A Strange Transaction – The Best Buy to iTunes Gift Card

Gift cards are peculiar gifts. Instead of simply giving money, people buy these decorative symbols of store credit. It does seem like a nicer present than cash, as some thought is involved. The gift-giver may not know exactly what to buy, and it is certainly undesirable to purchase the wrong gift, so it’s at least narrowed down to the right store. But what if they guessed wrong? What if you wanted to go shopping in another store? I got a Best Buy card and I was able to convert it.

Which is worse – to receive a bad gift card or a bad gift? That depends. With a bad gift, you can return it and get money. Then, you can go buy what you want. With a gift card from a major retail store, you’re stuck. Generally, they’re not redeemable for cash. However, sometimes you can buy gift cards with other gift cards. I tested that out with a Best Buy gift card. It was a strange transaction.

See, I like Best Buy. They have lots of great stuff. The problem is that most of that stuff is really expensive. There was nothing within the limit of the card that I wanted to purchase. For example, the XBOX 360 with Kinect is a hot item. Yet, that’s $300. That was too far from my $50 card. What could I do with this thing?

With the launch of the Mac App Store, I realized a new plan. That store uses iTunes account credit. I can add more money to my account with an iTunes Gift card. Best Buy sells iTunes Gift Cards. Perhaps Best Buy doesn’t realize how damaging that can be.

I’m planning to purchase Pixelmator. It’s an alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Now that my Mac Mini is my main desktop computer, that’s where I get most of my work done. It’s been pretty tedious to switch back to my Windows PC, just to edit/create a few images. Adobe won’t convert my CS4 license because it’s too old. I’d have to upgrade to CS5. That’s a $600 expense.

What does this have to do with Best Buy? Well, they sell the boxed version of Pixelmator. Last I checked, it was $54.99. That’s certainly more attractive than a CS5 upgrade. Yet, it gets even better than that. Pixelmator is apparently moving to the Mac App Store exclusively. By digitally downloading the software from Apple, the price of the software is only $29.99. Even better, I’ll get the next major upgrade for free if I purchase it through the Mac App Store.

Even though it was a great plan, I still had reservations about implementing it. I was standing in the Best Buy store, ready to convert my gift card into an iTunes gift card. Yet, I couldn’t do it. I was still stuck in my old way of thinking, “…but Photoshop is the industry standard.” This morning I woke up and I realized that’s a bunch of sentimental nonsense. I’m not seeing a future for Adobe. Flash is being phased out by HTML 5 and apps, I never liked Dreamweaver. Indesign is not much better than Pages / iWork, and the Mac OS can print to PDF. Photoshop is a great program. But realistically, it hasn’t improved much since I started using it — almost two decades ago. How is Photoshop going to stay competitive when there are so many cheap alternatives? I doubt it’s their customer service. They’re charging a premium price, but I don’t see the premium service.

That’s when I decided to launch my plan… and it got even weirder. I didn’t feel like going to the mall again. I was just there yesterday. So, I loaded up bestbuy.com. I was curious to see the price of shipping on an iTunes Gift card. IT WAS FREE! I don’t really associate Best Buy with free shipping. Things like TVs, computers and refrigerators are heavy. I was surprised to see that it was free. Again, I hesitated, but then I realized the awesomeness of the plan.

The Adobe Creative Suite is useless to me. I’m not going to run Boot Camp or VMWare Fusion on my Mac Mini. I already tried that, with lousy results. It creates problems for performance, usability and disk space. I’d rather run native software. As for the Best Buy gift card, there’s simply better value in the Mac App Store / iTunes App Store. I recently bought 10 great apps for $10.79. In Best Buy, for the same amount of money, I could buy an overpriced soda and maybe a lame DVD movie.

Do I have some sort of superpower in retail shopping, or is this a dramatic shift in consumerism? Perhaps it’s a bit of both. With a creative use of a $50 Best Buy gift card – by converting it to an iTunes Gift Card – I saved money on Pixelmator, got a free upgrade for Pixelmator, denied Adobe, avoided shipping charges and I’ll still have some iTunes account credit left over.