My go-to holiday and birthday gifts for most of my extended family: Gift cards. My parents see a lot of movies so I often buy them gift cards to local movie theaters. Meanwhile, my nieces and nephews like to shop at Target so I’ve been buying them a lot of Target gift cards lately.
My relatives aren’t the only ones wanting gift cards. According to the National Retail Federation, this holiday season, gift cards top wish lists and holiday shoppers will spend an average of $163.16 on gift cards, up 4% from last year and an all-time high.
I used to buy the gift cards online directly from the theaters or stores themselves. However, today’s hint is the smarter place to buy gift cards: the huge gift card displays at grocery stores where you are awarded for the gift card purchases you make.
For instance, as a member of the Club Cards rewards program at grocery store chain Safeway, I currently get 4 gas reward points for every dollar I spend on gift cards (quadruple the number of points I get for every dollar I spend on groceries).
Every 100 points equals a 10 cent per gallon reward (i.e. 10 cents off the price of a galloon at participating gas stations), a great way to save on gas as blogger Thrifty NW Mom has pointed out. In addition, for spending $150 on gift cards at Safeway, I also got $25 off my grocery bill.
Don’t have a Safeway near you? Grocery store chain Kroger is currently offering a similar 4x gas rewards program for gift cards, as the blog Hip2Save recently pointed out. Other grocery chains I came across offering similar programs include Frys and Dominick’s.
Add in the fact that I was using my reward-generating credit card to make my grocery store purchases, and I felt almost criminal taking advantage of this strategy to get bonus rewards (not exactly the strategy Lifehacker and US News covered earlier this year but still a way to generate gas savings and reward points). Of course, then I remember that many gift cards – and gas points alike – go unused, meaning they’re essentially free money for the retailers, as Ron Lieber of The New York Times pointed out a while back.
What’s your take on this strategy? What are your holiday gift card buying tricks?