Back to School: Buy a Mac from Apple and Get a $100 Gift Card, or Buy an iPad and Get a $50 Gift Card

In the market for a new Mac or iPad? You could get money to put toward apps, music and iBooks.

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Scrounging for deals involving the word “Apple” usually means hitting a you-pick farm and scrutinizing honeycrisps, orange pippins and pink ladies, not probing the sales fliers from Best Buy or Fry’s. Buy an Apple computer product from any non-Apple retailer and chances are you’ll pay roughly the same amount you would if you’d bought it from a bona fide Apple Store or just ordered it online. Short of braving the secondhand market and buying used, Apple has its product pricing pretty much locked up.

Well, unless you’re a student or an educator, in which case Apple offers perennial discounts through its Store for Education on most of its products — discounts that range anywhere from a modest price shave to hundreds of dollars off if you’re looking at some of the more expensive products, say Apple’s Retina MacBook Pro or a beefy Mac Pro. Every year about this time, Apple promotes its back to school deals, and while this year’s aren’t jaw-dropping, they do involve giving students a nice boost toward that cost-equation variable often overlooked when thinking about a new computer purchase: the software.

The $100 Gift Card Deal

This year Apple’s touting a deal where, if you buy a qualifying Mac for college, either from Apple or a participating Apple Authorized Campus Store between July 2, 2013 and September 6, 2013, the company will give you a $100 App Store gift card. Apple’s writes “To qualify for the App Store Gift Card and get education pricing on a Mac, you must be a college student, a student accepted to a college, a parent buying for a college student, or a faculty or staff member from any grade level.” Speaking as a non-student, I put together a hypothetical purchase, right up to the finish line (where you enter your credit card info) and at no point did Apple ask me to qualify that I was in fact a student, much less produce proof of matriculation. (In other words, you’re apparently on the honor system.)

Apple adds the $100 App Store gift card to your order automatically (it shows up in your cart) but doesn’t charge you for it. Next stop: your mailbox, after which it’s expendable on anything in the Mac App Store, iOS App Store, iBookstore or iTunes Store. After dropping several products in my cart, I received a warning from Apple noting the company allows a maximum of two gift cards per customer, one per product, thus while purchasing more than two qualifying products won’t nab you any additional cards, you can actually get up to $200 in gift card credit if you’re buying more than one qualifying Mac product (and if for some reason you really do want to buy more than two, Apple lets you adjust the gift card total downward so you can check out).

The $50 Gift Card Deal

Alternately (or additionally), Apple’s offering a $50 gift card if you buy an iPad or iPhone. The same terms apply as above, though if you’re eyeballing an iPhone, it has to be purchased from Apple and not an Apple Authorized Campus Store. I suspect a few students may be thinking about a computer and an iPad, or maybe that and an iPhone, too. I test-drove the trifecta — Mac, iPad and iPhone — and sure enough, you can get $200 in gift card store credit ($100 + $50 + $50) if…well, if you’re loaded enough to afford a computer, tablet and smartphone at once.

Sidebar: Note that with both deals, if you return the products, Apple reserves the right to reduce your refund by the full amount of the gift card(s).

Apple Store for Education Pricing

I’m fortunate to have a spouse who works in higher education, thus qualifying us for Apple’s education discount, which as noted above can be substantial when you’re buying higher-end products. Here’s a quick list of Apple’s current discounts (on Mac products — Apple doesn’t discount the iPad, iPod or iPhone) if you buy through the education store:

MacBook Air: $50 discount on all models.

MacBook Pro: $200 discount on 13-inch models, $100 discount on 15-inch model.

MacBook Pro with Retina Display: $100 discount on 13-inch models, $200 discount on 15-inch models.

Mac Mini: $20 discount on all models.

iMac: $50-$100 discounts on 21.5-inch models, $100 discount on 27-inch models.

Mac Pro: $200 discount on quad-core, $300 discount on 12-core and server (note the new Mac Pro is coming later this year).

AirPort Time Capsule and AirPort Extreme: $20 discount on either model (no discount for AirPort Express).

AppleCare Protection Plan: This is Apple’s warranty extension plan (adds two years to the default one, and it’s generally well worth it, whether for peace of mind or resale allure, say you plan to upgrade in less than three years). While the amount you can save varies by product, the discounts can be substantial. Take the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, which normally costs $349; with the education discount, the price drops to just $239.