Archive for Gift Card Rules

Save with BOGO Gift Card Offers!

BOGO Buy One Get One Gift Card OffersBOGO Buy One Get One Gift Card OffersBOGO Buy One Get One Gift Card OffersReady or not, the holidays are coming. Though this time of year can be especially costly, there are a few ways to save money en route to the spending. One way is to be on the look out for BOGO Gift Card Offers.

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Today alone, these three offers arrived in my mailbox:

  • Safeway Grocery Store: Buy 150 dollars in select gift cards, receive a 25 dollar grocery coupon.
  • Lucky Grocery Store: Buy 50 dollars in select gift cards, receive a 5 dollar savings.
  • Chevy’s Restaurant: Buy a 50 dollar Chevy’s gift card, receive a 10 dollar Chevy’s promotional gift card.
Best BOGO Gift Card Offers are in November

If you’re planning to buy gift cards this holiday season, do it now. The BOGO deals will dwindle as Christmas draws near. Last year, my grocery store offered a great BOGO gift card deal in November. By early December, the promo had reduced and by mid-December, it was gone. Makes sense, right? In November, we’re still thinking turkey and traditional presents. By December, we’ve given up on finding the perfect present and switch to selecting gift cards instead. Might as well just start there and pocket the BOGO Gift Card savings!

Why the BOGO?

Why do stores offer BOGO gift card deals? Because they bring people into the stores–to buy the gift cards, to redeem the gift cards, and to redeem the promotional benefits. That adds up to several opportunities for a store to convert gift card shoppers into loyal customers. And since statistics show that gift card shoppers will overspend the amount received on a card, the stores invariably make more than they give away.

Consider the Chevy’s example. The person who receives the 50 dollar gift card may end up spending 60 dollars. (Gift card shoppers are less price sensitive–piling on the appetizers and desserts when dining with, what feels like, free money.) The person who bought the gift card will for sure overspend the 10 dollar promotional gift card. So that’s a second customer in the restaurant spending more than they received. BOGO Gift Card Offers are good for customers and for the merchants. (To my small business friends, please take note!)

Gift Card Rules Vary

Although Federal law prohibits gift cards from expiring in less than five years (and state laws can be even stricter), the promotional gift card, certificate, or coupon is an exception to this rule. Gift cards that are given away may not be usable until after the holidays and will likely expire within a couple of months. So be sure to read the rules of the promotion before you buy.

Keep Both Gift Cards

It’s called a “gift card,” but that doesn’t mean you have to give it away. If you’re a fan of Chevy’s, for example, buy a gift card for yourself and keep the promo card as well. I promise you, the store does not care. You will overspend both gift cards and choose to dine at Chevy’s rather than go elsewhere because the gift card is in your wallet.

So as you see the BOGO Gift Card offers rolling in, take a minute to think about your personal shopping. When you see an offer for a store you regularly patronize, pounce on the deal. You’re going to be spending money there anyway. You might as well benefit from the discount available. The holidays are an expensive time of year and this is a great way to save.

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3 Ways to Make A Gift Card More Memorable

Car Wash gift card can be used multiple timesWhat do a candlestick, a Rascal Flatts CD, and a hot pink hoodie have in common? They are all things that I received as gifts from someone I love. When I look at these items, I think fondly of the giver who knew me well enough to get me exactly what I wanted.

Risk of Gifts

One benefit to giving someone an actual gift (rather than a gift card) is that the recipient is likely to think of you (the giver) every time he or she puts the present to use. It’s a risk, of course. Because if the recipient returns the gift or throws it in the back of the closet, they won’t be thinking of you at all. They might even be shaking their head, wondering what the heck YOU were thinking. (Size XL? Really? Purple? I never wear purple! Does she think I’m a big, fat Barney?!?)

Make a Gift Card Memorable

Though I do remember most of the gifts I’ve purchased myself with gift cards received, the bond isn’t quite as strong. Often it’s because the gift card seemed to fly out of my wallet as fast as it went in. And tracing the lineage of the gift takes too much mental muscle. More often, I would say, gift card gifts can be forgotten.

