What can I do with the gift cards I don’t want?

Chances are, you'll get at least one gift card for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa this year — whether you like it or not. If you are lucky, your card might be something you could use right away — like an Amazon gift card or one for your favorite store. But you might not be that lucky. You might end up with a gift card to a store or restaurant you unquestionably dislike. Even worse, you might get an inexpensive gift card to a place where nothing is cheap — like a $10 gift card to a restaurant where entrees start at $19. Those are the worst.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to get the most out of the gift cards you receive, whether it involves trading them, selling them, or maximizing their benefits.

 

Here are some gift card strategies everyone can use:

Sell Your Gift Card For Cash

If you don't plan to use one of the gift cards you receive and would rather have the cash, sites like GiftCardGranny.com can help you unload it — for a fee. According to the site, you can get up to 94 percent of your card's value back in cash. So for a $50 gift card, you should expect up to $47 in cash you can stash away in your savings account. That is certainly a lot better than letting the gift card take up space in your wallet all year.

Trade Your Gift Cards

Sites like CardPool.com and GiftCardZen.com allow you to trade unwanted gift cards for other varieties that you would use. You can sell a card you don't really want and use that credit to buy one you know you will enjoy at a steep discount. Gift cards from nearly every retailer and of every denomination are available.

Re-Gift Your Gift Cards

Re-gifting might be a controversial practice; but if you aren't above it, consider re-gifting your gift cards to people who might use them. As long as your name isn't written on the package, gift cards are practically the perfect item to re-gift. Just don't give it back to the person who gave it to you!

Stack Your Gift Cards With Sales

A gift card may be free money to you, but that doesn't mean you can't stack it with sales and other discounts. To get the biggest bang for your buck, keep an eye out for online and in-store sales and strike while the iron is hot. Getting as much value as possible is a great way to honor the gift you received.

Check Which Retailers Accept It

Many gift cards issued by larger stores are also accepted by other retailers owned by the same parent company. For example, you can usually use a Gap gift card at other stores like Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Piperline. Check to see which retailers will take your gift card before you get rid of it.

Give Your Unused Gift Cards to Charity

A $25 gift card to Bass Pro Shop might not mean anything to you, but it could mean the world to someone less fortunate. Consider giving unwanted gift cards to homeless shelters or other charities. Chances are, they will be able to match the gift up with someone who can actually use it.

No matter what you choose to do with any gift cards you receive this year, make sure not to let them go to waste. According to MarketWatch, up to $1 billion in gift cards go unredeemed each year, which is a terrible shame.

And now that you know you don't have to keep any gift cards you don't want and you can trade or sell them instead, a whole new world of options might be available to you. No gift is perfect — and that includes gift cards — but the more options you have, the better.

What do you do with the gift cards you don't want? Do you think gift cards make good gifts?

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LennStar
LennStar

“up to $1 billion in gift cards go unredeemed each year, which is a terrible shame.”
Thats not a shame, thats what gift cards are for. (and for locking in customers, of course). A gift card means that the seller already has your money. They best you can do for him is to never show up.

Gift cards are just very bad money, so I have a strict “no gift cards” rule.

Mike
Mike

I think gift cards are like credit cards from the standpoint of how you use them. If you just give them willy nilly without asking what someone wants then yes they probably won’t be used. I would love to see the stats on gift card vs presents that weren’t actually used. I bet the dollar amounts on presents are way higher and the merchant has your money there as well. Plus its a pain to return certain stuff or get the right size for clothes because every store is different. So I would rather give a gift card that I… Read more »

Mrs. Frugalwoods
Mrs. Frugalwoods

These are great suggestions and I didn’t realize you could sell unwanted gift cards online… this is a game changer :)! I also really like the idea of donating a card.

I have a ziplock bag full of gift cards that we are slowly using over time. You’d think we’d use them more quickly since we don’t buy much for ourselves, but they’re mostly to places we never shop at.

Jordan
Jordan

Many major retailers (think Best Buy, Target, Walmart, etc) sell gift cards. If I get a gift card I don’t like to one of those types of places, I use the gift card to buy a gift card somewhere else. I’ve used best buy gift cards to buy amazon gift cards in the past, and it works out great.

Petrish @ Debt Free Martini
Petrish @ Debt Free Martini

All good ideas to keep in mind. I normally just throw them away, which I realize could equate to throwing away money. No…No…No…that can not happen anymore.

lmoot
lmoot

Hmm, can’t say I’ve ever met a gift card I didn’t want. It’s free money. I can’t imagine that there isn’t anything in an entire store or restaurant that I couldn’t find a use for.

I find it exciting to look for something I’d like in a store/ venue I wouldn’t normally think to shop at myself. Isn’t that the point of gifts? To get someone something they may not have thought to get for themselves? Maybe I’m just too easy to please!

Tricia
Tricia

I hate it when you get a GC where you have to pony up some of your own money to spend it. I have two GC that have been sitting in my desk for year. One is one of those spa GC that you are supposed to be able to use at various spas, but no one around here takes them. Another is for a restaurant that you need to make reservations for a month in advance. Besides the fact that I never eat out, the chances of me knowing a month in advance when I’m going to have a… Read more »

Amy C
Amy C

By all means, you can use that gift card to that restaurant that has your name on it. Just phone in an order to go and pick it up and use it that way. I can’t think of any restaurant that would turn down a to go order.

Seester
Seester

Kwanzaa, not Kwanzza. Now I will read the rest of the article.

Samantha
Samantha

It’s also DEnomination:

“Gift cards from nearly every retailer and of every nomination are available.”

Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom
Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom

I’m challenging myself to use up all my gift cards before Christmas comes around again. I do think gift cards are a good gift, I just don’t seem to use them up fast enough!

Steve @ Live Smart Not Hard
Steve @ Live Smart Not Hard

I’ve sold quite a few through the gift card websites. The best surprise is collecting 3 or 4 you’ve collected over the years and then getting a nice check. Check out giftcardgranny.com. Sounds like a ridiculous name, but it’s an aggregate for some of the companies buying and selling gift cards. You can often find the best price there.

mary w
mary w

If it’s for a store, use it to buy presents for someone else. For example, a $25 Body Shop gift card stacked with sales/coupons could get you several stocking stuffer type gifts for others.

Grace @ Investment Total
Grace @ Investment Total

The best thing to do with the Christmas gifts you don’t want is to appreciate it and keep it.

Tyler @ Debt Reckoning
Tyler @ Debt Reckoning

I’ve actually had good success off-loading unwanted gift cards on eBay. However, I have to really not like the store, or find the products there unusable, to take the hit on trading the card for cash.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman

I think they make fine gifts IF you know for sure the recipient-to-be likes them.

And here’s what I suggest doing with the ones you don’t want:

http://donnafreedman.com/2014/12/17/13-ways-use-unwanted-gift-cards/

Fred
Fred

Forbes recently wrote an article about one of the largest gift card exchanges in the world, cardcash.com. A couple recommendations: First, when I buy a gift card, I always get the gift card activation receipt and include it with the card when I gift it, in case there are any issues. I also keep my copy of the receipt. (Many years ago, I saw a cashier trainee transact a gift card purchase but didn’t activate it for the buyer. The supervisor was distracted at the time. I mentioned it to the supervisor when I got up to the counter, and… Read more »

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