While I was paying for gas yesterday, I learned that I could get an extra 1,000 points for every $50 gift card purchased so my fiancé and I bought 9 gift cards and earned an extra 9,000 points – just the amount we needed to get a free gift card.
Spending $450 for gas all at one time seems like a lot, but my fiancé will use up his share of the gift cards very quickly as his commute to work is very long. Right now, I’m fortunate to be able to take the bus to work so I’m estimating that my share of the gift cards will last at least 3 months unless gas hits the $5 mark.
A few years ago, I never would have considered purchasing gift cards for myself, but ever since retailers started offering incentives (e.g., buy a $50 gift card and get a free $10 gift card), I realized it was a great way to maximize my spending power at places I shop at on a regular basis. During the holidays, retailers really ramp up the incentives to buy gift cards, but they’re also doing it now in hopes of getting some – or all -- of your economic stimulus rebate money.
Originally, I had planned to put my $600 toward my student loan debt – I couldn’t wait to see my debt finally drop out of the $70,000 range -- but now I’m thinking about taking advantage of the “extra 10 percent” deals some of the grocery stores like Cub Foods are offering. I figure I have to buy groceries, anyway, so I might as well get an extra $60 if I can. I have until July 31 to decide what to do, but I’m strongly leaning toward buying a grocery gift card.
While buying gift cards to reap extra incentives can be a smart financial move, it can also backfire if you don’t do your research. Before buying a gift card, I always:
(1) Inquire if the card has an expiration date, or if a fee is charged for card inactivity;
(2) Access whether there is a possibility the store may go bankrupt or close before I use the gift card up because you just never know these days; and
(3) Determine if I can really afford to spend so much money up front because even though it’s a great deal, it will not be such a great deal if I have to pay credit card interest on the gift cards.