Top Questions About Pre-Owned Gift Cards
If you are new to the gift card secondary market (buying and selling used gift cards) and have a gift card you want to sell for cash or want to buy pre-owned discount gift cards to save on upcoming expenses, then you have landed in the right place. Though thousands of people buy and sell discount gift cards every day, the more you know about the process, the more positive your experience will be. Below are my answers to the top questions asked about how to safely buy and sell discount gift cards:
Have other questions about discount gift cards? Add a comment below.
On Selling Gift Cards…
As people become increasingly aware that they can sell gift cards for cash, the question I am asked most often is, “how much money will I get?” When I explain that the cash back offer will be less than the card is worth, many people balk at the response saying they would rather have full price. So would I! I would also rather get a full price offer if I sell a car I don’t want or the jacket (new with tags) that I’ve never worn. But that’s not how reseller markets work, and gift cards are no different.
Watch this video to hear my answer on why I think selling gift cards for cash is a smart move.
1. Where Can I Sell a Gift Card?
SHORT ANSWER: Online, via mobile apps and in some (very few) retail locations.
There are a number of gift card resellers that will buy your gift card and give you cash, another gift card or even cryptocurrency in exchange. But how do you know where to find them and which gift card resellers to trust? My advice is to use a reputable reseller that provides basic consumer protection.
Gift Card Exchange Websites and Apps
Gift Card Granny, a gift card aggregator site (think of them as the Expedia of gift cards) created a partner program encouraging gift card resellers listed on their site to adhere to their Consumer Protection Guidelines which essentially includes the items listed above.
Below are some of the gift card resellers listed on their site, some of which I have personally used.
There are other gift card resellers on the Internet as well. These are just a few that appear to offer the consumer protections I recommend.
Exchange Kiosks and In-Person Options
When you want to get cash for your gift card quickly, there are a few other choices such as gift card exchange kiosks (often found in grocery stores) and gift card reseller partner locations such as payday loans and cash advance merchants. The following sites have in-person exchange locations:
If you opt to sell your gift card at one of these places, the offer will probably be less than you would get dealing with an online merchant.
I only sell gift cards to gift card resellers that offer the following services:
The Dangers of Auction Sites and Want Ads
Although you can sell gift cards on sites like Ebay, Craigslist, Nextdoor and so forth, I do not recommend selling gift cards directly to people you don’t know.
If someone steals the gift card value without paying for it (see Gift Card Sellers Beware below), there will be very little (or nothing) you can do about it. A gift card reseller, on the other hand, acts as a broker by providing a safe transaction for both the buyer and the seller.
Other Ways to Use Unwanted Gift Cards
There are other options when you get a gift card you don’t want. Read this post on things you can do with unwanted gift cards for ideas.
Rather buy NEW gift cards? Best places to buy NEW gift cards on sale.
2. Can I Trade a Gift Card for a Gift Card?
SHORT ANSWER: Kinda, sorta.
A few years ago, you could take a gift card back to a retailer and use the gift card to buy a new gift card at full value. That is seldom the case any longer. Now to trade a gift card for another gift card, you generally have to sell the unwanted gift card to a reseller for less than face value and, if possible, accept a different gift card in return. Here are some examples:
- Target Gift Cards. At some Target stores, you can trade unwanted gift cards for Target gift cards. I just “traded” a $25 Best Buy gift card for a Target gift card valued at $16.50. The offer is much lower than it would be if I sold the gift card directly to an online reseller, but the payout is instant and easy to use since I was already at Target.
- Amazon Gift Cards. At Cardpool, you can select an Amazon.com egift card as payment and receive a payout that is 6% higher than if you opt to sell a gift card for cash. The Amazon.com egift card will be delivered fairly quickly via email. I entered a $25 Best Buy gift card at Cardpool and received an offer for a $22.38 check in the mail or a $23.72 Amazon egift card sent to my email.
