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What To Do With Unused Gift Cards

Gift cards tend to make quick and easy gifts around the holidays, but unfortunately, they don’t always get used. I personally have about half a dozen different cards that have been floating around in my wallet for longer than I like to think about! It’s estimated that $750 million worth of gift cards will go unredeemed this year! That’s a whole lotta waste!

Rather than letting your plastic presents go to waste, consider these options for unused/unwanted gift cards this holiday:

Uses for Gift Cards

1. Use it to pay bills.

Don’t put the card in your wallet and wait for the perfect item to buy…..depending on the card and the retailer, you can use it to pay for stuff you normally would – even your bills (if your gift is a debit card from a bank.) You may even be able to convert your card to cash.  CardHub’s gift card exchange allows you to sell any gift card you wish at any price without charging any fees.

Uses for Gift Cards

The Kitchen Magpie has a great system for using up leftover Visa gift card balances. Genius! Check it out here.

Uses for Gift Cards

2. Sell them. 

A number of websites allow people to sell their gift cards online for a reduced amount or trade them for another card. You won’t get the full value of the original gift card card, but you will get cash or a card to use at a place you want. Check around and compare to find the one that gives you the best deal. Here are a few options: GiftCards.com, Cardpool.com and GiftCardRescue.com.

Uses for Gift Cards

If you don’t want to make your swap online, you can visit certain Coinstar kiosks. They accept gift cards from more than 150 retailers and restaurants, as long as they have a balance of at least $20. It will make you an offer for the card, and, if you accept, will provide you with a voucher you can then redeem for cash at the register of the shop the kiosk is located in.

Sell the cards to people you know who shop in those places. Don’t know anyone who does? Go to that store and sell it to someone there.

Uses for Gift Cards

3. Trade them with friends and colleagues. 

If you trust your friends and co-workers to tell the truth about the balances on their cards, set up a trading circle to match cards with recipients. Will you take two of my Starbucks for one of your Olive Garden’s?

Uses for Gift Cards

4. Track the balance. 

This is probably the main reason I don’t end up using up my gift cards….I don’t know how much is left on each one! You can usually discover the balance by visiting the issuer’s website, or you can use an app like Gyft or GoWallet to scan your card (or cards) and let it track the balance for you.

Uses for Gift Cards

5. Carry them in your smartphone. 

You can spend your gift cards using GoWallet, too, which is a lot more convenient than carrying them around. Apple Passbook and Google Wallet can do this for you as well.

Uses for Gift Cards

6. Donate them. 

Even if your card has a partial balance, most charities will happily accept it. Contact your favorite charity organization and ask if they accept donated gift cards. If your preferred charity does not, check out CharityGiftCertificates.org where you can choose a charity to donate the card to. Gift Card Giver also distributes cards to nonprofits and those in need. Giving the card away could lower your tax bill and extend that holiday generosity even more.

Possibly even consider giving them to homeless people as a random act of kindness.

Uses for Gift Cards

7. Regift them. 

If your card is in good condition (no partial balances please!) you can thoughtfully re-gift it to someone else. You may not like to shop at Bed Bath and Beyond, but for someone who does, that unused gift card cluttering your wallet will soon be happily spent. Most stores allow you to trade in old gift cards for new ones, so there is no need to worry about giving a card bearing outdated branding.

And rest assured….since passage of the The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, gift cards cannot expire until five years from the date they were issued or money was added.

If the above options don’t work for you, simply using your gift card is always a possibility! You would be hard-pressed to find a store from which you want or need nothing! Most stores carry some sort of essentials. For example, all clothing stores will have socks, all electronics stores will have headphones, and all hardware stores will have light bulbs.

Uses for Gift Cards

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Bright Ideas

  • I have an Eileen Fisher $50 gift card. Any suggestions on what to do with it? You can’t buy a thing in the store for $50. No store locally so have to shop online. Thanks

  • I will use them up even if there is only a balance of a few cents. Each time I purchase with one, I keep the register receipt wrapped around the card because at most retailers, the remaining balance prints out on the last purchase receipt.

    • The one thing to be aware of with Visa and MC gift cards is you need to tell the clerk the exact balance if your card does not have enough for the entire purchase. That way it can be entered as a payment for the specific amount left on the card, then use cash or other form of payment for the rest.

  • For those pesky MC or VISA cards with small balances, go to Amazon and use it to buy a gift card. (Enter it as a credit card; I read you can buy as little as .50.) Then apply the gift card to your amazon account.

  • I have gift cards that I would like to regift, however, the person who gave them to me wrote on the back. How would it look to remove the cardboard packaging and just give the plastic card?

  • I don’t know about other retailers, but at Starbucks, if you have a VISA or MC gift card with just a little bit on it, you can use that as a partial payment on your coffee, then pay the remainder with whatever you want. I get rid of a LOT of little balance cards that way!

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