There's an excellent chance that there are one or more gift cards among the gifts that you have received for Christmas or for other gifts this year.
Certain very popular gift cards are probably welcome additions, since you know that you will use them.
But others, such as gift cards offered by specialty stores, might not ever be used by you or anyone in your family.
So what can you do with unwanted gift cards?
At this time of the year, that’s an important question. It has been estimated that there are $43 billion worth of unused gift cards that have been issued since 2008 alone.
Compounding that problem is the fact that some issuers charge annual inactivity fees, some terminate their gift card programs, and some issuers even go out of business. If any of those happen, the value of the gift card will be reduced or eliminated completely.
So that it doesn't happen to you, here are seven things you can do with unwanted and unused gift cards.
1. Return the Gift Card to the Issuing Retailer
This is usually the preferred way to deal with unwanted gift cards. But the complication is that not all issuers make it easy to do.
Here are some of the possible outcomes of returning gift cards to the issuing retailer:
- The retailer may exchange the card for cash, but at a discounted rate. For example, the issuer may refund 90% or less of the face value of the card.
- The issuer they refuse to accept a return of the gift card unless you have the purchase receipt. This can be awkward anytime you are returning a gift, including a gift card.
- The issuer may provide an in-store credit, which will do you very little good if you don't shop at their outlets in the first place.
Emma Johnson of WealthySingleMommy.com recommends that before you attempt to return a gift card to the issuer, that you first go back to the person who gave you the gift, and request the receipt. It will open up more options for you.
Failing that, she recommends that you investigate the issuers gift card return policy first.
“Check the return policy of the issuer before attempting a return,” Emma advises. “You can usually do this by going to the issuer's website.”
2. Sell Your Unused Gift Cards for Cash
There are websites available that will enable you to sell your gift cards for something very close to its face value. One such site is Cardpool.com. The site advertises that it will get you the highest price for your gift cards when you sell through the site. They also promise that they “only work with the most reputable resellers to provide top-notch service and prompt payment.”
Once on the site, you simply need to enter the merchant or store on your gift card to see which exchange site will offer you the most money. Just exactly how much you can sell a gift card for through the site will depend on the merchant (which determines the popularity of the card). For example, gift cards to a popular retailer like Target will fetch as much as $90 for a $100 card. But a $100 gift card to a much more highly specialized retailer, like Bass Pro Shops will get no more than $78.
Still another site where you can sell your unwanted gift cards is Gift Card Granny. There you can sell hundreds of popular (and not so popular) gift cards, and providing you with the option to either redeem the proceeds by mail, or online.
The site advertises that the most popular gift cards can fetch as much as $92 (on a $100 gift card), which is seriously close to the full face value, and they offer free shipping too.
3. Regift the Card
If you're not satisfied with the refund policy offered by a particular gift card issuer, probably the easiest way to recover at least some of the value of the card is by regifting it to someone else.
Let's say that someone gives you a gift card to T.J. Maxx, a store where you never shop. Regift the card to someone else, who may actually shop there.
Of course, this is not the same as recovering anything close to the value of the gift. But it will enable you to meet a gift obligation to someone else, without having to actually pay for the gift. You'll be recovering money by not having to spend it on a future gift.
4. Donate the Gift Card to Charity
Even if you have no use for a certain gift card, a charity may be able to put it to good use. Instead of giving cash to a favorite charity, donate your unwanted gift cards. If you are going to give cash gifts anyway, the gift cards will represent a recovery of the value of the cards.
You can also get a more direct benefit in the form of a tax write-off. A gift card will be tax-deductible for the face amount of the card. If you have a combined federal and state marginal income tax rate of 35%, you'll get a direct tax benefit of $35 on the donation of a $100 gift card.
5. Use the Gift Card to Purchase Items that You Can Sell
Just because you have no interest in the merchandise of a particular gift card issuer doesn't mean that other people don't. If there is no other way to redeem the gift card, consider buying one of the more popular items that the issuer sells. And once you have it, sell it on eBay, Amazon.com, or even Craigslist.
You won't get anything close to the full value of the item you're purchasing, but it will at least give you a chance to recover some of the value of the card.
6. Use Gift Card Exchange Websites
Yet another advantage of using Cardpool.com is that they also do gift card exchanges. In fact there are several websites that now work exchanges, including CardCash, CardHub, Raise, and Junkcard.
On these sites, you can exchange or sell one gift card – that you won't use – for one that you will. Since the discount fees associated with each card are different, you may end up paying a small fee in the exchange, or you can even earn a small amount if the gift card that you are offering comes with a smaller discount.
7. Sell or Exchange them with People You Know
One of the better aspects of unwanted gift cards is that probably everyone has at least a couple of them laying around. Send out emails to everyone in your social circle inviting them to do an exchange of your unwanted gift cards for any unwanted cards that they have.
It may be that others will have a similar inventory of the same unwanted cards, but you’ll never know until you ask. It only takes one person to make a match, and you can each recover the full amount of your unwanted gift cards, even if that involves the additional exchange of a small amount of cash.
Whatever you decide to do with your unwanted gift cards, the worst strategy of all is to simply put them away in the hope that you may one day use them. More likely, you'll forget you have them, turning them into a complete waste of money. The best time to deal unwanted gift cards is always as soon as you receive them. The holidays are over, so take care of it now!