- Any Gift Card.CardKangaroo says you can trade a gift card for a gift card, but the way it works is this. You enter the amount of the unwanted gift card. CardKangaroo gives you an offer. That amount can be used to select a discount gift card in the denominations available. For example, I entered a $25 Best Buy gift card and received an offer for $22.03 in trade value. Then I found a $25 Fandango gift card discounted to $21.63. That left a balance of .40 in my CardKangaroo account for a later purchase. (If the new gift card you want sells for more than the trade-in offer, you’ll have to pay the difference.) You’ll have to physically mail in the unwanted gift card before receiving the new gift card, which could take a few days.
As I find other ways to trade gift cards, I will add them to this list.
3. How Much Will I Get Paid for My Gift Card?
SHORT ANSWER: Depends on supply and demand.
Just like you learned in Econ 101, the cash back offer largely depends on supply and demand. The more popular the card is, the higher the cash back offer will be because the reseller will be able to sell the card quickly. Gift cards that can be used at many nationwide locations and for a wide assortment of merchandise (like Target and Walmart) will generally fetch the highest value, and gift cards to specialty shops like teen clothing retailers or lesser-known restaurants will be worth less. If a reseller already has several gift cards from a particular merchant in stock, then cash back offers may temporarily decrease until the supply evens out. And lastly, as mentioned above, the payout offer can fluctuate based on the payment method selected.
Gift Card Resellers generally boast returns as high as 92% cash back, but I have also seen offers as low as 65% online and 50% in stores.
Is it worth it? If you do not believe you’ll ever use the gift card, then yes, I think it’s better to have money you will use than a full-value gift card that sits in your wallet indefinitely.
Here’s more on when I think selling a gift card is the best option.
4. Are There Gift Cards I Can’t Sell?
SHORT ANSWER: Yes.
Gift card resellers buy high-demand gift cards that they can safely and quickly sell to other people. They also want buyers to have a positive experience with the cards (remember that money-back guarantee?) so gift cards that come with restrictions may not be accepted. Below are some examples of gift cards that reputable gift card resellers may not accept:
- Open Loop Gift Cards (e.g. Visa® gift cards, Mastercard® gift cards). The secondary gift card exchange works because people do not want to be tied to a particular brand or location. Visa or Mastercard gift cards, for example, are redeemable in so many places that the gift card is almost as flexible as cash. So the margin is low and the potential for fraud is high. (Why would someone sell a card that can be used so easily?)
- Local Brand Gift Cards. Gift card resellers want to buy and sell gift cards quickly. The demand for a local brand or a smaller regional brand gift cards may not be high enough to justify getting involved.
- Gift Cards to Stores in Bankruptcy or Financial Trouble. This is a story I know all too well. On my Gift Cards in Bankruptcy post, I keep a list of list of gift cards that are no longer usable or are potentially vulnerable. Resellers stop buying gift cards if they think the store will go out of business, because they do not want to be holding useless gift cards themselves nor will they sell them to customers.
- SOME Merchandise Return Credits. Merchandise return credit (MRC) cards are generally accepted by gift card resellers unless the merchant places restrictions on these cards. For example, some merchants block automatic balance inquiry for their MRC cards and other merchants only allow their MRC cards to be used in stores. If a reseller believes restrictions will create problems for buyers, then they may opt not to accept those cards.
- Gift Cards Linked to an Account. Few reputable resellers buy gift cards that can only be validated when linked to an account. You cannot check the balance of an iTunes gift card, for example, without adding it to your iTunes account. Once the card is linked to an account, it will be deemed fraudulent if someone else tries to link the same card to a different account. Starbucks cards work similarly. So most gift card resellers will avoid buying gift cards to stores with that restriction.
- Gift Cards That Require Manual Balance Checks. Though some gift card resellers employ people to manually verify gift card balances, others rely on automated balance inquiry systems to speed up the buying and re-selling process. If a merchant blocks that automation, then a reseller may avoid buying their gift cards.
- Gift Cards that Expire. Rebate incentive cards, BOGO gift cards from the holidays and other promotional gift cards that have expirations dates will generally not be accepted by gift card resellers.
