You see those gift cards hanging on the rack near the checkout counter? Well, they're a total ripoff, and this activity will show your students once and for all why they should just never, ever buy them. And maybe you won't either!
Using a listing of 4 different values of gift cards from a popular "big box" store (whose name shall not be named here, except for the fact that they pay their employees substandard wages, prevent them from unionizing and then encourage them to go on food stamps....), your students will calculate the "mark-up" that goes with the value of each of these cards.
Think about it: if you buy a gift card for $25, and there's a $2.88 fee, you're paying almost 12% interest just for buying that little piece of plastic. What's worse than that? The same piece of plastic goes up to over $6 if you put $250 on it - but wait, isn't that the same piece of plastic you're buying?
The 2nd activity is about the resale value of those cruddy gift cards that come from stores. Yes, there is a website where you can sell your gift card to people who want to buy them - but you won't get the full cash value, because it is, after all, usable in only one store. The discounts are based on the popularity of the store, and are taken from cardpool.com, which makes a market for these cards. Your students will see that the discounts can range from a measly 1% from the Apple Store, to 20% at JCPenny.
This comes complete with the answer sheets, teaching instructions, as well as my personal manifesto about how companies like Visa earn millions of dollars a year on these cards from suckers like us.
By the way, if you like this activity, you really ought to check out The Mathematics of Economic Justice: Wealth Distribution in U.S.
. After your students do it, they'll want to take a pitchfork to people like Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, instead of writing glowing book reports about them.