trouble.

Discover Cash Back
Discover lets you turn your credit card cash back into gift cards, and if you choose wisely you can get cards worth more than your cash back amount. These redemption options let you increase the value of your cash back by 10% to 100% or more. For example, you can redeem $20 for a $40 Enterprise Rent-a-Car gift card, $40 for $100 at Hyatt hotels, and $20 for $40 at Mrs. Fields. Most deals let you redeem $20 for a $25 gift card, or $40 or $45 for a $50 gift card.

Turning the 5% cash back you can earn in rotating categories throughout the year into gift cards is a great way to make the most of expenses you would incur anyway and get gift cards for free.

ThankYou Rewards
Similar to Discover Cash Back, Citibank's ThankYou Rewards let you redeem your credit card and checking account reward points for gift cards. You'll have to work a little harder to find a good deal on a gift card with this rewards program, however.

One of the most common redemption amounts is 6,000 points for a $50 gift card. Since cardholders typically earn 1 point per $1 spent, redeeming 6,000 points for a $50 reward gives you the equivalent of just 0.8% cash back. But with some gift cards, such as Gap, Bath and Body Works, Bloomingdales and others, you can currently redeem 10,000 points for a $100 gift card, giving you the equivalent of 1% cash back and an essentially free gift card.

New Citibank credit card and bank account holders can get some of the best deals on gift cards. That's because some accounts offer signup bonuses that require little effort to qualify and that reward you with thousands of points redeemable for hundreds of dollars in gift cards.

The Bottom Line
It's easy to acquire gift cards at a discount to their face value, and you have many options for doing so. A 10% discount on a single gift card might not seem that significant, but if you make getting discounted gift cards a regular part of your household savings strategy, like couponing, you'll see the savings add up. Getting gift cards at a discount is a great way to make birthdays and holidays more affordable and to cut costs any time you shop.

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