Stroll into any chain supermarket or drugstore and you will likely find a selection of several dozen gift cards for sale. Typically, they will include popular clothing stores, major gas stations, numerous chain restaurants, big box retailers, and even iTunes. Office Depot and Staples have a similar selection but with the added bonus of Amazon gift cards, which aren’t always found elsewhere. Whatever you fancy, these cards are almost always sold at face value.
If you purchase these third-party gift cards from supermarkets, drugstores, and office supply stores, then usually the credit card company will count them as spending in those respective categories. For example, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred offers 6 percent cash back at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases. Many consumers report earning the 6 percent even when they buy gift cards at qualifying supermarkets. It also works for Chase Ink business cards, which offer 5 points for every dollar spent at office supply stores for the first $25,000 or $50,000 in annual spending, depending on the version. Cards with rotating 5 percent categories such as the Discover It will often feature drugstores for at least one quarter per year. Whether you’re using these credit cards or others, just make sure you follow the terms and conditions set forth by the issuer.
As for which gift cards you actually buy, a good strategy is to pick ones for the places you shop at regularly, such as gas stations, restaurants, and supermarkets (because most supermarket chains sell their own gift card, too). If you’re buying gift cards for more discretionary items such as electronics, jewelry, and clothing stores, make sure you know the best times to redeem them.