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What to Do with Unwanted Gift Cards – Sell, Trade, or Exchange

By Jason Steele

unwanted gift cardIf you have unused gift cards lying around collecting dust, don’t let them go to waste. The gift card industry is worth an estimated $60 billion, and experts say that at least 10% to 15% of gift cards are not redeemed. That’s $6 to $9 billion dollars that consumers never use.

The retailers are counting on this, since unused gift cards equate to company profits. However, unused gift cards don’t have to go to waste. There are several websites, including eBay, where gift cards are being traded, and even sold, for cash.

What to Do with Unwanted Gift Cards

1. Put Them Up for Auction

Unused gift cards can be sold online. If you want cash for your gift cards, try listing them on eBay. Other sites such as Cardpool and Plastic Jungle also let sellers auction their unwanted or unused gift cards. Shoppers flock to eBay around the holidays, so try selling unwanted gift cards online in November and December to get the best return on the cards. If your name is on any of the gift cards, check to make sure they are transferable before listing them for sale.

2. Trade Your Gift Cards

In addition to auctioning cards, there are a number gift card exchange websites:

  • ABC Gift Cards allows users to buy, sell, or trade gift cards. They claim to be the largest secondary market for gift cards.
  • Card Avenue has a very extensive inventory of cards for sale. Navigating the site is easy. If you want to trade a card, create a “wish list” of gift cards you would consider in exchange for your gift card. For example, if you have a $50 Pottery Barn card, but you would much rather have a $50 Victoria’s Secret or Macy’s card, then include those cards in your wish list. Other traders will browse the site, and if they have a Macy’s or Victoria’s Secret card and want your Pottery Barn gift card, you might be able to make the trade. The site receives a commission from the traders.
  • Cardnap allows users to buy and sell a variety of popular gift cards.
  • Cardpool features free shipping, and a 100-day guarantee, to ensure the gift cards are legitimate.
  • CardsUWant is an auction site that lets sellers buy, sell, and trade gift cards. They collect a 5% fee, which is less than eBay.
  • CardWoo is another service that buys and sells gift cards. They pay all shipping costs, but require that gift cards have a minimum $20 value.
  • Cash4GiftCards.com buys gift cards for 75% of their value. They sometimes buy expired cards, for 25% of their pre-expiration value. GiftCardBin provides an initial offer on sellers’ gift cards, based on the retailer, value, and expiration date. If you don’t like their offer, you can make a counter offer.
  • GiftCardGranny is another gift card buying and selling site. The site allows users to sign up for alerts and receive notification when cards from their favorite stores have been listed for sale.
  • GiftCardRescue allows users to buy, sell, and exchange gift cards. This website offers an additional 5% over the redemption value if the card is exchanged for an Amazon gift card instead of cash. They also offer bankruptcy protection in the event that the retailer no longer accepts the gift cards.
  • Plastic Jungle buys unwanted gift cards and will pay up to 92% of the face value of the card. Users have to enter gift card information on the site, and then Plastic Jungle makes an offer for the card. Sellers receive pre-paid shipping labels to mail gift cards to the website. Once the balance of the gift card is verified, the website pays for the gift card with a check or PayPal.

Obtain quotes from each of the websites to determine which site offers the best deal for the gift cards you want to sell or exchange. Make sure to read the websites’ terms and conditions, and learn more about their guarantees, transaction fees, and shipping policies. Gift card exchange websites are an excellent way to sell or trade gift cards from major retailers. If the gift card is for a small, local business, try selling or trading the gift card on Craigslist or eBay Classifieds instead.

gift card red ribbon

3. Regift

Some people feel it is not very tactful to “regift” a gift card. If you decide to go this route, however, make sure the card and the gift card envelope don’t show any signs of wear. It may be possible to obtain a new gift envelope from the original retailer. You can also add the regifted card to another gift. Stash the card inside of a new book for a creative bookmark, or attach the card to a stuffed animal.

A partially used gift card is a terrible candidate when it comes to regifting etiquette. If at all possible, try to avoid awkward situations by regifting a card from a friend to a relative or coworker who doesn’t know the friend.

4. Give to Charity

Making a charitable donation can be a good use of a gift card. The advantages include the convenience, the tax write-off, and the opportunity to donate to a worthy cause. To make a charitable donation, find a non-profit organization that can best utilize the card. For example, a food bank may not have use for a gift card from a high-end clothing retailer, but an organization that assists people in preparing for job interviews may be able to use the card.

Large non-profits have the donations contact information listed on their website. Email the contact, describing the gift card and its value. In return for the donation, the organization will supply you with a letter acknowledging your gift. The letter should be on their stationery, indicating the date it was received, the value of the gift, and their tax ID number. Keep this for your records, so you can take the tax deduction for charitable contributions.

5. Redeem for Cash

Some states require that gift card issuers allow cardholders to redeem their gift cards for cash. California law states that consumers can receive cash from the issuing retailer if a gift card has $10 or less remaining on the card. In Maine, Massachusetts, and Montana, cards with a value of $5 or less can be exchanged for cash. In Vermont, cards valued at less than $1 can be redeemed for cash. Investigate to determine if a cash exchange is an option.