In addition to the reasons listed here, each gift card reseller has their own proprietary recipe for deciding which gift cards to buy and sell. That recipe is as much dependent on strategy (e.g. manual versus automated balance checks) as it is on adapting to customer behaviors and potential scams. If a reseller has a sudden uptake in fraud with a particular merchant card, the company may stop buying or selling that gift card until the threat is mitigated.
If you have a legitimate card that you cannot sell at your favorite reseller, check other gift card resellers or list it in a reseller marketplace where you are selling direct to another consumer under the resellers watch.
5. How do I Send in My Card or Code?
SHORT ANSWER: By mail or electronic delivery.
Most gift card resellers will accept either a physical gift card or an electronic submission of the gift card code (gift card number and PIN). In general, digital delivery is a faster and more secure transaction. (No worries that the gift card will get lost in the mail.)
Submit codes electronically or mail physical gift cards with a free USPS shipping label
Submit codes electronically or mail physical gift cards with a free USPS shipping label
Submit codes electronically or mail physical gift cards with a free USPS shipping label
Submit codes electronically
Mail physical gift cards with provided shipping label
Mail physical gift cards with provided shipping label
If you sell a PLASTIC gift card through Raise, Cardpool’s Marketplace or SaveYa’s listing options, you will have to send the plastic gift card directly to the gift card buyer rather than to the reseller.
6. How do I Get Paid?
SHORT ANSWER: Check, Direct Deposit, PayPal, Amazon egift card and even Bitcoin.
Every gift card reseller has a different set of payment options. This is an area of gift card exchange that I think will change over time. Years ago, nearly all gift card resellers sent payment via a check in the mail. Now most resellers have digital payout options including PayPal, egift cards and even cryptocurrency.
Below are the payout options listed on the following gift card reseller websites:
Check in the mail, Amazon egift card (for 6% higher return) via email
Direct deposit to a bank account, PayPal or check in the mail
ACH payment, PayPal or a check in the mail
PayPal, check in the mail, discount gift card
What About Bitcoin? A Google search will reveal several merchants that let you buy gift cards with Bitcoin such as eGifter, Gyft and a handful of others. If you want to use Bitcoin to make a purchase at a retailer that does not accept cryptocurrency, you could buy a gift card first and then use that gift card to make a purchase. Just an option.
There are fewer businesses, however, that let you sell gift cards for Bitcoin. I have never used these services so I cannot vouch for them so please use the same judgment you would with any gift card reseller. Paybis will apparently accept Amazon or Walmart gift cards only. Paxful will buy a handful of other gift cards including iTunes, Amazon, Target, GameStop, Best Buy and Steam in exchange for Bitcoin.
7. When Will I Get the Money?
SHORT ANSWER: Depends on the payment method selected.
The time it takes to receive payment for a gift card depends on how you send the card value to the reseller, the payment method you select and the company’s business model. For example, if you mail in a physical gift card and select to receive a check in the mail for payment, then you are probably looking at a 2-3 week turnaround. If you send in a gift code and select an Amazon egift card in exchange, you could potentially get paid that same day. In either case, however, the gift card reseller’s business practices and policies may add delays such as a “cooling off” period for the card, time to do a manual balance check or fraud screening.
Below are the payment times listed for the following gift card resellers:
Raise puts the proceeds from your sale into a Raise account. When you receive an email that funds have been added, you log into the site and select a withdrawal method.
SaveYa also puts the proceeds from your sale into a SaveYa account. When you receive an email that funds have been added, you log into the site and select a withdrawal method. Once the funds are requested, it may take 2-3 business days to deliver funds to your account as follows:
Paypal deposit will be made 10-14 business days after the sale.
|Gift Card Bin|
Paypal deposit will take anywhere from 3 to 10 business days after your gift card is received and verified.
Once gift cards are verified, payment will be made as follows:
Remember, if you send a physical card and elect to receive payment by check, the time to get your money will be significantly longer than if you submit the gift code electronically and request a digital deposit.
