What to Do with Unwanted Gift Cards

Courtesy of brandsCourtesy of brandsNathalie Matthews, Lucky magazine

The great thing about gift cards is that they let you buy whatever you want-except, you know, when you want cash. But it's pretty easy to turn them into that-or a present for someone else, which basically puts money back in your bank account-if you really don't want anything in the store. Here's how:

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1. Sell it on a gift card exchange site: Sites like Plastic Jungle, Cardpool and Gift Card Rescue each buy gift cards at a percentage of face value-but the deals they offer vary by merchants. (Ann Taylor gift cards are currently bought for 55 percent face value on Plastic Jungle, but 66 percent on Cardpool. On the flip side, Cardpool only offers 70 percent of face value for Dean & Deluca cards, while Plastic Jungle buys them for 75 percent.) Before committing to one site, check Gift Card Granny-it's got a comprehensive list of what those cards are trading for across the major sites, so you'll be sure to get the best deal for yours.

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2. Sell it on eBay: If you think you can get more for your gift card than 65 to 85 percent of face value-a rough average of what they sell for on the exchange sites-head over to eBay. (I once sold a $500 gift card on there for $465, which is 93 percent of face value.) I've found this is an especially good method for cards from smaller and mid-size merchants, which the exchange sites have less demand for and thus offer lower rates for. Just make sure your listing sets a bottom price limit that's reasonably high, so you don't end up giving your card away to the first bidder who types in "$1."

3. Sell it at a gift card kiosk: Redbox-style kiosks called Alulas are only available in a few states so far, but they make the process easier if you want to knock out the errand in person. Located in about a dozen supermarkets, they buy gift cards at 65 to 85 percent of face value.

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4. Regift it: If it's not an e-card and your name's not on it, why not? You would've spent money on a present anyway, so this just saves you cash. (In case you plan to hold onto that gift card for a while before you pass it off to someone else, though, make sure it doesn't expire. That'd be a tell-tale sign you're regifting.)


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