How to Turn Unwanted Gift Cards Into Cash

by Michael Kling on 22 May 2014 1 comment

Got gift cards to stores or restaurants you'd never dream of patronizing? Wouldn't it be great if you could turn them into cash? Well, it turns out that there are several ways to do exactly that. (See also: How to Use Up Small Balances on Gift Cards)

Expect to get anywhere from half to about 90% of the card's face value or remaining balance. Not surprisingly, gift cards from retailers with a wide range of merchandise, like Walmart, or for a product that almost everyone buys, like gas, have the best resale values. Lesser-known, specialist retailers and regional stores sell for steeper discounts, sometimes up to 50%.

Here are ways to cash out your gift cards

Websites That Buy Your Gift Cards

Many websites are willing to buy your gift cards. To find the highest bidder, first visit Gift Card Granny. Go to "Sell Gift Cards," click on the retailer on the drop-down menu, then click on the company offering the best price.

Some companies may offer you Amazon gift cards in trade for other cards, which may be a better deal for you, presuming you want to buy something through Amazon.

Top gift card purchasers and sellers include ABCGiftCards, CardCash, Cardpool, GiftCardRescue, and JunkCard. Interestingly, Cardpool sells its own gift card (for no discount) that can be used to buy gift cards on its site.

PlasticJungle.com, once a major card exchange site, has essentially left the niche and now only trades gift cards for CVS gift cards or United MileagePlus award miles.

What to Expect

Generally, you enter your information online, mail the card, and get paid after the company validates the card.

Some websites will, depending on the card, let you enter the card's number online instead of mailing it. Some offer prepaid mail labels. Some tout their purchase guarantee programs. Some companies can send payments by check, direct deposit, or PayPal. Others are less flexible, preferring PayPal.

Some companies accept both merchandise credit and store credit.

Expect companies to scrutinize you the first time you sell a gift card, especially one with a large balance. For instance, they might request a credit card or copy of a driver's license for ID verification.

Although Gift Card Granny says it vets companies, if you're cautious it wouldn't hurt to check online reviews, BBB ratings, and user policies with an eye for guarantees or consumer protections.

Where You Can Sell to Other Consumers

If you prefer to set your own asking price for your gift card, you can visit Raise. The site posts the average discounts to help sellers set their price, and sellers can change their asking price. Keep in mind that the steeper the discount, the faster cards sell.

The company takes a 15% commission from the selling price after the card has sold and a shipping fee for physical cards of 1% or $1, whichever is larger.

You can sell unwanted cards directly to others by using eBay, but the online auction place warns sellers to learn about its restrictions. A gift card cannot exceed $500, only one card can be listed in a seven-day period, you must have the card in your possession, and only one card per listing is permitted. Some types of cards are restricted or prohibited.

Sellers not following the rules may find their listing removed, their buying selling privileges restricted, or even their account suspended. Plus, some card sellers may consider eBay's selling fees to be a disadvantage.

Kiosks That Accept Gift Cards

For those who don't want to go online, Coinstar, known for its kiosks that exchange loose cash for bills or gift certificates, has introduced kiosks that trade gift cards for cash. How much cash you get depends on the current market demand for the card, and could be anywhere from 75% to 25% of the card's face value.

Unfortunately, the kiosks are not yet plentiful. For instance, a search on its kiosk locator tool showed only four in California, all in or around Fresno.

A Booming Business

People will probably be selling more unwanted gift cards as they become even more popular among gift givers. A National Retail Federation survey just before the Christmas shopping season last year found that shoppers planned to spend an average of $163.16 on gift cards, up about 4% from $156.86 the previous year.

Gift cards to coffee shops are especially popular among gift givers. Almost one in five, or 19%, planned to give a coffee shop gift card, up from 13% in 2009. Perhaps they should consider buying an unwanted second-hand card. Meanwhile, gift cards for Starbucks were being sold online at a 58% discount.

Have you ever sold a gift card? Please share your experience in comments!

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And a note to gift-givers everywhere: Stop buying gift cards. Don't tell your friends and family where to spend their money. Either buy something thoughtful or give cash.