Recently Kroger announced that, as of November 8, customers will be able to earn money back by using their 1-2-3 REWARDS MasterCard...in the form of a gift card for groceries! No weird prize list for designer toaster ovens or trips to Switzerland, just a gift card for things you need at the place you go to most often. This is awesome! But Kroger isn't the only one doing it. And you need to know some hidden gift card rebate secrets.
Target Gift Cards
Old Faithful Tar-zhay has hopped on the bandwagon in recent months with attractive gift card rebates. I recently took advantage of a $10 rebate for purchasing a box of Pampers diapers, which (with my $2 off discount) kicked the price of each diaper down to 7¢ less per diapers than any other deal in town. The deal I got required a purchase of wipes. So how would I get the best deal possible? Buy the smallest pack of wipes on the shelf...which is what I did to make the price competitive. With a "buy-several-things" gift card rebate, always maximize your savings by purchasing the lowest-priced secondary items to get the qualifying price for your big-ticket items. Enfamil formula is also usually the cheapest here, so with a gift card rebate and up to $8 off Catalina offer, Target can't be beat. Check the Weekly Ad for more details on "Gift Card Offers" (pet food is featured this week), or see our Target section.
Babies 'R Us/Toys 'R Us
This kid magnet has stellar deals on baby care with gift card rebates. Your best bet for finding out about their gift card offers is through the weekly ad or by becoming a rewards member. The last bargain I took advantage of gave me $15 back on 176 Pampers size 5 diapers (reg. $39.99) and $5 off 1 box of pampers wipes (reg. $13.99). Both prices were already in line or slightly higher than other stores for their brand and quantity. So with a $3 off Pamper's diapers voucher and $2 off any box of wipes, that put my total at $31.55 including tax--a steal for that volume. But the rest of my master plan fell through. I'd intended on purchasing a baby gift for a friend with my savings while I was already there, but the gift card rebates do not become "active" for 6 hours. And since that trip I've lost one of them.
I'm on the fence with Kroger's new 1-2-3 MasterCard Rewards program. Free groceries are great, far better than the silly American Express junior high fundraiser-esque catalogue of useless prizes. But $5 back for every 1,000 points isn't worth a financial overhaul. If you are super organized and work within a budget well, the extra you'll spend on the card in a subliminal effort to "earn points" far exceeds the benefits. Credit card users consistently spend more than cash buyers. The most redeeming factor about the Kroger grocery gift card is you know, without any doubt, that you'll be buying groceries and gas each month. Plus you earn triple points when you buy their product brands.
America's original department store has come under serious heat lately. Consumers have been duped by buy-this-refrigerator-and-get-$75-gift-card-free schemes that aren't what they seem. Often these gift cards has very special exclusions (if you purchase and make a return with the card, you aren't refunded any of it back on the Sears card) and last summer there was a huge debacle over not being able to use gift cards for a $50 men's clothing rebate. Always ask about exclusions and read the fine print!
Visa Gift Card Rebate
At first glance the debit card as rebate looks awesome. Everyone accepts Visa, so it should be as good as cash. Not exactly. Many stores like AT&T and Sears issue these Visa debit cards which are notoriously unreliable. First of all, you'll have to collect a truckload of information to send off and then you'll wait 6 weeks to get the card.
Let's say you get a card for $50 of free money. You use $20 of it for dinner at Chili's and then head off to the movies. But your card isn't accepted and the teller lets you know "these cards are notoriously unreliable". Not good. So you pay cash for your flick and then head home. Two days later you're in the grocery store checkout and ask the cashier to charge x amount (because the full total of your cart exceeds the balance). Again, not accepted. After nearly an hour on the phone with the Visa gift card people you find out that the card automatically puts a hold on funds for 10 days after every purchase to account for additional charges, like tips. So even if you don't use the card at a restaurant, you have to wait up to 10 days before using the card.
What do you think will happen to that "free money"? Banishment to the back of the junk drawer. Add non-use fees and monthly fees and your rebate is gone.
So make sure you know the answers to these questions before agreeing to the gift card rebate:
1. Is there a monthly fee for the card?
2. When does the card become active/when should I expect to receive it?
3. Can I use the card for all items in the store?
4. What other limitations are put on the card?
5. If I buy and then return an item using the rebate card, may I use the refund on other purchases?