Selling vs Using a Store Gift Card

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Shell Gift CardLately, I seem to be acquiring store gift cards more often, thanks to Amex Offers. This can be bittersweet, depending on which store gift cards I buy and how much they can be liquidated for. I don’t necessarily mean how much I can sell them for, but what the opportunity cost of using them vs selling them is. Using them negates any new credit card rewards, while selling them costs 7.5% – 25% of the gift card.

Home Depot Offer

Recently, there was an Amex Offer for Home Depot that I will use as an example for this post. The offer was, “Spend $75 get $15 back as a statement credit.” Home Depot, surprisingly, didn’t sell Amazon gift cards. I’m not sure if this is chain wide or just my local store, so I bought Shell gift cards instead.

Let’s see the opportunity costs associated with those Shell gift cards.

Shell Gift Cards

$75 worth of gift cards

Selling Cost$6.75
Using Cost (1X)75 Points
Using Cost (2X)150 Points
Using Cost (3X)225 Points
Using Cost (5X)375 Points

Breakdown
The selling cost is based on a 91% selling price at giftcards.com. There is a higher selling price (95.03%) if you choose Amazon gift cards, but we’ll get to that.

Using the cards is a better option than selling them when you can buy exactly $75 worth of gift cards and you value the points at 1.8 cents or less each (and you have a 5X card). If you value them at more than that, selling them would be the way to go (1.8 * 375 = 675).

Home Depot only sold Shell gift cards in $50 intervals, so I had to buy $100 worth to get this deal. Let’s look at that opportunity cost.

$100 worth of gift cards

Selling Cost$9.00
Using Cost (1X)100 Points
Using Cost (2X)200 Points
Using Cost (3X)300 Points
Using Cost (5X)500 Points

Breakdown
It’s exactly the same. That’s because we’re not looking at the profit of the offer, only the opportunity cost. Now, let’s look at the same $100 worth of gift cards, but instead of selling them for cash at 91% we’ll sell them for Amazon gift cards at 95.03%.

$100 worth of gift cards

Selling Cost$4.97
Using Cost (1X)100 Points
Using Cost (2X)200 Points
Using Cost (3X)300 Points
Using Cost (5X)500 Points

Breakdown
In this situation, selling them is the way to go if you have a 5X card that you value the points at 1 cent or higher. If you have a 3X card that you value the points at 1.66 cents or higher, that would be a good deal also. If you could’ve bought an Amazon gift card at Home Depot, that would have trumped this whole scenario.

Notes
If you are looking for gift cards specifically to sell, gas gift cards have the highest percentages. Exxon and Mobil gift cards sell for 92.5%, which is the highest percentage you can currently get for any gift card. That is the cash price. The Amazon price is just over 96%.

Make sure you weigh your opportunity costs when buying, selling, and using gift cards. You don’t want to leave money or points on the table.

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