Save Money By Buying YOURSELF A Gift Card!!

Gift Card Pic

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I wasn’t happy as I walked into Applebees to purchase a $50 gift card. A well liked member of the staff at the elementary school where Vonnie worked was leaving and her coworkers had come up with the idea to have everyone pitch in and get a gift card as a going away present. Vonnie volunteered to get the gift card even though some people weren’t going to give her their share of the funds until the next day.

Past experience told me that we were going to get the shaft because someone wouldn’t pay up.

The bartender handed me my debit card as well as a green gift card with an apple on it. After I signed the sales slip I was surprised to have her hand me another card and said, โ€œYou get bonus $10 gift card with your purchase. Have a great day.โ€


The goal here is fairly obvious. Applebees wants me keep the $10 gift card for myself. The bonus card creates a good probability that I’m going to bring my family into the restaurant and certainly spend much more than the $10.

But then I thought to myself, if I really liked Applebees, what’s stopping me from purchasing a $50 gift card, getting the $10 bonus card, and keeping them both? I could come in at a later time and have $60 to spend, when I only paid $50.

Seems like a pretty good deal.

I wondered how many other restaurants have a similar deal I could take advantage of. My curiosity prompted me to call some popular restaurants in my area to find out if they had a similar bonus gift card deal.

  • Applebees : Buy a $50 gift card and get a $10 bonus card.
  • Outback : Buy a $50 gift card and get a $10 bonus card. (Just ended,coming again soon)
  • Red Lobster : None right now, but they do commonly have a similar deal around Christmas
  • Buffalo Wild Wings : Buy a $30 gift card and get a $5 bonus card.

None of these are earth shattering deals, but it’s easy free money that can be used towards an infrequent dinner out.

A word of caution, however, as there may be some special restrictions. For example, my Applebees bonus card explicitly says that it cannot be used on the same date it was purchased. If you do get your hands on a bonus card read the fine print carefully.

OK, EOD Nation, I have two questions for you:

  1. Do you think it’s ethical to purchase a gift card for your own use just to get a bonus card?
  2. Have you ever received a bonus gift card from a business? If so, help your fellow readers out by telling us about it!

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36 Responses to “Save Money By Buying YOURSELF A Gift Card!!”

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  1. Bryan Logan says:

    Another “fine print” thing to check is when the card can be used. We went out to Applebee’s for Mother’s Day and got a free $5 coupon, but it was only good for the next two weeks and only to be used at lunch M-F.

    It might be interesting to see if buying two $25 would qualify. I’ve found food gift cards to be a great present for new parents. No cooking, no dishes, and they can do it on their own. But giving $50 would be overkill.

    • Travis says:

      Good point, Bryan – checking that fine print is VERY important. I like your idea of buying two $25 gift cards…..especially around the holidays as you could knock off some gift ideas AND get the bonus card to keep for yourself (if it works).

      Thanks for reading – much appreciated!

      • JMK says:

        I often use gift cards as gifts to ensure that I stay on budget for Christmas shopping. I try to find a suitable gift (way ahead of Christmas) on sale for less than the amount I planned, but if that doesn’t work out by the time the holidays are approaching, then they get the gift card for the amount I intended. That way I can plan my gift budget months in advance. I also have an Air Miles card I can swipe to earn points at various gas/grocery stores. I used to be able to cash in those points for gift cards. I usually took card of a couple of gifts every year that way. They seem to be changing their model for claiming rewards and now stress getting cash off a purchase at stores which are affiliated with them. Now I just tell the cashier I want to claim X points and get $10 off my grocery order. I like the option for myself, but having a better assortment of gift cards available was more useful for gift giving.

        I’ll have to ask around about bonus gift cards being given when you buy one. I’ve never heard of that around here – it may be yet another great idea that hasn’t made it north across the border to Canada ๐Ÿ™

        • Travis says:

          Gift cards would be a great way to ensure you stay on budget for the holidays, JMK – sometimes I feel like giving gift cards is simply exchanging money with people. But there are situations where I think they apply nicely. Let us know if you find any opportunities for bonus cards in the great country to the north!

  2. I think it’s absolutely ethical!! You’re sticking to the terms of the deal, so what does it matter who the gift cards are for? And hey, every dime adds up! We love to go out to eat, so I’m all about saving money on it. Thanks for sharing, Travis!

    • Travis says:

      Every dime adds up, Laurie – I agree. I’m not the biggest fan of eating out but sometimes the convenience is worth the cost – I like to make a game out of seeing how much we can reduce the bill by. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • JMK says:

        We virtually never eat out and when we do, it’s usually because we can’t avoid it (long road trip, family event/mandatory attendance) so the price is always a shocker and the food mediocre at best, which reinforces why we never eat out. Over the years as our kids approached the age limit for kids meals and found they weren’t quite enough food, or their tastes had grown beyond chicken fingers or pizza, I had them order something I was willing to eat and I’d order something they wanted off the regular menu. After the plates were delivered we’d switch. I prefer to have smaller meals more frequently so a kids meal is just fine for me. Now that they’re both too old for kids meals, they order an adult meal and I get an appetizer for my dinner.

        • Travis says:

          We come from a similar mold, JMK. My son (14) orders off the adult menu but he never even comes close to finishing it. So I order something small (like you said, maybe an appetizer) expecting to get some of my son’s meal. Drives my wife nuts though….she never remembers what I’m doing and makes a big deal out of me not ordering enough food for myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Travis, I see no ethical issue, go for it! No doubt the marketing people have anticipated self-gifting; they wouldn’t be offering the bonus if they weren’t okay with it. As you point out, the $10 giveaway will get people back in the restaurant and likely spending a lot more.

