Manage Gift Cards with Online Services
There’s nothing I hate more than wasting money. Yet it seems as though every time I need to return something at Target or Macys they give me a gift card, and then I forget to use it at the checkout counter. Even worse – the next time I go, the gift card is buried in my wallet somewhere and I can’t track it down. This year I am vowing to use my mobile phone to keep track of all my gift cards so I can stop hoarding plastic cards. Here’s how you can too.
Before you get started, a few words of caution: some merchants aren’t yet equipped to scan a barcode off your phone’s screen. Stash the plastic cards until you’ve cleared out the balance on them just in case you encounter a merchant that needs to swipe a card. Also, all of these applications offer a password or passcode option, allowing you to restrict access to your gift cards – enable the passcode lock on the application and on your phone itself to protect your cards should your phone be lost or stolen.need help consolidating your cards? our nerds are digital money wizards!
Gyft (www.gyft.com, iOS and Android) is a free application that allows you to manage, save, redeem, and buy gift cards in one location. Simply load any existing gift cards you have lying around by choosing the retailer and then entering in the numbers off the card. When you’re at the cash register, flash your phone at the cashier instead of swiping. The application keeps track of all your cards and their balances.
Gyft also has a loyalty program to reward you for shopping within the application for gift cards. Earn one point for every dollar you spend buying cards with your credit or debit card or earn even more if you use PayPal or Bitcoin (Android only). Every 100 points earned gets you $1 off your next purchase. Have a gift card to a restaurant you don’t particularly enjoy? Re-gift it to a friend who you know likes the place right within the application.
GoWallet (www.gowallet.com, iOS and Android) works similarly to Gyft, and is also free. Sign up is simple, requiring that you either log in with Facebook or create an account using your email address. I recommend using your email address so your comings and goings aren’t “reported” to your friends on your Facebook wall. This application allows you to scan your gift cards using the QR code instead of typing in the number like Gyft requires, which will likely save you some time if you have a lot of cards to store. Otherwise the application works the same. GoWallet doesn’t offer a points program like Gyft, but through it you can “opt-in” to learn about special offers and discounts related to the cards you currently use which could earn you more value for your gift card dollars.
Tango Card (www.tangocard.com/mobile, iOS, Android and Windows) allows you to store your existing cards in the application’s mobile wallet, but you can also purchase and redeem “Tango Cards”. A Tango Card is like a gift card that can be used toward a multitude of retailers, merchants, or even charitable giving. Tango Card recipients can spend all of their card’s value at a single retailer like Gap, Starbucks and Amazon, or split it amongst many. Local redemption is available as well through participating neighborhood businesses and restaurants, or users can donate some or all of their value to one of several charities like Habitat for Humanity, World of Children or the National Park Foundation (to name just a few). There are no service fees when using a Tango Card and balances never expire.
I’m excited about the card organizing potential of a product due to be released this summer called Coin (https://onlycoin.com/, $100). The plastic Coin card is the same size and shape as a credit card, allowing merchants to swipe it through a traditional card reader. The card works with a mobile app on your phone to allow you to store an unlimited number of credit cards, loyalty cards and gift cards digitally, so you can carry just one single Coin card while paying with the account of your choice. Scroll through the cards that you have loaded on your Coin using a small LCD display on the card’s surface, and switch out the accounts stored on the card with a few clicks on your phone.
The Coin app on your phone will even notify you if you walk away from your Coin card, so you’ll never leave your card behind at a store or restaurant. While the potential for ditching a pile of plastic gift and loyalty cards in favor of a single, slim card is intriguing enough, the ability to get all my credit card accounts linked through one card leaves me wondering what I’ll need my wallet for.
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