Raise is an online marketplace where you can buy gift cards at discounted prices or sell the gift cards you have and get prepaid cards in exchange.
The company was started in 2013 by a guy named George Bousis, who, according to his LinkedIn profile, cut his teeth in online marketplaces when he founded discount site CouponTrade in 2010. Previous to that, he worked in the innovation and tech department at Chicago-area supermarket Cermak Fresh Market.
Raise’s leadership team took a huge leap forward when PayPal exec Kathleen Pierce-Gilmore left PayPal in 2017 to join Raise, a newsworthy career choice that first alerted us to Raise’s rise among online marketplaces.
In an Oct. 2017 interview with Business Insider, Pierce-Gilmore said she was drawn to Raise because, unlike the credit industry who tends to trap low-income earners in interest cycles, Raise offered something a little more virtuous.
“The opportunity I saw at Raise was a bit more pure. There's no credit aspect, it's prepaid. There isn't the kind of bad outcome possible, where someone can get in over their head," Pierce-Gilmore said. "I believe technology is the better way to deliver financial services to more people and more fairly.”
So, Raise has the powerful execs and the nice concept, but does the way it functions, the fees it charges and the reviews it’s getting from consumers live up to its marketing?
That’s a question we’ll answer in the next few minutes by examining how the site/app works, what fees (if any) you’ll pay and what users are saying about their Raise experience.
At the end of our review, we’ll take a moment to give you a summarized picture of what the app’s strengths and weaknesses are.
How the Raise Gift Card Marketplace Works
To get an idea of what a user’s experience would be, we signed up for a Raise account. Once we had our account set up (it takes a first name, last name, phone number and password), we were able to browse through the site.
Buying Gift Cards on Raise
At the time of publishing, Raise was offering a $5 bonus on purchases of $50 or more, which was a nice perk right off the bat.
We were more interested in the cost of the gift cards, though, as several articles we read noted that Raise offers some pretty good discounts. Here’s a chart of the results we got for $50 gift cards to 10 popular stores/restaurants/products:
- Target ($60) - $59.93
- Walmart ($20) - $19.96
- Starbucks - $50
- iTunes - $47.82
- Amazon - Out of Stock
- Bed Bath & Beyond - $49.75
- Old Navy - $50
- Lowe's - $49.75
- Nike - $46.90
- Gap - $48.50
The average discount we found here was around 4%. Keep in mind, though, that certain gift card denominations are limited by availability.
For example, there were no Amazon gift cards at the time we searched. Target had no $50 gift cards and the biggest denomination of Walmart gift cards was $20.
On average, Raise saved us 4% on the nine gift cards we researched.
There is no cost to you for buying a gift card: no fees or shipping. Also, there are many gift cards that have online and physical certificates. Sometimes the e-cards will have different discount amounts, too.
One of the newest features of the Raise app allows you to use gift cards directly from your phone to make purchases at brick-and-more retailers and restaurants.
Fine Print About Buying Gift cards on Raise
There are just a few requirements you’ll have to keep in mind when you guy a gift card from Raise.
The site-wide rule is that you can buy $10,000 worth of cards per day.
However, there are some companies who put limits on how many gift cards you can buy within a 24-hour period. Here’s how Raise explains it:
“For example, if only two cards can be purchased per day, you must wait 24 hours to purchase another card from that brand. Because we are a dynamic marketplace, restrictions can change accordingly.”
These bits of information are helpful, but not nearly as important as what’s known as the “Raise Guarantee”, which is their policy for covering buyers.
According to their guarantee, they’ll refund your purchase for up to a year if it falls in any one of the following four categories:
- Inactive cards
- Cards with an inaccurate balance
- Buyer ends up with a card from a brand that’s different from what they purchased
- Physical card isn’t received w/in 30 days
What’s interesting about this guarantee is that fraudulent cards aren’t included. Based on our research, the verification process is supposed to weed bad cards out, but several reviews we read said users received fraudulent cards and Raise considered the refunds given because of those cards more as favors than as part of their official policy.
Stated exceptions to the one-year rule include cards you lose, changing your mind post-purchase and cards that are no longer valid because the company went out of business or filed for bankruptcy.
How Do You Sell Your Giftcards on Raise?
Selling your gift card on raise is a relatively easy process. You’ll be asked to enter the name of the store to which you have the card. Then, you’ll need to enter the gift card’s serial number the pin on the back of the card.
You’ll also be asked to enter the amount that’s left on the card and how much you want to sell the card for.
One of the things that helps you understand a good selling price is a column on the left side of the page that lists the current cards for sale. When we did our test run with a Walmart gift card, other cards were selling at a discount of 2%-2.1%.
If you’re selling a physical gift card, you have three days to ship it once it sells. Raise will provide a shipping label that you print out and use for the card.
Pro tip: You can change the selling price of your gift card up until it sells.
The Fine Print About Selling Your Gift Cards on Raise
There aren’t too many restrictions on what you can sell, but it is important to know what they are.
For example, Raise’s fine print says that the site accepts physical cards with a balance of at least $10, which eGift cards need to have a minimum balance of $5. The maximum amount on one card you can sell is $2,000.
Also, your listing has to go through a verification process which, according to Raise, usually takes a couple of hours, but if they’re super busy with new listings, “it could take longer for your card to be listed.”
Fees for Selling Gift Cards on the Marketplace
As we’ve mentioned earlier in this review, you won’t be charged for buying a gift card, listing a gift card or shipping a gift card. You will, however, be charged a 12% fee for selling your card.
How does that compare to other sites? Well, eBay charges a 10% fee for selling an item. Popular vintage/artisan good site Etsy charges $0.20 to post an ad and a 3.5% fee on the sold item.
Public Opinion About Raise
The majority of Raise’s reviews come from its Google Play page, which indicates the company’s app has more than 100,000 downloads.
We took a look at some of the more recent reviews and found a mix of good and bad ratings from users. Three of the four most recent reviews of the card are complaints about the app’s newest updates, which caused issues with users being able to buy gift cards.
Here’s an excerpt from one of those reviews, courtesy of a user named “Charlie Cho”: “This used to be a great app. However, ever since the last major update, Raise has been having intermittent problems with in-app checkout. The app would freeze after the user hits the purchase button.”
We believe Raise’s strength is convenience. Buyers can find discounted gift cards that, in some cases, can be stored in the Raise app and be used to pay for items directly from the app.
We believe the biggest downside to raise is the 12% fee that sellers have to pay to sell their gift cards on Raise.
Who is Raise Good For?
Based on our research, we believesddsdsdd Raise is a good option for someone who wants to sell one or two gift cards through a reputable, safe site. If you begin selling too many cards, the 12% fee can really start to add up.
If you’re skeptical of Raise and you’d rather buy a gift card from a local big-box store or supermarket, take a moment to read through our guide to gift card scams.
HighYa reporter Alicia Doyle talks with a financial crimes investigator to find out how crooks scam you out of the hard-earned money you put on gift cards.