If You’re Not Buying Discount Gift Cards Online, You’re Missing Out on Tons of Free Money

There are lots of hacks out there to save money, but one of the best kept secrets in thrifty living is the goldmine of discount gift cards available on the internet. Discount gift cards are essentially just what you think, which sounds almost too good to be true: They are gift cards for which you pay less than the value of the card. So, for example, you might buy a $10 Starbucks card for $9, which is a free dollar. The system allows people with unused gift cards to unload them for cash and sell them at a discount to other shoppers who will actually use them.

The margins on discount gift cards can range from 1% to more than 35%. Here are a few important things to keep in mind as you're shopping for discount gift cards:

You'll get better discounts at niche brands.

Gift cards for popular restaurants and retailers will typically have a lower percentage of savings. Basic principles of supply and demand apply: More people are interested in purchasing these cards, even for a relatively small discount, which keeps the discounted price closer to the true price of the gift card. Case in point: At Raise.com, some Amazon gift cards go for full price:

While gift cards for a specialty store like Michael's can be discounted by almost 20%

Note: Be wary of unicorn deals — you're probably not going to come across a Starbucks giftcard discounted by 30 percent, for example.

You'll get better discounts on high value cards.

While the rule above applies to lower end gift cards (think cards in the $5-$25 range, especially), you might find better deals on even cards for popular brands if the card in question is high value — think hundreds of dollars. In these cases, the discount percentage will be more impressive, but you might need to be willing to shell out big bucks to take advantage of it. For example, these American Apparel gift cards at GiftCardGranny.com are priced at a significant discount (35.7%), but you have to spend well over $200 to get the deal.

Check the balance of any card you buy right away.

The one big downside of discount gift card shopping is that there are a few bad apples selling them. It's possible the card you purchased could show up drained of value, so always check the balance immediately and report it to the site where you bought the card right away. Most reputable sites will issue a refund if you're the victim of this kind of scam. Raise.com, CardCash.com, and CardPool.com all offer money back guarantees if you report the issue in a specified amount of time (anywhere from 45 days after purchase to 100 days, depending on the site).