But there are ways to extend the memory of the gift cards you give:

  • Make it Multiple. A friend of mine received a gift card for 10 free car washes as a thank you gift. His car was clean for a year. He thought about his benefactor every time he got into his fresh smelling car. A car wash gift card would be great for a family, for him, for her, or for Father’s Day!)
  • Make it Reuseable. A gift card worth keeping around is one that can be used over and over again. Think $50 on a Starbucks card or $100 on a Jamba Juice card. Since the recipient is unlikely to use the entire dollar amount in one outing, he or she will have several free drinks on you.
  • Make it Tweet-Worthy. Think adventure. Get a gift card to a fun restaurant, go-kart racing, hot air balloon ride, the opera, or something else out of the ordinary. Don’t push too far, but thinking a little out of the comfort zone is okay. Then when your friend updates his status or tweets his adventure, you’ll be the one he or she thanks.

Who cares?

The point of a giving a gift is not to be the center of attention. But if you’re worried your gift card might get lost in the shuffle of more showy gifts, then put a little thought into making the gift card be one that creates a lasting bond rather than one giant ruffle.

Buy, Sell, and Trade Gift Cards at!

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Help! I lost my Gift Card!

My brother lost a gift card and wants to know if I have any tricks for replacing it. The key to the mystery here is to know what he did BEFORE he lost the gift card. It’s not good.

  1. He hadn’t put the gift card directly in his wallet for safe keeping.
  2. He hadn’t recorded the gift card number and PIN anywhere or registered it on my favorite iPHone app: Tango Card.
  3. He didn’t have the purchase receipt because he’d received it as a gift. (By the way, I always give the receipt along with the gift card. There’s no charade here. We both know how much money I spent.)
  4. And he didn’t want to tell the giver that he’d lost the card in case they still have the receipt. I get that one. I wouldn’t want to tell anyone either. Unless it came from my mom. I’d tell her.

My Answer Is…

So he’s stuck. I even did a little research and found this great article on about how to Replace a Lost or Stolen Gift Card. But the advice only works if you did the pre-work mentioned above.

So sorry brother. But next time, follow my advice and put the gift card in your wallet immediately and enter the gift card number and PIN in Tango Card. Then even if you lose the physical card, you still have all the information needed to make an online purchase. And if somebody else got a hold of your gift card and is using it instead of you–you’ll see the balance drain via Tango Card and can then decide if it’s worth reporting.

Wish I had better news.

Up to 25% off at your favorite retailers!

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Gift Card Switcheroo!

Buy a different gift card with a Target Gift Card

Buy a Different Gift Card with a Target Gift Card

I took my son to Target so he could redeem one of his birthday gift cards. But with ALL the choices (games, toys, clothes), he couldn’t decide what to buy. That’s when we discovered Target is now selling gift cards to other stores. (Thank you for finally getting on board with that Target!!!)

Imagine Michael’s delight when he discovered he could buy a Club Penguin Membership gift card with his Target gift card. This turned out to be the perfect choice because he loves playing Club Penguin but I won’t pay for his membership. (I save my money for the Wii and other games that encourage movement.)

How to Buy a Gift Card with a Gift Card

There are several website services that enable you to swap your gift card. But with those sites you would have to sell them your gift card (for less than face value) and buy a new one at a discount. Or cash in your gift card and buy whatever you want with cash. But it’s much easier to swap a gift card by purchasing a new gift card with the one you already have.

  • The bad news: It only works if your gift card is to a store that sells other gift cards.
  • The good news: There are many stores that sell other store gift cards–including Target, Babies R Us, Toys R Us, Michaels, Safeway, Vons, CVS, Lucky, and hundreds of others. The key is to look for a kiosk. If you find the kiosk–you have options!
  • As gift card kiosks increasingly show up (and stores realize they can make money and drive customers to their store by offering this convenience), it should also be increasingly easy to pull off the Gift Card Switcheroo!!! Works for me!

