Preowned gift cards can be a good deal if used wisely
Feb 17, 2013 (The Virginian-Pilot - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
For years, some smaller retailers have set a minimum purchase amount to use a credit card. I can understand why. Everyone has a bottom line. I'd hate to cause someone to go out of business because I continually charged a pack of gum.
The consumer has to be just as canny. Used responsibly, credit cards can do for your income what warm sugar does to yeast: make your dough rise. I stick to cards that offer incentives for spending. Depending on the structure of the program, points are earned that can be redeemed for cash back, statement credits, gift cards, products, travel and entertainment.
It pays to put just about any and everything on a credit card. Points add up quickly when credit is used to pay for household expenses such as groceries and insurance, gasoline, utility, cellphone and cable bills.
These are recurring expenses, so it shouldn't be hard to pay the credit card balance in full each month. But if a merchant were to tack on the newly allowed credit card swipe fee, which can amount to up to 3 percent of your purchase, it won't be worth it.
You also have to watch out for businesses whose swipe machines allegedly process only debit transactions as credit. From time to time, at retailers large and small, I've swiped my debit card and got ready to enter my PIN, and the store associate says, "Oh, our machine will only recognize it as credit."
Increasingly, I've found it more economical to purchase preowned gift cards, thus cutting down on credit card use.
Online clearinghouses buy your unwanted gift cards and gift codes, offering up to 92 percent of the face value. In turn, those cards and codes are made available at up to 35 percent off the face value. Those sites include GiftCards.com, PlasticJungle.com, CardPool.com and GiftCardRescue.com. Standard shipping is free, and the cards are guaranteed.
It works best with planning. For example: You know you'll soon have to replace your iron. If you're like me, you consider an iron to be indispensable and will spend major loot on the best possible one. Before that iron totally conks out, scout for a discounted card to the retailer of your choice, then pounce on a sale.
Or perhaps you're in the market for a really big purchase such as an Apple computer. Deals are few and far between, usually happening only around back-to-school time or Black Friday. If you can't wait, create your own sale. You could save more than $80 if you scored a $900 gift card from GiftCards.com, which is offering 9 percent off Apple cards versus PlasticJungle.com's 5 percent and CardPool.com's 1.5 percent. That savings could be used toward software or accessories. Or on getting your hair done.
And then there are those chain establishments that you frequently run in and out of, such as the off-price retailers and discount box stores.
GiftCards.com offers its Target cards at a 6 percent discount, which is better than the Target credit card's 5 percent discount. It's hard to beat a J.C. Penney gift card bought at 27 percent off, then used during a clearance sale and with coupons.
Plastic money, in its various forms, remains an attractive option. Just make sure to use it to your advantage and not merely out of convenience.
Jamesetta M. Walker, 757-446-2211, email@example.com
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