How To Hack Gift Cards For Big Discounts

Gift cards are big business! Gift card sales were $110 Billion in the USA for 2012 and that figure is expected to rise to $150 Billion by 2015. In Canada, 1.5% of the value all retail sales are paid for using gift cards, which is crazy when you think about the convenience of paying with debit and the rewards that accompany paying with credit.

Retailers love gift cards for many reasons:

  • They are the perfect easy gift for any occasion.
  • It increases their brand exposure whenever one is purchased for someone else.
  • Quite a few of them get lost or go unredeemed, which is pure profit for the retailer.
  • It’s a perfect add-on sale to any transaction because it ensures a repeat visit to your store in the near future.
  • They can easily be used for contests, giveaways, and as a gift with purchase.
  • Every gift card sold is like a free no interest loan for the retailer. They get to use the consumers money for an indefinite amount of time for whatever purpose they want until the gift card is redeemed later.

However, there’s a big reason for consumers to love gift cards as well and it isn’t because they are an easy gift giving idea – it’s because they can often be purchased at a discount! If you know what you are doing, you can use gift cards to save a lot of money on your everyday purchases.

I recently wrote an article about ways to save on gas, and using discounted gift cards is one of the ways I recommend to do that. However, using cheap gift cards applies to way more than just gasoline purchases because pretty much every big name retailer offers them now.

How To Find Discounted Gift Cards To Save Big Money

Finding discounted gift cards can take some work, especially for stores that sell necessities like groceries, but fortunately there are many ways to do it. Here are your options:

Cash back using gift card malls

The easiest way to get discounted gift cards is by using your cash back credit card to purchase gift cards at a store with a gift card mall that also gives you bonus cash back on your credit card.

For example, the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite gives you 4% cash back on gas and groceries. Therefore, you can walk into your nearest grocery store or gas bar, buy a gift card to store XYZ, and presto! You’ve now taken your 4% bonus that is supposed to only be useable at gas and grocery stores and opened it up to any store available at the gift card mall.

Doing a home reno? No problem, get 4% off through buying Home Depot gift cards first.

Going for a nice anniversary dinner? Excellent! Just pick up a Keg gift card at the gas station on the way and your dinner becomes that much cheaper.

RedFlagDeals gift card forum

It’s pretty common for people to receive a gift card they have absolutely no use for. I’m sure you’ve been there: you’re a single guy and somehow you’ve wound up with a $50 gift card for La Senza and you’re just not that into cross dressing. What’s a guy to do?

Thankfully, RedFlagDeals has a forum dedicated to buying and selling gift cards. If you live in an urban centre, this is probably the best place to get gift cards at a good discount in Canada. I saw Canadian Tire cards being sold at a 12% discount today when I checked (hello, 12% off gas!).

You do have to be careful not to get scammed when buying used gift cards, but they do have what is known as Buy Sell Trade Feedback (or BST for short) that gives you a good idea if the person you are buying from can be trusted.

Warning: Make sure you verify the balance on any used gift card you buy to make sure you aren’t getting scammed!


Costco is a great place to look for discounted gift cards. They are able to offer such a large volume of sales to restaurants and local retailers that they are able to sell them much cheaper, typically 20% cheaper actually.

You can buy their discounted cards both online and at your local warehouse. Here is a list of all the discounted cards available online.

Locally, the types of cards available varies by city and is often customized to your region. For instance, my local warehouse sells gift cards for several popular restaurants in the area along with the standard discounted Cineplex movie tickets that are available pretty much nationwide.

Promotional discounts

Some brands regularly run discounts through their retail partners on their gift cards ranging from 10 to 20% off.

iTunes is one of the biggest to do this, which is great if you’re already an Apple ecosystem user because you can save up to 20% on your music, movies, apps, and tv series. There is a long thread over at RedFlagDeals that is always up to date with the latest deals.

I’ve also seen Google Play run similar discounts and Rexall recently ran a promotion giving 20% off gift cards to Marks Work Wearhouse, American Eagle, Roots, and La Vie en Rose.

Gift card swapping sites

Cardswap is a Canadian site specifically dedicated to letting people sell their old gift cards. They do all the work of verifying the balance and then you get paid a percentage of the gift card purchase price in swap rewards which you can use to buy more gift cards.

You won’t see a very large discount on popular gift cards because they are in such high demand, but for less popular places discounts can be as high as 20%.  For example, gas stations like Petro Canada and Esso are typically about 2% off while unknown stores like Swimco are 16.5% off.

Another similar site is Gift Card Granny. They aren’t as well known so their gift card inventory is smaller, but the discounts seem to be higher. I think this site started out in the USA and expanded into Canada.

There are other Canadian sites out there too, like Gift Cards Wild, but they are lesser known so you might want to start with a small purchase first to make sure your gift card comes through problem free.


eBay is another great place to find people looking to sell unwanted gift cards and coupons. In fact, I just bought a gift card for a 37.5% discount at Starbucks off eBay while writing this. It’s actually my first time buying one from eBay, so I’ll report back in the comments how the transaction went once I receive the gift card.

