Spring is now a hot season for gift cards. Why? It’s when consumers are compelled to buy gifts for Mother’s Day, as well as graduations, weddings, First Communions, Father’s Day, and more. That’s a lot of gifts to buy, and chances are you won’t know exactly what each recipient really wants.
Enter the gift card—the standard go-to option when the need arises to give a gift to someone who doesn’t really need anything, as far as you can tell. While spring and early summer are peak times for gift card purchases, early winter is as well, when shoppers are trolling for holiday gifts.
During the prime shopping weeks leading up to Christmas, retailers have been known to roll out special bonus gift card offers, in which, say, a customer purchasing a $50 gift card is rewarded with an extra $10 card. Many stores and restaurants—major chain restaurants especially—are offering similar bonuses right now.
For many reasons, starting with the fact that many gift cards go unused, there’s a good argument to be made that cash is superior to the gift card as a gift. But a curious stigma remains attached to cash, and for many, gift cards—whose main selling point is that they are basically as good as cash—are viewed as the more thoughtful, less crass version of cash.
When retailers and restaurants make special bonuses available with gift card purchases, though, there’s a solid reason why giving gift cards is smart: There’s no bonus available for handing out old-fashioned cash, after all. The way these gift card specials are marketed plays off self-interest, with the giver rewarded with a little something in the course of their generosity.
In any event, here are 10 gift card bonuses available right now, some of which expire this weekend, others that are valid for months ahead:
Applebee’s: Buy a $50 gift card by June 24, and a $10 card is yours; the bonus card must be used by July 8.
Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy: Purchase a $50 e-gift card for any of these three sister retailers and get a $10 bonus card in return. The offer is valid only through May 13 (Mother’s Day), and promotional $10 cards must be used by June 14.
Bravo! Cucina Italiana: Get a $10 bonus with the purchase of a $50 gift card.
Chipotle: Head into any Chipotle location for a $30 gift card and then hold onto your receipt—which will get you a free burrito, bowl, salad, or taco order. Gift cards must be purchased by June 17, and freebies have to be redeemed by June 30.
IHOP: A $25 IHOP gift card purchased by June 18 is accompanied with a $5 “bounceback coupon” (i.e., voucher or gift card) that expires on July 31.
Fleming’s Steakhouse: Purchase a $100 gift card by June 17 and get a $20 bonus that’s good through July 15.
Jockey: In a special Mother’s Day promo, $20 e-gift cards are available for just $10. Purchases must be made by Monday, May 14.
Joe’s Crab Shack: A $25 gift card purchase comes with a $5 bonus—the former must be purchased by June 17, the latter must be used by July 30.
Outback Steakhouse: For Outback, as well as sister restaurants Bonefish Grill and Carrabba’s Italian Grill, there is a $10 bonus with the purchase of a $50 gift card. Purchase cards by June 17; bonuses expire on July 15.
Panera Bread: Panera’s Mother’s Day gift card bonus is available for purchase only through Saturday, May 12: Buy four $25 cards and get a $10 bonus, or buy five $10 cards and get a $5 bonus. Bonus cards can be redeemed June 1 – 30 only.