8. How Do I Protect Myself From Fraud?
SHORT ANSWER: Work with a trusted reseller and treat the gift code like cash.
The most important thing to remember is that the value of a gift card can be used without having the physical plastic in your possession. The gift code–a combination of the gift card number and PIN–can be used online and it can be loaded into a mobile wallet or gift card app for use in stores. In general, I love this flexibility! It means I can use most gift cards online and I don’t have to carry around a wallet full of plastic gift cards in order to redeem them in stores. I’m also less likely to forget to use gift cards because they are always handy on my phone. This ease, however, creates opportunity for someone to steal a gift card code even though you are still holding the plastic.
In this list of gift card scams you can easily avoid, I share some examples of how gift card sellers have been swindled out of their money. A simple scenario is when a buyer asks to see a gift card or listen to a balance inquiry call to make sure the gift card has the stated value before sending payment. Though this may seem like a reasonable request, allowing it gives the buyer access to the gift code. The fraudulent buyer then quickly uses the code to make an online purchase before the seller even knows what has happened.
To safely sell gift cards for cash, only work with a reputable reseller that offers a money-back guarantee and customer service to help if problems arise. Treat the gift code like cash and don’t let anyone have access to it until you have been paid.
On Buying Discount Gift Cards…
If you’ve ever heard the saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” then you understand the need for the gift card secondary market. Despite our best efforts, sometimes we just give people gift cards they don’t want or can’t use. Rather than let these gift cards go to waste, people sell their unwanted gift cards for cash to gift card resellers. The gift card reseller then sells the unwanted gift card to somebody else–for a higher price than the cash offer, but still less than face value.
This secondary gift card market has created an increasingly popular way for people to save money on planned expenses. Before making a purchase, buy a discount gift card. Save even more by stacking the gift card savings onto in-store promotions, coupons and sales. Here’s an example of how I stack discount gift cards to save money.
1. Where Can I Buy Discount Gift Cards?
SHORT ANSWER: Online and via mobile apps.
Although you will find pre-owned gift cards for sale on virtual want-ads, social media and online auction sites, I only work with gift card exchange sites that offer consumer protection such as the following features:
- Money-Back Guarantee. If someone sells me a gift card and then fraudulently uses the value of the gift card, I want to know that the gift card reseller will give me a refund.
- Customer Service. If I am trying to use a discount gift card that doesn’t work, I want to be able to contact a customer service representatives for assistance.
- Security. Reputable gift card resellers put processes in place to reduce potential gift card exchange fraud. These security measures help ensure the gift cards I buy will be usable for their stated value.
Gift Card Resellers. Below is a list of gift card resellers that claim to offer these features. I have used many of them with complete satisfaction. Some discount gift cards arrive faster than others, some are easier to redeem and some have a wider selection of discount gift cards available. But despite their differences, the one thing they have consistently delivered is gift cards containing the value promised at the time of purchase.
Word of Caution! Just as it is important to work with a trusted reseller when selling gift cards, you must be careful about who you buy pre-owned discount gift cards from as well. Because the value of a gift card can be used without the plastic gift card present, there is always the potential for someone to sell you a gift card, take your payment and then quickly use the value of the gift card by entering the gift code online. For this reason, I am a stickler about only buying discount gift cards from reputable resellers.
2. How Much Money Can I Save with Discount Gift Cards?
SHORT ANSWER: Depends on the popularity of the gift card.
Gift cards that are easy to use (meaning the merchant has multiple locations and offers a wide selection of merchandise) are in high demand so the discounts available are generally less than if you are buying gift cards to specialty merchants like shoe stores, small restaurants or teen clothing retailers. Although gift card resellers often boast of discounts as high as 35%, I more often see discounts ranging from 3% to 22%, depending on the popularity of the card. To increase your savings, however, I have a few tips:
- Shop More Than One Reseller. If you are looking for a discount gift card to a particular store or restaurant, check prices at more than one reseller. Often times the discounts offered may be within a point of each other, but sometimes I find a reseller offering bigger discounts to move larger quantities of inventory for a time.