Buying on eBay can seem risky, but if you pay by PayPal then you are covered through their buyer protection program. I’ve purchased hundreds of items on eBay, always ensuring I purchase from sellers with good feedback, and I’ve yet to have a problem that wasn’t easily fixed.

Just type in “gift card” or “(store name) gift card” in the eBay search box to see what’s available.

Group buy websites

It’s rare, but when a group buy website like Groupon or nCrowd (formerly Teambuy and DealFind) wants to promote themselves and get noticed by a lot of people, they will sometimes offer a really good deal on gift cards. One time Teambuy sold $25 Shell gift cards for 50% off. My family and I were able to buy 6 of them for a total of $75 in gas savings.

If you do buy a voucher form one of these sites, I suggest you don’t hold on to it but use it right away to protect yourself against them going out of business. It doesn’t happen very often, but it does still happen. If they go into bankruptcy, they will not honour their outstanding coupons.

Shoppers Drug Mart bonus points

Shoppers Drug Mart routinely runs gift card promotions, especially around Christmas time, where if you buy $X in gift cards to one of a whole array of stores from their gift card mall, they will give you Y points for free.

For instance, this year from Nov. 8 to Nov. 14, they offered 8,000 Optimum points for a purchase of 2 or more gift cards totalling $200.

8,000 points is worth $14 when redeemed at the highest redemption level (95,000 points = $170 in free stuff). If you wait for a super bonus redemption day to spend your points, then those same 8,000 points become worth $18.50. That’s a 9.26% discount.

While this discount might not seem huge, it’s great for purchases you have to make regardless like gas (they sell both Esso, Petro Canada, and Canadian Tire gift cards).

To see a list of all gift cards they sell click here and if you want to learn how to maximize the Shoppers Optimum program, one of the best rewards programs in Canada, click here.

Buy a card, get a bonus

Many stores offer a special bonus when you buy a gift card, particularly during the holiday season. They want to reward you for buying your gift for another person at their store. Here are a few examples I’ve seen:

This is great when you’re buying a gift for another person, but if it’s a store you regularly shop at you might as well just buy it for yourself!

Last year I bought a Cineplex gift card to get the coupons, then I used the gift card to take advantage of their crazy Black Friday sale where all digital download movies were buy 1 get 1 free in addition to 2,250 bonus scene points. 1,000 scene points is worth a free movie ticket at the cinema (including 3D and IMAX). I still have 6,000 scene points left over from that deal 1 year later and have been watching free movies all year!

Gift card with purchase

Retailers don’t want you to visit their store once, they want you to shop there again and again. An easy way to ensure that happens is to offer you a valuable gift with your purchase that is only redeemable in the future.

At first, many places would offer actual gift cards when you made a minimum purchase that day, but eventually most have transitioned to discount coupons or faux gift cards that have a short expiry date or small purchase window.

  • Carters & OshKosh regularly gift a bonus gift card or certificate with a minimum purchase. I’ve also seen similar deals at many other clothes retailers.
  • Canadian Tire often has scratch cards or special offers in their flyer that give you a discount off your next purchase.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart regularly offers gift cards to their own stores, Tim Hortons, Petro Canada, and more for making a $50 or $75 purchase on a special day.
  • The possibilities with this are endless, you just have to keep your eyes and ears open.

Buy another gift card with your gift card

We all have an unwanted gift card lying around the house sometimes that we just aren’t sure what to do with. Other times you might spot an opportunity to score a gift card for a store you don’t really like at a big discount.

Here’s what you do: check if that store sells gift cards for other stores. If they do, you’re in luck, then you can try using the first card to buy another one for a store you really like.

A word of caution though – not all stores will allow you to use one gift card to buy another gift card – so make sure you ask your local store before you attempt doing this.

Buy gift cards with Canadian Tire Money

Many rewards program won’t let you buy gift cards with your points unless they offer gift cards as part of their rewards program, like Air Miles. However, Canadian Tire is an exception in that they will let you buy a Canadian Tire gift card with Canadian Tire Money.

Why would you want to do this? Primarily because gift cards are more flexible and easy to carry around than Canadian Tire money, although they are taking steps to improve the program.

The main benefit though is you can purchase gas with gift cards, but not Canadian Tire money. In addition they treat gift cards as cash, so you can earn more Canadian Tire money on the gas you buy with it.

Love ’em or hate ’em?

What’s your take on gift cards – do you love them or hate them? Have you ever thought of them as a tool to save money before?

About the Author: Stephen Weyman is passionate about saving money and writes practical guides to help you save money on everything you buy and do over at

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  1. Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet on November 16, 2014 at 11:14 am

    I’ve been buying discounted gift cards onlin for years and have saved thousands. I usually have about 10-15 gift cards on hand at any point. I’ve found the best savings are through online classifieds like kijiji and eBay. Discounted gift cards for stores that don’t give refunds like Home Depot (they give gift cards instead) are easy to find. I regularly save anywhere from 10-30% on tons of purchases and discounted gift cards are the main reason I rarely pay full price for anything

  2. Nelson on November 16, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    Wow Stephen, that was a lot of words. You really know this stuff well.

