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Five Easy Ways to Use Unwanted Gift Cards

As a gift card lover, I rarely receive a gift card I don’t want. Some gift cards take a little more effort to use than others, but I typically find a way to get it done. There are times, however, when the cost of using a gift card outweighs the benefit. For example, traveling to use a gift card that can only be redeemed at an out-of-town store or restaurant may cost you more in time and gasoline than the gift card is worth. Paying shipping and handling charges in order to redeem an online gift card may be more than you want to spend. And paying the difference between a gift card’s value and the cost of goods available at the issuing store may be financially prohibitive as well. It’s not that these gift cards are unappreciated—they’re just hard to use. Unwanted gift cards, however, shouldn’t go to waste.

Below are five ways to use the gift cards you don’t want.

1. Sell unwanted gift cards for cash.

The easiest way to turn an unwanted gift card into good, old-fashioned dollars is to sell the card to a gift card reseller such as GiftCards.com. The amount of money you’ll receive will depend on the popularity of the gift card and the amount of inventory already in stock, but could be anywhere from 70 to 92 percent of the gift card’s value.

Although you could find a gift card buyer through social media or online classified ads, reputable gift card resellers are significantly safer to use, offering money-back guarantees, fraud prevention, and secure ways (check in the mail, PayPal deposit, MoneyGram instant pick-up) to receive cash back for your gift cards. Plus, at GiftCards.com, we have customer service representatives available to answer questions and assist if anything goes awry.

2. Donate unwanted gift cards.

Fundraising committees for schools, churches, clubs, and charities are always in need of gift cards that can be redeemed for supplies, auctioned at fundraisers, or given as prizes. Raffled individually or packaged into a gift basket, your unwanted gift card could net hundreds of dollars for a worthy cause.

Gift card donations to nonprofit organizations may also be tax-deductible.

3. Regift unwanted gift cards.

One year, my husband’s employer gave him two, 50-dollar gift cards to Benihana as an employee “thank you” gift. Benihana is one of our favorite restaurants, but we also happened to be a little pinched financially that year. So we kept one gift card to use and gave the other to his parents for Christmas. In this case, we certainly wanted the extra gift card, but decided to regift it in order save money during the holidays.

Before regifting a gift card, check the balance to be sure the amount is what you remember. If the gift card looks like it’s been in your wallet for a few months, take it to the retailer and use the unwanted gift card to buy a new, “mint condition,” gift card. You can also modify the gift card value at that time. For example, a partially-used gift card with a remaining balance of 34 dollars should be bumped up to 35 dollars or dropped down to 30 before it goes to someone else. A 50-dollar gift card could be split into two, 25-dollar gift cards. If you redeem the used-looking gift card online, you may be able to have the new gift card (or gift cards) wrapped, packaged, and delivered to the recipient, free of charge.

Check store policies on whether or not you can buy a gift card with a gift card. Most will allow it, but a few do not.

4. Buy presents with unwanted gift cards.

If you can’t find something to buy with the gift card you received, use it to buy a present for someone else. With birthdays and celebrations happening year round, you should be able to find things that other people will enjoy.

A good friend of mine keeps a stash of unopened toys on hand to be given at the revolving-door of birthday parties her kids attend. Because she plans ahead, the toys are purchased on sale–saving her a great deal of money. Unwanted gift cards can be used to do the same thing. Buy specific products for friends or purchase generic items such as candles, scarves, and toys that fit a variety of tastes. You may not be using the gift card as intended by the giver, but taking care of an upcoming expense could ease your budget enough to buy something you really want.

5. Give unwanted gift cards away.

The most selfless of all strategies for using an unwanted gift card is also the one that requires the least amount of effort. Simply give the gift card to someone else. Don’t pretend you bought the gift card, expect to get cash back, or ask for a donation receipt. Just give the gift card to someone who will appreciate it.

This afternoon, I walked over to the school to help decorate the classroom for my son’s fourth-grade winter party. While there, one of the other moms excitedly told us that she’d gotten a free latte from Starbucks that morning. Apparently, a man had come into the coffee shop, prior to her arrival, with a Starbucks gift card he didn’t want. He gave it to the cashier and told her to use the gift card to pay for as many customers as possible. Delighted recipients not only expressed gratitude for his generosity, but also wanted to keep it going–declining to order additional items so the anonymous gift would last longer.

Whether giving the gift card to someone you know or to a complete stranger, the good feeling you receive from being charitable may be just the thing you needed after all.

If you don’t use a gift card within the first few months of receiving it, chances are, you simply won’t use it at all. For whatever reason, the gift card doesn’t work for you. Rather than hold onto an unwanted gift card indefinitely, put the gift card to use in another way. You may get cash back, presents to be given later, or good feelings you’ll never forget.

Worried the gift card you bought will become someone else’s unwanted gift card? Never fear. You can’t go wrong if you follow my advice–5 Steps to Giving the Right Gift Card Every Time.

Happy Gift Carding!

~GCG

P.S. Want more gift cards? Share your #giftcard love via the links below!