- Go Where the Sale Takes You. If the item you want to buy is available at more than one merchant, buy the gift card that offers the greatest savings. For example, Levi jeans are sold at Kohl’s, JCPenney, Macy’s and a other department stores. If you want to buy a new pair of Levi’s, then buy a discount gift card to the department store with the highest discount gift cards before going to the store. (And remember, discount gift card savings can be stacked onto in-store sales and applicable coupons. So it may take some calculations to figure out the best overall deal, but doing so can save a lot of money.)
- Buy Gift Cards Within a Brand Family. Because gift cards within a brand family are often redeemable within a company, you may be able to save more money if you buy a gift card to a different store than you intend to shop. For example, I once used a Baby Gap gift card to save on back-to-school clothes at Old Navy because the Baby Gap gift card sold for less than the Old Navy gift card. (Here’s more about how I saved using discount gift cards
3. How Will I Get My Discount Gift Card?
SHORT ANSWER: By mail or electronic delivery.
As I have mentioned a few times now, the value of a gift card is really stored in the gift card code which is a combination of the gift card number, PIN and expiration date (if it’s an open-loop gift card). So you do not really need to receive the physical discount gift card in order to go shopping. Most resellers give you the option to buy physical or digital discount gift cards.
Purchase Verification Delay. Keep in mind that your discount gift card purchase will have to be verified before the gift card or gift code is sent. So although you may initially receive an email telling you that the gift card order has been received, delivery will not begin until payment is verified.
These are the gift card delivery options reported by the resellers listed below.
|Cardpool||Digital gift cards are typically delivered by email within 10 minutes but could take up to 1 business day if further verification is needed. Physical gift cards are sent via USPS and should arrive within 3-7 business days.|
|Raise||The Raise website does not specify how long it takes to receive a card, but a customer service agent told me that egift vouchers are processed within an hour and physical cards are mailed out within 3-14 days.|
|SaveYa||Digital gift codes are available within minutes of order approval and plastic gift cards should arrive via USPS mail in 3-14 business days.|
|GiftCard Zen||Digital delivery can take anywhere from 30 minutes up to 4 hours in some cases. Physical gift cards will arrive within 3-10 business days via USPS.|
|Gift Card Bin||Digital gift cards take up 1-2 business days to post to your GiftCardBin account. The GiftCardBin website does not state when physical gift cards will be delivered.|
|CardKangaroo||Digital gift cards are emailed in less than 1 hour. Physical gift cards will ship the next business day.|
Each reseller has their own fraud protection and security screening procedures. First time buyers may be asked to provide additional verification and/or speak to a customer service representative before an order is shipped. Please read each site’s detailed instructions when making your first purchase and be sure to respond to text messages or phone calls made to the number provided shortly after you place an order.
4. How do I Use Discount Gift Codes?
SHORT ANSWER: Print the gift code or present it on your phone (mobile wallet, gift card app, screenshot, etc.)
Step 1: Get the Discount Gift Code. How you receive discount egift cards varies by gift card reseller. Some resellers add the gift code to your reseller account so you have to log in to get it, some send emails containing gift codes or add the cards directly to gift card apps and others send links via email that you have to click to obtain your gift codes. Though the process varies, the end result is that you generally have a gift card number (and possibly a bar code or QR code) to use at checkout.
Step 2: Follow the Reseller Instructions.I think it’s important to pause here and say that although most NEW plastic and digital gift cards can be used in stores and online without boundaries, there may be some restrictions in the pre-owned gift card market. I once bought a discount egift card that said “online only,” thinking I could still use it at the store like the other egift cards I buy. I was wrong. Although the egift card looked like the others in my mobile wallet, the merchant system would not accept it in the store. So be sure to pay attention to the reseller’s instructions on how and where their gift cards can be used.