    If I stumble upon a way to make money on gift cards I’ll do it. Every year I’ll buy a few of the $25 Subway cards and get a few lunches for practically nothing. I go to Subway enough that I know they’ll get spent.

    I just opened a new tab and went onto Ebay and did a search for Walmart cards. The first result was for 5 $100 gift cards. The current bid was $501. I found a similar listing for $496. At least shipping is free. And people say markets are efficient.

    It seems interesting, but I just can’t be bothered. Maybe it’s because I don’t buy much stuff? I dunno.

    • David on November 21, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      Watch out for halal food. Don’t know what this is? Google it and puke.

  3. Echo on November 17, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Thanks for a great post, Stephen! I mostly find that retailers offer gift cards with purchase – Old Navy, for example, is famous for giving $20 off your next purchase of $75 or more (something to that effect), but the gift card is only valid for a week. Well, I just shopped there, so it’s unlikely that I’ll return so soon. At least, I shouldn’t for the sake of my monthly budget. Shoppers Drug Mart is famous for this as well – it seems every few days is a bonus points event, which makes me think they’re just promoting an excuse to buy more stuff (the old saying, if you bought an item for $100 that regularly sells for $125, you didn’t save $25, you spent $100).

    Similar to Air Miles coupon offers – if I’m already planning on buying that item, I’ll absolutely use a coupon for bonus miles. But, for example, Air Miles recently sent me a 40 bonus Air Miles offer to buy two cans of Edwards coffee. But the coffee was on for $14 (regular price) and I know it goes on sale for half price at least once per month. Not worth it to use the coupon in this case.

    I do like the credit card rewards hack, where you buy gift cards at a grocery store or gas station with your rewards card that pays 4% instead of getting 1% at the retailer directly. I’m going to try that over the holidays.

  4. Stephen @ on November 17, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Sounds like you’re even more experienced at this game than I am. Glad to hear of your success story of using gift cards to save money. It can be really lucrative sometimes especially when stacked with other sales, discounts, coupons, and rebates.

    I can’t imagine Walmart gift cards would be of that much use to you in Korea – or are you back in Canada now? It’s like anything, it takes a little discipline to get good at saving money in this way but once you do it can really start paying dividends. We each have our own ways where we try to wind up with an extra buck in our bank accounts. You’ll have to wade few some terrible deals like the ones you described to find the gems, but the gems are out there!

    All of this stuff exists for marketing reasons and to increase consumer spending – no doubt! That’s why you beat them at their own game and contrive your purchases so that you aren’t spending any more money then you already would be but are reaping hundreds of dollars in rewards. I’ll rarely buy something just because there is a promotion attached to it, unless I was already looking for that item to begin with (I’ll know the regular and sale prices first).

    Occasionally a deal will come along so good that I can’t pass it up. The Cineplex deal was an example of that. I was thinking of starting a Disney movie collection for my daughter for years but never was willing to spend the money and commit to it. The buy one get one free on digital movies plus multiple free movies at the cinema pushed me over. I was getting $80+ in value for a $20 purchase. Going to the cinema is incredibly expensive, and I know it, but I also really enjoy it so I continue to go. Most of the time I go for “free” or at a heavily discounted rate, but it still isn’t a very frugal thing to do. Honestly, I just don’t care. You have to live a little!

  5. My Own Advisor on November 17, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Big fan of Costco gift cards, or buying them there. Our second favourite is the Shoppers gift card when you buy $X amount AND get the bonus points as well.

    I have yet to do the gift card for another gift card.

    Great post and details Stephen!

  6. Stephen @ on November 18, 2014 at 12:13 am

    @My Own Advisor
    What are your favourite gift cards to buy at Costco? I’ve purchased both Cineplex gift cards and the odd restaurant gift card for my own personal use and as gifts for family. I also bought some attraction tickets when on vacation to Niagara Falls.

  7. David on November 21, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Shopper’s Drug Mart also sends periodic packages of coupons to Optimum Card holders tailored to their buying habits. You get money discounts or extra points. Once I received a coupon for $2.00 off of Kraft Peanut Butter, which was on sale for $2.50 anyway, so I ended up paying $0.50 for a jar.

  8. Gary on November 21, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    great post stephen. i am now a fan. keep up the great work!

    • Stephen @ on November 21, 2014 at 7:44 pm

      Thanks for the vote of confidence Gary. Hope to see you commenting on my site from time to time.

  9. Tammy on January 4, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Thanks for the great post Stephen. You mentioned that you find great GC deals on Kijiji however, I’m rather skeptical when purchasing GC from Kijiji. Because Kijiji does not have a rating system like Ebay so I’m not 100% confidence that the seller is totally honest. What if I buy a GC say with $50+ partial value from on-the-spot verification when I PU card from seller. Because the seller has the number of this GC/has used it in the past, he/she can go online and make purchase immediately after I paid for it so I run a chance of it being emptied or partially empty by the time I’m ready to use it when I get home. Is my concern justified? Thank you in advance for your reply.

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