More scrutiny for Sanford

Gov. Mark Sanford has argued his critics have misinterpreted state law in relation to the use of private aircraft.

If you liked South Carolina's recent sales tax holiday, you're going to love this.

Two weeks ago, shoppers rushed out to buy back-to-school supplies, clothing and computers on the weekend when certain items were exempt from statewide sales tax.

Now, a 6 percent discount is not a big deal when it comes to retail purchases. When have you ever seen a store advertise a 6-percent-off sale? But it's still nice to get any additional discount on something you need.

The sales tax holiday was only for one weekend, was limited to certain items and cost the state about $2.8 million in lost revenue. Here's a way you can get a larger discount, usually much better than 6 percent off, whenever you want it, on things you want to buy, at no cost to the state.

It seems the nation is awash in unwanted gift cards, which means you can now buy those cards from various websites at discounts to the face value.

That's like a sale on money.

For example, before your next trip to Kohl's, you might visit plasticjungle.com, where this week you could buy a $50 Kohl's gift card for $44 (that's 12 percent off, double the savings from the sales tax holiday).

Need hardware? At giftcardrescue.com, you could buy a $200 Ace Hardware gift card for $180 this week.

Fancy jewelry? Cardpool.com was selling Tiffany's gift cards for 10 percent off.

The are many such websites. Most guarantee the gift cards and have no shipping charges.

Given the nature of supply and demand, gift cards for stores that sell a variety of products, such as Target, sell at small discounts to face value. Cards for stores that sell a more narrow range of products, such as Brookstone, often sell for 20 percent off, or more.

And in the middle of the pack are stores such as Express, Radio Shack and Dick's Sporting Goods as well as restaurants, movie theaters, hotels and even airlines. Expect to save about 10 percent.

Most of these websites advertise savings of up to 30 percent, but such savings appear uncommon.

And remember that some gift cards can be used at multiple stores, which can make them more useful. For example, a Land's End gift card also is good at Sears or Kmart, as those chains share a common owner.

Buying discounted gift cards online makes the most sense if you have a store where you regularly shop or if you're anticipating a large purchase such as a computer or a home-repair project, where 10 percent off might save you $100 or more.

Of course, you might have some gift cards sitting at home that you don't plan to use.

Maybe the kids are too old for Gymboree, or Frederick's of Hollywood just isn't your style.

In that case, you can sell your cards to these same websites. Expect to get around 80 percent of face value, depending on the popularity of the merchant.

When I checked this past week, giftcardrescue.com was willing to pay $40 for a Bed, Bath & Beyond gift card worth $50 and was offering to sell that same card for $46.50.

Whether you're buying or selling, it can be worth your time to quickly check a few different sites, because the prices change daily depending on demand.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or dslade@postandcourier.com.