Buy, Sell, and Trade Gift Cards

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Cash Vs. Gift Card?

Even a cash gift could be made personal

I’m often asked the question–why not just give cash?

Simple Answer

If you give me cash, I’ll spend it on gas and groceries before the week is out. I’m a mom on a budget. I don’t often indulge in pretties for myself because the kids need new shoes, braces, cleats, field-trip money, and so forth. I’m not complaining because we have it good compared to so many others. I’m just saying that cash will get mindlessly absorbed into the family finances but a gift card will be mine to mindfully spend on myself–without feeling guilty. And that is a gift.

If You Do Give Cash…

Many of my gift card suggestions can dress up a monetary gift as well. Several of the All Occassion ideas translate nicely. For example, put a roll of cash around a pizza cutter and deliver ”Pizza Dough” that will surely get eaten.

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A Treasure Among the Chaos

summer chaosWith the kids home for summer, my once quiet work-from-home mornings have turned into a swirl of Legos, Wii games, flying Nerf balls, flying Legos, and a constant barrage of tattle-taling (You don’t want to know about my new threat, ominously called, “The Tattle-Tale Treatment.”). I can barely remember what day of the week it is, much less get anything done. And just when I feel guilty about that, I remember that it’s summer–my kids are old enough to remember the days we share, and young enough to still want to share them with me. What a treasure.

Another Treasure

So today, I shook my head in shame and then threw my arms into a double fist pump when I found an unused movie theater gift card tacked to the bulletin board in my office. ME, the one who spends her days obsessing about gift cards, forgot I had one. Unacceptable!

Then the self-loathing mixed with euphoria turned to anxiety as I wondered if the unused gift card would still be usable. On the back of the gift card, I found a web address on which to check the balance. Thankfully, I still had $21 to spend at the movies. (Back to the fist pumping!)

No More Worries

The good news – as of August 22, 2010, gift card laws are changing in a way that you’re less likely to feel anxious about unused gift cards. The new law says that gift cards can’t expire in less than five years and you can’t be dinged a non-use fee for at least a year. Most importantly, in my opinion, terms such as these must be clearly specified on the card before purchase. No more wondering.

So if I ever find another unused gift card in my possession, I won’t have to worry or wonder about whether or not I can still use it.

Now, my friends…Shrek 3, Toy Story 3, or Karate Kid? Any help here?

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Dear Visa Gift Card, we need to talk…

Ally getting ipod touch

Sorry happy girl, Visa gift card not accepted.

One of the reasons I love gift cards is because they’re convenient. But twice this week, a Visa gift card experience was anything but convenient. And that’s not okay. We need to talk.

First, my girlfriend went to Lucky Supermarket to do her regular shopping and to buy a $100 Visa gift card. But when she got to the register, the cashier told her she had to pay for the Visa gift card with cash. Drats! Though the policy is designed to prevent fraud, it turned my friend’s convenient errand into a big hassle. She had to get back in the car and drag her kids to the bank. When she stopped at Walgreen’s on the way back to Lucky, however, she discovered that she could buy a Visa gift card there without cash. So she did. That’s lost business for Lucky and lost time for Suzanne.

Second, my daughter tried to use a Visa gift card yesterday at Costco. She’d been saving and saving for an iPod Touch and finally hit her mark when we saw the coveted item on sale. But her “money” included a Visa gift card. When we got to the register, however, the Costco cashier told us that only AMEX gift cards are good at Costco. Drats! I’d been the tough guy for months making her earn this extravagance. I didn’t have the heart to pull the ripcord on her big moment. So I bought the Visa gift card from her so she could complete the purchase using my debit card.

So Visa, I get that it’s not really you. Store policies made life for two busy moms a little difficult. But the situation involves you. I’ll be hesitant to give or use a Visa gift card if the experience can’t be made more predictable. So help me help you. Where and how can Visa gift cards be purchased? And where can they be redeemed predictably?

