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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 Slide or GoWallet to scan your card (or cards) and let it track the balance for you.
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.
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.
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.