Photo: Will Waldron
Gift cards. They don’t gush with sentiment, but once again they are the most-coveted of all Christmas gifts.
For the 12th year in a row, these prized bits of plastic remain the most popular items on wish lists, requested by 60 percent of those surveyed in this year’s National Retail Federation 2018 Holiday Spending Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.
No longer regarded as the lazy person’s go-to gift, these bits of buying power are practical and easy to purchase. You can find the gift cards just about everywhere, including gas stations and grocery stores.
But, as I’ve said in the past, don’t blindly pluck plastic currency from stores shelves. Seek out promotions because you can save on these ubiquitous gems by purchasing at a discount, earning cash back or taking advantage of abundant bonus offers and your recipient will be none the wiser.
A number of stores and restaurants — locally-owned and national chains — offer bonus cards with a minimum purchase. Dunkin’ is bestowing a $10 bonus gift card when another valued at $25 or more is purchased online. Buy a $50 gift certificate to Yang’s Asian Bistro in Latham and you’ll receive a $10 bonus. Know that in most cases, the rewards can only be redeemed during a limited window and can’t be used until the new year, so be sure to check the fine print.
There are also a countless number of online gift card clearinghouses, like Raise.com and CardCash.com, that purchase and resell unwanted, credible gift cards at reduced rates. Retailers like Sam’s Club, Staples, CVS, eBay and routinely offer discounts on tangible gift cards.
SixthContinent, said to be the fastest growing social e-commerce platform in the world, is another cash-saving option. Earn credits and points every time you log in, purchase a card, invite friends or write a review. In turn, use those perks to pay for digital gift cards you can put toward an online or in-store purchase.
“Gift cards are a great way to increase your purchasing power,” says Francesca Roveda, CEO of SixthContinent, who adds that getting your loved ones a gift card from a site like SixthContinent means you know they’ll actually enjoy what they’re getting and you’re saving money. “It’s win-win for holiday shopping.”
Here’s my annual rundown of some of the best bonus gift card offers:
99 Restaurant: For every $25 you spend on gift cards, receive two $5 bonus cards in return.
Applebee’s: Spend $50 on gift cards and get a $10 bonus gift card.
Bellini’s Italian Eatery: Receive a $5 bonus card when you spend $25; $10 when you spend $50; $20 on $100.
Carraba’s Italian Grill: Spend $50 on gift cards and get a $10 bonus card.
Cheesecake Factory: Receive a complimentary slice of cheesecake when you purchase a $25 gift card.
The Children’s Place: Get a $10 coupon when you purchase a $40 gift card.
Chili’s: Receive a $10 Holiday Buck Bonus Card when you spend $50 in gift cards.
Dave & Busters: Purchase a $50 gift card, get $10 free game play coupon to use in early 2019.
Delmonicos: Receive $5 bonus gift card when you buy a $20 gift card.
Denny’s: Buy a $25 gift card, get $50 in coupons.
Dunkin’: Purchase a $25 Dunkin eGift Card and get a a $10 Bonus eGift Card.
DSW: Receive a $30 bonus card when you purchase $150 in DSW gift cards, $20 on $100 and a $5 bonus card when you spend $50.
DZ Restaurants (Forno Bistro, Boca Bistro and Chianti Ristorante): For every $50 in DZ gift cards purchased until Christmas you’ll receive a $25 Holiday Bonus Card to use in January.
Innovo Kitchen: Receive a $20 bonus gift card with every $100 purchased online or in the restaurant; get a $250 bonus when you purchase $1,000.
Jacob & Anthony’s: Receive a $5 bonus card when you spend $25; $10 when you spend $50; $20 on $100
Morton’s The Steakhouse: For every $250 worth of Morton’s gift cards you purchase, you’ll receive a $50 Holiday eReward Card valid Jan. 1-May 31.
Olive Garden: For every $50 in gift cards you purchase, you’ll receive a $10 bonus card to be used in early 2019.
Outback Steakhouse: Spend $50 on gift cards and get a $10 bonus card in return.
P.F. Chang’s: Buy $100 in gift cards and get a $20 bonus card.
Red Robin: Get a $5 or Bonus Buck Reward for every $25 gift card.
Red Lobster: Spend $50, get a bonus $10 coupon to use in January.
Regal Cinemas: For every $50 in gift cards, receive a $10 concession promotional e-gift card valid in early 2018.
Ruby Tuesday: Receive a $15 bonus coupon with the purchase of a $50 gift card.
Spa Mirbeau: For every $300 purchased in gift cards (on property only) you will receive a complimentary $50 gift card voucher.
Texas Roadhouse: Get a $5 gift card for every $30 in gift card purchases.
T.G.I. Fridays: For every $25 you spend on Gift Cards, receive $5 in Fridays Bonus Bites.
Wasabi Saratoga: Buy a $50 gift card, get a $10 card for free; spend $100 and you’ll get a $20 bonus card.
Yang’s Asian Bistro, Latham: Buy a $50 gift certificate to and you’ll receive a $10 bonus.
Savings aside, there are clever ways to step up your gift card-giving game, especially if you’re concerned they are impersonal and just, meh.
Transforming generic gift cards into appreciated presents doesn’t require Joanna Gaines-like skills. Just stick with the gist and bundle the favored gift card with something palpable for a truly heartfelt and sensible offering. Here are a few ideas:
Movie theater gift card: This really is an easy one. Pop the movie gift certificate and a few boxes of theater candy into an inexpensive popcorn tub (you can usually find them at a dollar store). Voila, you’re done.
Spa gift card: Always a popular Christmas gift, go beyond a solitary spa gift card and package it with slippers, lotion or candles so the receiver can continue to indulge at home.
Beauty store gift card: If a gift card to Sephora or Ulta Beauty are on a loved one’s wish list, wrap it with nail polish and files or a beauty brush kit for a little something extra.
Home improvement store gift card: If you’re gifting a certificate to Home Depot, Lowe’s or a similar store, punch a hole in the corner of the gift card envelope and string it around the neck of a hammer or the handle of a small tool kit. For an extra-personal touch, choose a family heirloom tool or trinket if you have one on hand you’re willing to part with.
Restaurant gift card: This one may take a tad more finesse. Just go with the restaurant theme. If it’s an Italian restaurant, pick up a set of oven mitts with an Italian chef. French restaurant? Pair the card with a bottle of champagne. Brewhouse? Go with a pair of personalized beer mugs.
Travel gift card: If a family member or friend likes to travel, contribute to their next trip by purchasing a gift card for an airline or hotel chain. Combine the card with inexpensive neck pillows, personalized luggage tags or a travel bag.
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