    • Travis says:

      I bet the marketing people did indeed foresee this sort of thing happening – I’d bet money that ‘s why the “cannot be used on date of purchase” is in the fine print. Otherwise you’d have people walking up to the bar to buy the gift card (and get the bonus card), then turn around and get seated to eat. It just requires a little bit of planning ahead!

      • JMK says:

        Is there any restriction on using multiple $10 cards? Can you buy several $50 cards and put all teh $10 cards together to make sure you can completely cover another meal?

        • Travis says:

          Reading through the fine print, I don’t see any such restriction, JMK. That’s a good idea – the only drawback is the funds required to buy that much in gift cards at once.

  4. cj says:

    I do this often to get gas rewards at the grocery store. Not to mention there’s a few sites that sell peoples unwanted gift cards at discounted prices.

    Hey, you do what you have to do in order to save money. It takes a bit of planning but it also helps with budgeting, too!

  5. Jennifer says:

    Definitely ethical, but only worthwhile if you love the place. We’re waiting for the grocery store deals where you get $20 in grocery money off for buying $50-100 in gift cards. We’ll take gift cards to Home Depot or Lowe’s for our planner/budgeted home repairs, and then get cheaper groceries that month!

  6. I think it’s totally ethical and a great way to save money, as long as you plan to patronize the establishment and don’t just buy up gift cards for the purpose of getting free ones. I got a free $5 gift card from Starbucks when I purchased a certain blend of beans. You can also buy gift cards at a discount, something I’ve been doing lately to save money on gifts and personal purchases. I use because it compares prices from several retailers, making it easy to find the best deal.

    • Travis says:

      Thanks for the tip Kendal – I had no idea there were sites that sell gift cards at a discount – I’m headed over to check it out right now!

      • JMK says:

        When planning a vacation we usually research a few restaurants we want to try. Many meals will be had wherever we plan to be, but at least a few are planned in advance. For those ones, we head to and buy discounted gift cards. Just be sure to read the fine print. Some can only be used on certain days/time of day and most can only be used when you spend a minimum amount. But if you can cut the cost of a meal in half that’s still great. Or it may mean you can go somewhere fabulous for the price of ordinary.

        • Travis says:

          I tried before too…generally it seems like it’s a good deal. I got a $25 gift card for like $2 at a popular restaurant. Unfortunately there usually seems to be a lot of restrictions on those deals. Dates they can be used, can only use one at a time, must order two entrees, etc, etc. I’m definitely willing to try it again though!

  7. I don’t see a problem with it at all. I am sure they expect people to do this. In fact, I know they do because we work with clients in the retail space that know people do this. The retailer is simply hoping you’ll come back and spend more then the $60 in this case.

    • Travis says:

      I’m sure they’re also hoping that we like the business (whatever type it is….we’re talking restaurants here but it could be for any type of business really) so much that we’ll keep coming back. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, John!

  8. KB says:

    I find these promotions mainly around Christmas time. If you`re using the Applebee`s one, you could also call them and see if they have other promotionslike half price appetizers or kids eat free day to save even more money!

  9. Kathy says:

    I just got an email from Ruby Tuesday giving a $15 gift card for each purchase of a $50 gift card, so this is timely! I believe the establishments count on people purchasing the gift cards and keeping the free, smaller one for themselves. It is actually a brilliant marketing gimmick, giving that restaurant or establishment an edge over their competitors. At Christmas time, I put the free $15 ones in my and my husband’s stockings and we have a delightful post-holiday dinner without the guilt. Win-win for all!

    And, yes, Jennifer, want grocery store has those promotions? I definitely want to take advantage of them!

    • Travis says:

      I Love Ruby Tuesdays, Kathy! Unfortunately I have to drive about an hour north to find one. But $15 for every $50 gift card is one of the best deals mentioned so far. Sometimes it pays to signup for their email newsletter too, huh?

      • JMK says:

        Lots of restaurants also offer you a free meal on your birthday. The only catch is you usually have to sign up on their website to register. If you go with your other half and only pay for one meal, that’s a great discount.

        • Travis says:

          Sometimes you get a good coupon just for signing up for their newsletter online. For example, I just signed up via the Famous Dave’s BBQ website and I got a coupon for a free burger with the purchase of another burger. Not bad!

  10. I see no ethical issue here. You are committing $50 to a restaurant by buying a gift card and the extra bonus card is their thank you for your loyalty. I think this is a great idea!!

  11. I don’t see an ethical problem, but I do see a problem for people who love food as much as I do : ) I don’t even want to find out if restaurants in my area provide these additional gift cards. If they do, I’ll be all over it, and that would be counterproductive. We all have our weaknesses.

    • Travis says:

      I know all about lack of restraint, Prudence so I completely understand! Just remember, if it causes you to buy something you wouldn’t have purchased anyway – it’s NOT a good deal!

  12. True, especially if you were going to use their services anyway! Be careful not to get caught in the trap of needing to go only because you have a gift card.

    • Travis says:

      We must have been on the same wavelength Mike – I JUST typed in the above response to Prudence:

      If it causes you to buy something you wouldn’t have anyway – it’s NOT a good deal!

      The key, I think, is to plan the dinner out for a weekend and purchase the gift cards a day or two ahead of time – not to purchase a bunch of gift cards just to have them laying around.

      Thanks for the warning Mike!

  13. I have had some bad experiences at Applebees in the past and choose to never patronize their establishments every again.However, I do have to agree with you that getting a free $10 gift card for buying a $50 one is quite a good deal.

    • Travis says:

      I can respect a boycott – I’m boycotting a specific Subway myself (ooh, I should write a post about that!). I bet you could find other restaurants that you would feel comfortable frequenting that have similar deals though. You’ll have to share with me sometime your experience at Applebees, you have me curious. ๐Ÿ™‚

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