Let’s talk…

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Gift Card Rule #5: Now and Later

Give the recipient something to open now. The gift card will be enjoyed later.

gift card vignetteOne of the reasons gift cards can feel emotionless is because there’s nothing to open–no wrapping paper to rip, no ribbon to wrestle. You simply hand over a piece of plastic tucked inside a greeting card. And though the recipient will certainly have a good time later, the basic card presentation is lackluster.

That’s why I like to give a little something extra. I’m not talking about a random trinket or a cute gift card holder. I’m suggesting pairing the gift card with something (inexpensive, free, or homemade) that creates a thoughtful vignette around the gift card itself. For example, rather than just give mom a gift card to the salon for Mother’s Day, get her a gift card for a pedicure and take the time to photograph or make footprints of her children’s feet. Add a note that reads, ”From our feet to yours.” This simple act turns a typical gift card presentation into a sentimental surprise–something for mom to cherish now and a moment to savor later.

A movie gift card is easily paired with popcorn and typical theater candy. A music gift card can be paired with a playlist or burned CD of “our songs.” A gift card to the cooking store can be tucked in a stack of new recipes to try.

Don’t worry, I’m here to help. On my site are hundreds of ideas to jump start your creativity. Though it may take a little extra effort to deliver a gift card in this way, doing so is the final rule to follow if you want to turn a gift card into a thoughtful gift.

Read all of my gift card rules:

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Gift Card Rule #4: Avoid the Gotchas

Read the back of the gift card to learn about possible fees and expiration.

Expiration datesIn 2009, laws went into effect that prohibit gift cards from expiring before five years from the date of purchase. Some states enacted stronger laws and those take precedence over federal. (You can check your state laws here.)

In my opinion, the most important change is that terms of expiration must now be clearly and conspicuously stated on each gift card. So I always flip over gift cards to check for gotchas before purchase. As companies come into compliance, finding this information has gotten easier. For example, at Target, gift cards clearly state, “No fees. No expiration. No kidding.” That makes it easy.

Be aware, however, that rebate gift cards are different. For example, if a store offers you a free $10 gift card with the purchase of a $25 gift card, the $10 bonus card (or rebate) may only be valid during a specified time period. Certainly, this information should also be marked. Though you can keep the rebate gift card for yourself, it’s also fine to give it to the recipient along with the other card–making sure to point out the difference.

Admittedly, I’ve tripped over this one myself. My husband and I received a gift card plus rebate card to Benihana. But we didn’t notice the rebate gift card could only be used during a certain time frame until after we’d polished off our Splash ‘n Meadow combos. Oops.

Though fewer gotchas exist, it’s still a good idea to look for terms on any gift card you purchase. If you can’t find that information clearly marked, pick another card. Doing so will be just another way to ensure the recipient gets the most out of your gift card gift.

Read all of my gift card rules:

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Gift Card Rule #3: Buying Power

Be sure the recipient can buy something without spending her own money.

Right amount on a gift cardMy sister-in-law recently gave each of my children a $10 gift card to Target. Though ten dollars isn’t extravagant, it can be used to buy a variety of things at that particular store. Matthew bought a book. Ally bought a shirt. Michael is saving up for a new Wii game so he put the card away in his wallet. (Good boy!)

The dollar amount you put on a gift card should give the recipient enough buying power to make a purchase without spending additional cash. Otherwise, your well intentions could turn into more of a burden than a gift–requiring the recipient contribute towards his own present or possibly not use the gift card at all.

That doesn’t mean you need to spend more than you can afford on a gift card. Stay within your budget, but choose a gift card accordingly. If your limit is $20, for example, then a gift card to Kohl’s or Jamba Juice, where low-price items are available, would be more fitting than a gift card to Anthropologie or Outback Steakhouse, both of which are more expensive.

Picking the right dollar amount is another way to show you put some thought into selecting a gift card.

Read all of my gift card rules:

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