April 11, 2008

Saving at restaurants #3 - using gift cards

In the previous posts I talked about saving money at restaurants by taking advantage of discount programs and email clubs. Another good way to save money at restaurants is by looking for discounts on gift cards.

Buy cards at a discount

  • Using Restaurant.com gift certificates can save you a decent amount of money. They have offers like buying a $25 gift certificate for just $10. I used this at a local steak house we enjoy and it worked fine. This is a simple and easy way to save $15 off a nice dinner out. If we go out for steak monthly and use these gift certificates then I can save myself an additional $180 a year. The site is pretty easy to use, first search for restaurants in your area. I found 27 within 10 miles of my house including 2 that we eat at normally. Then just buy a certificate online and print it out to use when you dine out.
  • Citydeals website is an online retailer that sells gift cards at a discount rate. Their cards are mostly 10% off. But they seem to sell out on cards.
  • Buy direct from the restaurant. For example it seems Red Robin has a deal every fall to get $5 extra when you buy a $25 gift card.
  • You can also sometimes find discount gift certificates for sale at stores. For example Costco has been selling two $50 gift cards for $80 like this offer for McCormick and Schmicks they have right now. That's 20% off! I've also seen them selling similar card sets usable at Stanfords and some other restaurants. If you search the Costco website for 'gift certificate' you can find a few more similar offers.

Buy cards second hand
  • The site Gift Cards Again has second hand gift cards for sale at 6-7% discount.
  • eBay has a gift certificate category where individuals will sell their unwanted gift certificates & cards. The cards vary in price of course but typically they seem to go for 5-20% below face value. But you can find some great deals if you are lucky. I bought two $20 off coupons for McCormick and Schmick's for just $6.5 saving me $33.5 over 2 meals.
  • The Plastic Jungle site sells cards too generally at a 5-10% discount.
  • Card Avenue also has cards for sale
If using gift certificates keep in mind that there can be requirements. And also make sure to be aware of any expiration date. For example using the Restaurant.com $25 certificate at my steak house requires a minimum $50 bill and they expire in a year.

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