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by Kim Komando
Get discounts on gift cards...
Everyone likes a little free money, and free money is essentially what you get when you buy gift cards for less than their face value. You can use discounted cards to stretch your holiday shopping dollars, or to give a gift that's a little more generous than your budget would have allowed.
There are several easy ways to get discounted gift cards, starting with popular exchange sites such as ABC Gift Cards, Cardpool, GiftCardRescue.com, Gift Card Granny and Plastic Jungle.
One site might have more cards and better deals than another site on any given day, so check back regularly. If cards for one of your favorite retailers are unavailable at the moment, set an alert.
At exchange sites, you can sometimes snag a card for up to 35 percent less than face value. More often, you'll catch 3 to 12 percent discounts on cards from major retailers such as Best Buy, Sears, Walmart, Kohl's and Target. You'll see similar savings on cards from Home Depot and Lowe's.
Trim 3 to 5 percent off your Christmas dinner or New Year's Eve bash by buying discounted gift cards good at Kroger, Safeway, Publix and other chains.
You can choose to receive physical cards in the mail or buy electronic gift cards. Electronic card codes are emailed to you right away, but they can be used only online.
Be sure to buy cards with no fees and no expiration dates. These will have the best savings and least amount of hassle. Keep in mind that some cards on exchange sites are partially used and have odd amounts on them. They won't be appropriate for gift-giving.
You don't have to use an exchange site to save money. Membership at warehouse clubs such as Costco, Sam's Club or BJ's Wholesale has its privileges.
Clubs often offer 15 to 20 percent discounts on cards that are good at national restaurant and cinema chains. You'll also find deals on iTunes cards, which aren't normally discounted anywhere else.
Many savvy shoppers follow their favorite retailers' Twitter feeds, like their Facebook pages and join loyalty programs. Stores reward those customers by discounting gift cards or handing out bonus gift cards during the holidays.
Read the fine print on special promotions, however. Some cards can't be used on the spot - requiring a trip back to the store - or they may be good only after Christmas.
If you have cash-back rewards credit cards, issuers usually give you a bonus if you redeem for a retail gift card instead of cash. For example, you might be able to get a $25 gift card for the same amount of points as $20 cash.
If you receive a holiday gift card from a friend, relative or co-worker you're sure you won't use, sell it to an exchange site. Depending on the card, you could get as much as 80 to 90 percent of face value. GiftCardRescue.com will give you 5 percent more for an unwanted card if you take an Amazon gift card instead of cash.
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