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How To Profit From Gift Cards, Pay It Forward With Frequent Flier Miles

Jan 6 2014, 2:56pm CST | by

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How To Profit From Gift Cards, Pay It Forward With Frequent Flier Miles
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How To Profit From Gift Cards, Pay It Forward With Frequent Flier Miles

While December is about accumulation, January is the month of fresh starts. By now the holiday gifts have been unwrapped, the bathing suits returned to post-vacation hibernation and the uneaten ham or latkes thrown away (hopefully). But leftovers remain. Unsure what to do with that thoughtful but useless gift card Santa left in your stocking? Have more frequent flier miles than your vacation days will accommodate?

With a few clicks you may be able to cash in on your presents or jet some belated holiday joy to others.

Gift Cards: Last year I received a $100 Apple gift card intended to offset the cost of an iPad. A full holiday season later, the silver plastic sliver was sitting at the bottom of my junk drawer. It turned out the tablet still felt pricey with $100 off. Enter Gift Card Granny . Founded in 2009, the site aggregates offers from other sites that buy and sell gift cards at a discount.

A simple search revealed that all seven of the resellers Gift Card Granny works with were willing to buy Apple gift cards for about 90% of face value. At the time the best offer was from Cardpool which was willing to pay me 91%. A few key strokes and snail mail days later an $86 check arrived in my mailbox. (I opted to enter the code online rather than mail in my card, which docked my pay a bit. Not all resale sites accept codes. ABC Gift Cards does and similarly takes 5% for the convenience to you and risk to them. But both Cardpool and ABC offer extra dough if you accept payment in Amazon.com gift cards.) Today you can by a $100 Apple gift card from Cardpool for $98.50.

Bonus tip: To make the most of your windfall put your earnings toward another gift card from a store you know you will shop at. Put aside 10% as fun money , but use the bulk for budget sucking items like groceries and other household basics. Discounts vary greatly from retailer to retailer, but cards for some national chains such as Trader Joe’s and  CVS Pharmacy, can be snagged at double digit savings.

Frequent Flier Miles: Last month Brian Kelly logged onto American Airlines’ online shopping portal and found that luggage retailer eBags was offering 35 American Airlines miles for every dollar spent (typical airline portal deals are for two to eight miles). So Kelly, aka The Points Guy , purchased $29,000 worth of goods and donated them to Housing Works, a New York based anti-homelessness charity. He then donated the 1 million miles he earned from the transaction to American Airlines Kids in Need .

While Kelly admits his circumstance was “a unique opportunity” the experience converted him to an airline miles giving advocate. Millions of miles expire every year (not all airline’s miles go bad but some run out in as little as 18 moths of account inactivity). If you have a surplus of miles after holiday travels you can use them to give to a cause you care about with out draining your bank account.

In addition to programs run by various airlines, many large charities accept miles. Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes for children diagnosed with life-threatening diseases, the organization uses miles toward wishes that involve travel (74% do). The American Cancer Society uses miles to help cancer patients and their families travel to and from treatment. And the American Red Cros s uses them transport volunteers and staff to critical areas.  It’s worth noting however that since you don’t technically own your frequent flier miles you don’t get a tax write off for donating them.

How are you profiting from your holiday leftovers? Tell us in the comment section below.

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