By Claudine Zap
Gift cards seem like the perfect present: They're great for last-minute procrastinators. But if you're on the receiving end, getting one may be more of a chore or a bore, depending on the card you receive.
The problem is that like any gift, it can reflect the taste of the giver rather than the givee. And so the fate of many gift cards is a long, forgotten life in a sock drawer. But consider this bright idea: Exchange it for cold, hard cash.
Here's how to works, according to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle: You fill out a form at an online gift-card exchange site like Plastic Jungle, Cardpool, or Gift Card Rescue. You send in the card -- or at least ones with no expiration date with at least a $25 value. The companies then send you cash, usually about 80 to 85% of the card value. These sites turn around and sell your gift card -- at a discount -- to someone who wants it (or wants to give it away).
This is no small problem, if searches on Yahoo! are a guide: Pre-Christmas lookups for "electronic gift cards" on Yahoo! rose 3,500% in just one week. Also showing big gains: "unique gift cards," "itunes gift cards," "where to buy ikea gift cards," "gift cards at cvs," "mobile gas gift cards," and well, we could go on and on.
Don't think you're alone in wanting to trade in your gift: Some reports say that 10% of all gift cards go unused.
The site Plastic Jungle will trade you even more if you choose Amazon credit, Pay Pal credit or even donate the value of the card to your favorite charity, instead of dollars. You can also go the DIY route and bid on sites like eBay for cards you want, or want to sell. Or you can swap cards on sites like swapagift.com.
If none of this moves you, consider this: According to one figure, $5 billion put into gift cards went unspent last year. Not convinced? Then pay it forward and re-gift your gift card.
Have some good ideas for what to do with unwanted gift cards? Share your secrets.