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Spend those gift cards! Here's the best stuff to buy, starting at $25

Whether you've been gifted $25 or $250, we've got ideas for your store splurge.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read
$30 at Amazon
Wyze Band
Smart fitness tracker for a song
$45 at Roku
Roku Streaming Stick Plus
Our favorite media streamer
$100 at Amazon
Anker Soundcore Motion Plus
Portable Bluetooth speaker that's big on bass
$150 at Amazon
Galaxy Buds Live
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
Magic beans -- for your ears
$279 at eBay
Apple Watch Series 3
Still great after all these years

Gift cards are fantastic since they're basically free money to spend at a particular store -- and you have to spend them, right? It's not like you can do the responsible thing and put them in the bank. The question is, what to buy? Assuming you're not already ticking off your own wish list, we have some suggestions.

Starting with this: If the gift card isn't for the store you want, or you'd rather just have cash, head to Raise and list it for sale. If someone buys it, you'll get a bit less than face value, minus Raise's cut -- but it's still money in your pocket instead of a gift card you'd rather not use.

Ready to shop? Here are some of the best ways you can put a gift card to use.

Rick Broida/CNET

The Wyze Band ($30 at Amazon, shipping included) is by no means a perfect activity tracker, but it does a lot, especially considering its super-bargain price tag. It has a color AMOLED screen, a full-time heart-rate monitor, support for Alexa voice commands and a battery good for up to 14 days.

It's also a watch, of course, and it can sling notifications from your phone. Read our Wyze Band first take to learn more.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Echo Dot (current generation)

Smarter than the average orb

With better sound quality than its predecessor and a fancy new orb design, the fourth-gen Echo Dot is great for the first-time smart-speaker owner or anyone looking to upgrade an older Dot. Just try to avoid paying the full list price ($50), because Dots go on sale all the time. Indeed, at this writing, you can get it for as little as $30.

Read our Echo Dot 2020 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A CNET Editors' Choice winner, the Streaming Stick Plus does everything -- and does it well. You not only get a simple, straightforward interface for accessing every streaming service on the planet, you also get 4K HDR and a remote that understands voice commands.

Read our Roku Streaming Stick Plus review.

David Carnoy/CNET

CNET audio guru David Carnoy had this to say about this speaker: "Anker's Soundcore Motion Plus came out in 2019 and managed to slip beneath my radar, which is a shame because it's arguably one of the best-sounding speakers under $100 -- if not the best. A little larger than many mini Bluetooth speakers, it's still compact and manages to sound quite a bit fuller than much of the competition under $100, with bigger bass, more volume and better clarity. It's also fully waterproof (IPX7 rated) and has support for the aptX streaming codec for devices like Samsung's Galaxy phones that support it.

Read our Motion Soundcore Plus review.

Juan Garzon / CNET
Battery Life Rated up to 8 hoursNoise Canceling Yes (ANC)Multipoint NoHeadphone Type Wireless earbudsWater-Resistant Yes (IPX2 -- sweat-resistant and protection against light splashes)

If you don't like the feel of a silicone tip stuffed into your ear canal, you might prefer standard Apple AirPods -- or, better still, Samsung's Galaxy Buds Live. It offers ANC (active noise-canceling) and a sweat-resistant shell, two features missing from the aforementioned AirPods.

Read our Galaxy Buds Live review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The best smartwatch to pair with an iPhone is the Apple Watch, bar none. The Series 3 is a few generations behind the current, but it's still plenty capable, with heart-rate monitoring, swim tracking and much more. The 38mm model starts at $199, though you can find it on sale right now for $169.

Read our Apple Watch review.

Scott Stein/CNET

Oculus Quest 2

Leave this troubling world behind

Can't get your hands on the latest PlayStation or Xbox? Consider this "console" instead. The Oculus Quest 2 lets you step inside games instead of just playing them on a screen. The experience is breathtaking, and the VR headset itself is more affordable than most consoles. (The games are cheaper, too.) Even if your gift card doesn't cover the entire cost, it's worth making up the difference.

Read our Oculus Quest 2 review.

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