What Can You Do With Unwanted Gift Cards?

by Xin Lu on 16 February 2008 6 comments

In my house we try to spend gift cards as soon as possible because the longer they are held the less purchasing power they have. Sometimes there are just cards you are not interested in using and they may sit in your pocket for years. Here are some ideas for getting rid of these gift cards without wasting them.

1. Regift them - My husband comes from a very large family and there is always a birthday just around the corner. Sometimes we do regift gift cards that we receive from other people. There is nothing wrong with regifting as long as you repackage the gift card with an envelope or card for the new recipient. If you have an unusually large gift card you do not want it is also possible to ask the store to split it into several cards and give them to multiple people. Another way of regifting a gift card is to buy a gift with the card and then giving the gift away. Either way, you are reusing a gift.

2. Sell or trade them online - There are many gift card specific barter sites where you can sell, trade, or buy gift cards. Some of the popular sites include swapagift.com , Cardavenue , and Plastic Jungle . On these sites you can buy gift cards at a discount for free. Usually to sell or trade cards you need to pay a fee or take a discount to the value of the card. For example, on swapagift you can sell your cards from 60% to 70% of your value, and on Cardavenue you can list your card for auction and CardVenue charges a 3.95% transaction fee plus a 50 cent closing fee. These sites are generally better if you want to buy a card because you can get a discount and they do provide the valuable service of verifying that the card you are trading for is real. You can also sell or trade your cards on forums like Gift Card Cove or craigslist where there are no transaction fees, but the transactions are more peer to peer and there are no verifications that the cards actually exist.

3. Donate them - Many charitable organizations such as the Make a Wish Foundation accept gift cards as donations. There are also sites where you can choose a variety of charities to send your gift, but many of these sites are not non-profits themselves so you may not receive a tax deduction. I suggest that you find a charity that would accept gift cards directly so that you may deduct the whole value of the card on your taxes.

4. Cash out small amounts at the retailer (if available) - A new California law allows consumers to redeem gift cards for cash if the balance is less than $10. So if you are a Californian resident or if you are just visiting you can go to a store where you hold a gift card with a small amount and redeem it for cash. I have found that before the law existed I was able to get cash back when I asked nicely. In one situation the whole gift card amount was applied and I received $2 or so back in change. This is rare, but possible.

The key is that you should not let a gift card sit idle for long because its value diminishes as time passes. It is easy to forget about the cards and lose them forever, and that is wasted money. In many states gift cards incur maintenance fees and even expire so it is best to deal with them as soon as you receive them. Since there are so many unwanted and unloved gift cards out there, I feel that cash is really the best gift. It is so much simpler to use and give cash, and cash is often more appreciated than a colorful gift card!

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Guest's picture

Thanks for this post, I haven't thought about trading them on one of the sites posted... was wondering if ebay would let you sell them or something and at price you would end up fetching for them. I will try these methods out though.

Also didn't know you could donate them.

Guest's picture
Alyson

I hate them. At least here in MA, all gift certificates have to be good for 7 years and they can't depreciate in value. How dumb is that (the depreciation)? You paid money, cash, for this, how can it possibly be worth less than the $100 you paid 6 months from now. Huge, brilliant, money making scam. But, good advice.

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PayDaze

absolutely agreed! I hate gift cards so much. My guy gave me a $25 AMC gift carda few months ago, we've already seen a movie together and now there's $5 left on it. That means we'll have to go back to see another movie to use up the money that's left on it. Usually we just rent DVDs, so it's kind of annoying...

I actually started a blog of gift ideas called "Die, Gift Cards, Die" to give people ideas for gifts (in the $25, $50 and $75 price range) instead of resorting to gift cards.

check it out here: http://diegiftcardsdie.blogspot.com

Guest's picture
Leia

Oh no, so many gift card haters! (JK) I like gift cards so long as it's to a store/restaurant to which I frequently go. I tend to have better luck with gift cards than with people picking out presents that I'll actually use. I'm also not good at shopping, so gift cards are a huge relief for me when I have to buy presents.

Given my personality, I rarely will buy for myself. Gift cards tend to make me splurge on myself. It's good for me. :P

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Guest

Another option to do with gift cards is Recarded.com They purchase new and partially used gift cards as well as allowing you to buy discounted gift cards and also trade them out.

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John Gushman

Great post - I hate getting multiple gift cards, I usually spend only a portion and let the rest expire. Such a waste! For Visa and Amex gift cards with a cash value I recently came across a website that lets you deposit the balance in your bank account or receive a mailed check (www.prepaid2cash.com). I am still searching for one that does this with regular gift cards, but for general prepaid cards - Prepaid2cash was a very easy / straightforward service.