Final Word

Don’t let your unwanted gift cards sit around collecting dust. Make them work for you instead. If your Great Aunt Sue gave you a $100 Starbucks gift card and you don’t drink coffee, trade the card for a shop you do visit, or trade the card for cash. If you use Plastic Jungle to sell your $100 Starbucks gift card, they may pay you up to $92.00 for the card.

Do you have a favorite website for buying, selling or exchanging gift cards? What do you typically do with your unwanted gift cards?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Jason Steele
Jason has been writing about personal finance, travel, and other topics on blogs across the Internet. When he is not writing, he has a career in information technology and is also a commercially rated pilot. Jason lives in Colorado with his wife and young daughter where he enjoys parenting, cycling, and other extreme sports.

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  • http://blog.budgetpulse.com Craig

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with re-gifting, selling, or returning the gift if it’s something you don’t want. Doesn’t do any good keeping it around for no reason.

  • http://blog.insweb.com Robert

    I think a good idea is to keep a few wrapped gifts on-hand for anyone throughout the year. Using re-gifted items is perfect for this. That way, if you forget to give someone a gift, you have one waiting in the closet! Running late to a birthday party and didn’t have time to pick up a gift? Grab one out of the closet!

  • http://www.biblemoneymatters.com Peter

    We usually re-gift things that we don’t need or want. Often the item is nice enough, just not our taste or something we need. Even if things aren’t our taste, we can usually find someone who will appreciate the gift – and if not – they can re-gift it too!

  • Mike

    I try to return whenever possible to get some money back. Luckily most gifts I get can be returned to Wal-mart, which is as good as cash since that is where I grocery shop.

  • Karmella

    I admit I have several boxes of these gifts in my basement. I need to thin the pile – I have some piles for donation to specific places, and then a few things I am going to Freecycle because I really like to give things away to actual, individual people sometimes.

  • Nancy

    Although I have never used them, there are some web sites where you can swap gift cards you don’t want for others you do want, for a fee, of course.

  • Nancy

    And…here’s a bit of trivia I read today on this very topic. Supposedly, after Christmas Cary Grant and Clark Gable used to get together and swap monogrammed gifts they had both received that they didn’t like! Does anyone you know have the same initial as you do? Maybe you can swap monogrammed gifts too!

  • L

    I too have found that you can return just about anything to Wal-mart. I worked at a certain retail store that does not have specific codes for items, only a department number and price within the bar code. Stores like this will return almost anything as well, and they have to take most of the items unless they can prove it says Target on the bottom.

  • Charissa Arsaoui

    I appreciate the comment about donating unwanted gifts. There are a number of charitable organizations that post WISH LISTS on their websites. Take a look at the items that they are requesting and then pass along those gifts that you no longer want. In addition to cleaning out your closest, you get the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping others in need.

  • Mayra Cedillo

    I received a groupon certificate for 45 dollars worth of soap/lotion products from a coworker who paid 15 dollars for it. I went to the store, and bought enough items for that amount to make three Christmas gifts for friends. So half my shopping list was completed for friends.

  • Gina

    You can also try to sell a gift that you do not want on Ebay.

  • Lesa Steele

    If I don’t want, like or need something it usually goes to my church if it’s an item I think they can use. I attend a 5000+ church so theres usually a need for anything offered.

    As far as the person finding out or telling them…that I hven’t figured out yet. Though I do know I wouldn’t lie. Maybe a blank stare and some babbling would come into play.

    Peace

  • http://grandgiveaways.wordpress.com Mami2jcn

    I think re-gifting or donating are the ways to go. Selling the item just seems a little callous to me.

    Our local good will or church would be more than happy to take the unwanted gifts off our hands.

  • Jenny

    My mom and her sister would regift to each other every year. They both had families with kids about the same age, so instead of buying new gifts for the other family every year, they would either re gift, or more often, just send a box of ‘gently used’ toys, clothes, books, etc, that they thought would be enjoyed by the other. I never thought of this as abnormal growing up, and I still do the same thing within my family.

  • Linda

    I try to keep a detailed list of gifts and who gave them for every holiday and birthday- that way, when I find myself planning to re-gift something, I can ensure that I’m not giving it someone close to the person that I originally gave it to.

  • Anissa

    You can also trade it. There are websites where you can post things you don’t want/need, and then others can contact you about a trade. This is especially popular w/ giftcards.

  • Winston

    Let me tell you one problem I encountered giving away a gift I didn’t really want.

    Well several Christmas ago, an aunt of mine gave me a sweater. Obviously she had different taste than I did. Knowing that I won’t wear it, I gave it to Goodwill. However several weeks later, my aunt came to visit and asked me if I liked that sweater. Being a gentlemen that I was, my answer was of course. The problem came when she asked me to wear it for her to see. Awkward moments ensued. From that time on, she hardly talks to me anymore.

  • Rachel

    I generally either just politely decline gifts that I don’t want, or bin them without worrying about it if I think the giver’s ego wont take a polite refusal.

  • http://superfrugalette.com Super Frugalette

    I haven’t received a gift card in years that I couldn’t use. I do buy tons of gift cards from these sites and have probably saved a couple hundred dollars by this point.

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