Step 3: Use the Discount eGift Code. If the discount gift code is usable in stores, then there are a variety of ways you can use it without having a plastic gift card present. You can print the email containing the gift card, bring the gift card up on your phone when you get to the store, add the gift code to a mobile wallet or gift card app or take a screen shot of the code and present the image to the cashier. To be honest, I have done all of these things and taking a picture of the gift card is by far one of the easiest ways to use digital gift cards in stores. I can always find pictures on my phone. I do not always have as much luck using other tools on my phone when I am at stores because sometimes the cell service is sketchy or I panic and cannot remember my log in password or the gift card isn’t where I remember seeing it last. (Trust me. I’ve held up more checkout lines than I care to admit.)
Here is more information on how to use egift cards in stores.
5. Are There Discount Gift Card Apps?
SHORT ANSWER: Yes.
Saving with discount gift cards is great, but you do have commit your money to a brand before buying the merchandise you want. So this is one of the reasons I like using discount gift card apps. With a reliable app, I can buy the discount gift cards I need after I have selected merchandise but before going to the cash register. I do, however, want to share a few tips on that.
Shop Online. Discount gift codes work beautifully when you are shopping online because you can surf for what you want and THEN decide to buy a discount gift card to offset the cost. I do this frequently. I’ll figure out something I want to buy, put it in my shopping cart, then look for discount gift cards I can use to reduce the total cost of purchase.
Allow Extra Time in Stores. I have also purchased discount gift cards while at the store, but I only do this if I have time to wait. Because the purchase needs to be verified, it’s possible I’ll get a call from the reseller or have to wait a few minutes (or more) to get the discount code delivered to my email. And then there’s the issue of cellular connections and reliable wi-fi in stores to think about as well. If I do not have time to wait while shopping, I buy discount gift cards at home and hold off on the actual trip until the codes or cards arrive.
Below are some gift card resellers that have discount gift card apps that can be used on a mobile device:
6. How Do I Protect Myself From Fraud?
SHORT ANSWER: Work with a trusted reseller and use gift cards as soon as possible.
The two most important things you can do to protect yourself from fraud when buying discount gift cards is to buy gift cards from a trusted gift card reseller and use the discount gift card right away.
Use a Trusted Gift Card Reseller. The most common type of fraud in the gift card reseller industry is when someone sells a gift card to a reseller, collects payment and then quickly uses the value of the gift card before the new owner finds out. Now, most resellers have several security measures in place to prevent this such as holding a credit card on file so they can charge the seller or cancel payment if the gift card balance is compromised. Resellers also check the balance of gift cards several times to be sure stated values are still on cards before selling them to new owners. Despite these efforts, however, occasionally someone buys a discount gift card only to find out the card has no value. That’s why I only buy gift cards from resellers that offer a money-back guarantee and customer service to help me resolve any issues.
Use Discount Gift Cards Quickly. Gift card resellers will offer a money-back guarantee, but not indefinitely. So use pre-owned gift cards as soon as possible after you buy them. Since most people buy discount gift cards for self-use (as opposed to giving them for gifts), the urgency to use these cards quickly is reasonable.
I have already explained this above multiple times, but it is worth repeating here. There are many people offering to sell you discount gift cards on social media sites, online auctions and virtual want-ads. Though doing so may be tempting, I urge you to only work with trusted gift card resellers that are actively working to make the secondary gift card market a safe place to buy and sell pre-owned gift cards. And if anyone EVER offers to sell you a gift card for full value or even a little extra, this is a red flag that something is not quite right. Read this post for more information on gift card fraud.
More Gift Card Reseller Questions?
So what other questions do you have about buying discount gift cards and selling the gift cards you don’t want? Let me know in the comments below. I’ve been buying and selling gift cards since the early days of gift cards–since they first came out. Back in those days, you had to send in plastic gift cards, wait a week or so for payment or buy discount gift cards 10 or more days before you planned to go shopping. Thankfully, those time-tables are shorter now, but the process is pretty similar. Just sell gift cards you don’t want and buy those that you do. The secondary gift card market may not be for everyone and it does take a little effort to learn, but the savings can be significant so I think the investigation is worth it.
Happy Gift Carding!
~Shelley Hunter, Gift Card Girlfriend