Back-to-School Bonuses: Free Gift Card Promotions Are in Season

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Retailers and manufacturers often prefer to give consumers a little something extra rather than simply offering items at lower prices. When that something extra comes in the form of a gift card that must be used in a separate purchase, the strategy ensures that the shopper must return as a customer. So what seems like a bonus for consumers is also a bonus for the stores dishing out the “free” gift cards.

Bonus gift card promos have grown especially popular during major shopping periods, including the winter holidays and the spring months when Mother’s Day, graduations, and many weddings take place.

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These deals are popping up during back-to-school season as well, as these offers demonstrate:

Apple
For a limited time at Walmart.com, $100 Apple iTunes e-gift cards are available for just $80. The deal can only be purchased online (not in stores), and the digital gift card and pin are sent via e-mail.

Apple also offers its own back-to-school card bonuses, in which the purchase of a Mac comes with a $100 gift card, and the purchase of a new iPad comes with a $50 card. Purchases must be made by September 21, and the deal is only available to college students, parents of college students, and teachers.

Dell
Now through August 28, for every $300 Dell e-gift card purchased, you get an additional $50 Dell e-gift card. One minor catch: The bonus card must be used within 90 days of being issued.

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American Express
Order an American Express Prepaid Card by August 31 and load at least $200 onto it, and you’ll get a bonus $25 Amex gift card mailed to you. Before jumping at the offer, take note of the prepaid card’s fees; there are no annual or monthly fees, but after one free ATM withdrawal per month, a $2 per withdrawal fee is charged (on top of any fees assessed by the ATM).

Staples
With a special offer from daily deal site Saveology, at least some portion of a back-to-school or office supply purchase is effectively half price: Pay just $7.50, and you get a $15 Staples gift card.

Papa John’s
In another Saveology deal, a $10 Papa John’s gift card can be yours for just $5. The offer also includes a one-month trial of Netflix, and is only available to first-time Netflix subscribers. Saveology is promoting the deal as a $17.99 value ($10 Papa John’s gift card + one-month $7.99 Netflix subscription), but considering that Netflix always offers a one-month free trial, that’s stretching things. If you’re only interested in this deal for the bonus gift card, bear in mind that if you don’t cancel the Netflix subscription after a month, you’ll start getting charged $7.99 monthly.

(MORE: Why Retailers and Restaurants Love Giving Away Gift Cards)

Kmart & Walgreens
Both Walgreens and Kmart are currently waiving $25 bonus gift cards as enticements to transfer your prescriptions to their pharmacies. In most states, when you switch over a prescription to either retailer, you’ll be rewarded with a $25 card.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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