Coinstar Exchange is one of the fastest ways to get cash back for your gift cards. Here are step-by-step instructions on how it works.
Many Ways to Sell Gift Cards for Cash
There are many ways to sell gift cards for cash. The most common way is to sell a gift card online to a gift card reseller (like Cardpool) that buys the unwanted gift card, sends payment to the seller and then resells the gift card to another customer. In addition to true resellers, there are also online sites that match gift card sellers up with gift card buyers, facilitating transactions without actually touching the cards.
One of the benefits of selling your gift card to an online reseller is that the cash back offer will generally be higher than any other method. The one drawback to using these sites, however, is that you’ll generally have to wait for payment to arrive. Depending on the reseller and payment method selected, you might wait a couple of days for a PayPal deposit or a few days for a check to arrive in the mail. Because the cashback offer is so good, however, I think online resellers are the best choice when you don’t mind waiting to get your money.
Need Cash Fast?
What if you’re in a hurry and don’t want to wait for an online gift card exchange of dollars for digits? The fastest way to get cash for a gift card is to sell your card at a Coinstar Exchange kiosk—the yellow one.
When I say “Coinstar,” you’re probably thinking of the green kiosk that sounds like a slot machine when people pour coins into the hopper. That’s not the machine you need. I’m talking about the counterpart called Coinstar Exchange. It’s yellow, it accepts gift cards in one of two ways and prints out a voucher for cash immediately. Then all you do is take the voucher to a cashier and get paid. One of the benefits of Coinstar Exchange is that you’ll get your money immediately.
Here’s the fastest way to get cash for gift cards:
- 1. Check the balance of your gift card.
- 2. Take the gift card to a Coinstar Exchange kiosk. (Find a Coinstar kiosk near you.)
- 3. Enter the gift card information into the system. (Here’s a list of gift cards accepted at Coinstar Exchange).
- 4. Review the cash back offer and decide if you want to accept it.
- 5. Upon acceptance, print the voucher.
- 6. Take the voucher to a cashier and get paid.
Now let me show you how Coinstar Exchange works in greater detail. In the steps below, you’ll see how we sold a $25 Best Buy gift card at a local Coinstar Exchange kiosk.
1. Check the Balance of your Gift Card (Minimum $20)
Even though the Coinstar Exchange machine will verify the balance of the gift card, you’ll want to know for yourself before accepting an offer. Plus, the kiosk will only accept gift cards with a balance minimum of $20. The easiest way to check the balance of your gift card is to look at the back of the card and either call the telephone number or go to the website listed.
2. Check the Shape of your Gift Card
When you get to the Coinstar Exchange machine, you’ll either have to swipe your gift card so the machine can read the magnetic stripe or you’ll have to hold the bar code up to a scanner. There is no way to key in the card number. According to the Coinstar website, “If your gift card is an odd shape, too big, too small, has cut-outs, or is a printout of an electronic gift certificate, you probably won’t be able to sell it at Coinstar Exchange.”
3. Bring your ID and Credit Card
I took my son with me to a Coinstar Exchange machine once and he asked the obvious question, “How does the machine know that there’s money on the gift card? Couldn’t someone just say it has $20 and get cash back?” The answer is no. The Coinstar Exchange kiosk will check the balance of the gift card before accepting it. But just to avoid any potential tomfoolery, you’ll need to provide your mobile phone number and email address, plus scan your driver’s license (or other valid state-issued ID) and a credit or debit card in order to complete the transaction.
4. Scan or Swipe your Gift Card
When you get to the machine, the first thing you’ll do is scan the bar code on the back of the gift card or swipe the card in the card reader. When the card is recognized, you’ll be asked to confirm the gift card retailer.
5. Enter the Gift Card PIN
Once you confirm the type of card you’re selling, you’ll be asked to enter additional information such as the Personal Identification Number (PIN) or Sequence Number on the back of the card.
6. Accept the Gift Card Offer
CoinStar Exchange pays up to 85% of the value of the gift card, but the amount of the offer you get will depend on the popularity of the gift card. Grocery store, gas station and large department store gift cards such as Target or Walmart generally fetch higher resale values than gift cards to smaller retailers. Though your experience may be different (exchange prices fluctuate frequently), we sold a $25 Best Buy gift card for $16.25.
Here’s a Tip! You can choose to accept the offer. Once you successfully enter the card information, the Coinstar Exchange machine will make you an offer for the card. If you are happy with the amount offered, then select “Accept.” If not, select “Decline.” You’re not obligated to complete the transaction until you accept the cash back offer.
7. Enter Customer ID
To complete the transaction and get cash back for your gift card, you’ll need to agree to some fraud prevention stipulations, enter your driver’s license number, a credit card number and your email address so the company can contact you if there is a problem.
8. Deposit Card and Take Receipt
Once you’ve agreed to fair play, say goodbye to your gift card and take the receipt from the Coinstar Exchange machine.
9. Get Your Cash
Now all that’s left is to get your money! Take the Coinstar Exchange receipt to the customer service counter or to a cashier who will scan the receipt and give you cash in return! It’s that easy! Take a gift card you don’t want and turn it into cash that can be spent anywhere in a matter of minutes.
Questions About Coinstar Exchange?
While we were at the grocery store selling this gift card, a customer approached me with three questions about how the Coinstar Exchange kiosk works. She said she’d walked by the machine many times, but was afraid to try it for fear the machine would take her card. I think her concern and questions are pretty common, so I want to answer them here as well.
1. What if I Think the Offer is Too Low? Will it Take My Card?
Though you enter the card information to find out what the offer will be, you’re not obligated to accept it. If you like the cash back offer, then you complete the transaction and deposit the gift card into the kiosk when asked. If you don’t like the offer, decline it, cancel the session and keep your card.
2. Can I Sell a Local Gift Card?
Some local brands are accepted but they mainly buy national and regional brands. Coinstar Exchange accepts approximately 150 gift cards from top stores and restaurants. If you have a local gift card that you don’t want, consider one of these ways to use an unwanted gift card instead.
3. Can I Sell My Visa Gift Card?
No. Though Visa®, MasterCard® and other bank-issued gift cards are accepted at a wide range of places–online, in stores, over the phone–they cannot be sold for cash at a Coinstar Exchange kiosk. Since we were standing in the grocery store, however, I suggested she use the card to buy groceries or pay for her prescriptions next time she visits the store.
Having never used this kiosk before our trip, I can honestly say that it is something I will consider trying again depending on the card I have and how quickly I want the money.
The process of exchanging a card for cash in this way takes a few minutes because you have to enter information about the card as well as provide personal identification, but it only takes a few seconds to get an offer. So there’s no harm in walking up to the machine, scanning your card, selecting a retailer and seeing how much money you can get. If you’ve got cards that have been in your wallet for a few months, then it’s worth taking a few minutes to see if you could get cash instead.
What other gift card questions do you have? Leave a note for me in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter (@GCGirlfriend). I never get tired of answering your gift card questions.
Happy Gift Carding!
~Shelley Hunter, Gift Card Girlfriend