Five Things To Do With Unwanted Gift Cards
One of the big drivers of post-holiday shopping this year will be the millions of gift cards that were bought as presents. The National Retail Federation forecasted average American spending on gift cards at $145.61, up about $6 over last year. Sold in supermarkets, convenience stores and gas station mini-marts, gift cards have made shopping for that special someone as easy as buying a pack of gum. And according to some estimates, the unused gift card market may total $30 billion dollars.
One out of six buyers of these “stored value” cards picked the cold, hard plastic solely because it was an easy gift to purchase. But what do you do if the restaurant chain whose card you got doesn’t have a local outlet to use it in, or there’s nothing you like at the store where you have to spend it, or you just wanted the money instead?
Here are five things to do with your unwanted gift cards to turn that holiday frown, upside down.
- Get cash back – Sites like Plastic Jungle, Cardwoo, and Card Pool, will take that unwanted gift card off your hands for a small fee. Like an exchange rate for foreign currency, there is a discount rate to convert the plastic back into cash so you won’t get the face value of the card. Different exchanges charge different fees to handle the cards, and then send you the cash back by mail or deposit funds into a PayPal account. Be sure you know whom you are dealing with, what they charge and how long it takes to receive your funds. The services vary widely.
- Exchange the Card – If you had your eye on a certain item, and it didn’t end up in your stocking, you can exchange the unwanted gift card you got for a gift card to the store that carries that special bauble or gadget. Sites that offer you cash back often let you buy other gift cards using the value of your unwanted one. You can also swap the cards through websites like Swap A Gift, which uses a partner network to offer physical retail outlets to exchange a gift card.
- Sell the card directly – You can always find a buyer for your card through eBay or Craigslist, but you should compare the service fees and discount rate to brokered sites like card exchanges. Typically, cards go for less money on these sites and since it is harder for the buyer to verify the card balance, the seller should have a good reputation with these platforms in order to attract reasonable bids.
- Get Facebook credits – Gift card marketplaces are getting in on the Facebook craze. Card Pool and Plastic Jungle both offer functionality that allows users to enter a gift card’s code and have the credits deposited in their Facebook account that same day. Don’t have a date to take to Applebee’s to use that gift card? It may be because you are just too addicted to Farmville.
- Donate the card to charity and get a tax deduction – Many charities will accept the cards directly to provide care and services to the needy they service, so if you want your donation to stay within your community, check to see if your local shelter or boys and girls club could use or auction what you donate. Alternately, you can search online for websites that support a favorite cause like Wish Upon A Hero Foundation or Homefront San Diego that will accept the gift cards and distribute them to qualified recipients. Research how your donation will be used before sending in the card, and make sure you understand how your funds will be made available to the needy you are hoping to help.