Gift Certificates: An Update
Recently, I wrote an entry about how gift certificates are worth less than their face value to their recipients due to their lack of liquidity. Today, I found a website that lets people buy and sell gift certificates. At CertificateSwap.com, you can buy and sell certificates in a dedicated marketplace. The service takes a 7.5% cut of the final value of the sale when compensating the seller. The site has a user rating system like eBay, but many of the users seem to have no reputation (unlike eBay, where most users have a reputation). On the site, gift certificates all sell either at a discount or at face value. Even when a certificate sells at face value, the person who received it only will pocket 92.5% of its value.
What amuses me most about the site is its Hot Deals page, where certificates selling at less than 85% of face value are listed. Unsurprisingly, the certificates that have the least flexibility in their redemption, or those that are redeemable at the least desirable stores, tend to sell the most below face value. The most discounted certificate (which appears to be expired!) is a $194 gift certificate for a one night stay at the Adam’s Mark hotel in Dallas. It is selling for only $55, about 28% of its value. Several of the other certificates selling at the greatest discount are for a store called NIC NAC CITY. I can only guess that their recipients weren’t in need of any more nic-nacs, and would rather have received the gift of cash.
On the other side of the equation, if you are planning on shopping for a holiday gift at a specific store which does not offer many coupons at this time of year, you might consider buying a discounted gift certificate, and then using that certificate as a “coupon” to purchase your item. Furthermore, gift certificates often stack with coupons, so you could increase your savings by using a discounted gift certificate together with a coupon.
To learn more about gift certificates, and the history of “scrip” in general, check out Scrip on Wikipedia.