Anyone who's spent time on DealNews has probably noticed stores offering gift cards as an added bonus with a purchase. Often, the total price equals what other stores charge for the same item without a gift card. But perhaps you've wondered, "What's the catch?"
We go over the common caveats of these "freebie" gift cards, including how they differ from the gift cards you already know and love.
When Is a Gift Card Not a Gift Card?
Like the gift cards that restaurants offer as bonuses during the holiday season, these "free" gift cards frequently come with stipulations that a regular gift card doesn't have. Many such cards have a small time window during which they can be used. As a result, they're not really the type of card you'd want to give someone as a gift, even if such a thing is possible.
Watch Out for Time Restrictions
If your decision to buy an item is being spurred by the gift card that comes with it, be sure to read the fine print. Like we mentioned, time is a common restriction. For example, we frequently see deals from Dell for large items like TVs that come with gift cards. When you factor in the amount of the gift card, these are great deals — especially if you have another item that Dell sells on your want list. However, keep in mind that your gift card won't arrive by email until 10 to 20 days from the ship date, and then you have 90 days to use it.
Other stores may not call their bonuses "gift cards," but the concept may be the same. Kohl's, for instance, offers Kohl's Cash as an incentive; you can get $10 in Kohl's Cash for every $50 you spend. And around the holidays, the store frequently throws in bonus Cash. The catch is that there are specific windows during which you can spend your Cash — usually a one- to two-week period.
All of these bonuses and free gift cards offer the potential for great value, so long as you can make use of the credit in the allotted time.
Some Freebies Are More Flexible
Not all stores have such stipulations, though. Walmart has recently been throwing in gift cards with large purchases, and these cards are essentially the same as a regular gift card, with no expiration dates. Rakuten, meanwhile, gives Super Points equal to 1% of your purchase, which in turn can be redeemed as a discount starting one day after your order ships.
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Sears and Kmart's Shop Your Way rewards are similarly flexible, as are the reward points at The Children's Place. Like the time-restricted cards, these bonuses frequently make for great deals, so don't overlook them.
The bottom line is that it pays to know if you're really getting a reward you'll be able to use. Always check when you can use your bonus and if there any restrictions on what you can buy with it. (And if you ever end up with a card you aren't able to use, know that you can sell gift cards for cash or other gift cards.)
What do you think of free gift card offers, readers? Let us know in the comments.