Personal Finance

3 Ways to Unload Unwanted Gift Cards

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There’s a good chance that among the gifts you get this holiday season, at least one will be a gift card. They are easy to buy and give, and often popular with those who receive them. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual holiday survey, six in 10 (59.8%) of those polled say they’d like to receive gift cards this year, up from 57.7 percent last year — and the most in the survey’s history.

But that doesn’t mean everyone welcomes or uses gift cards. You may get a card to a restaurant you aren’t interested in eating at, for example, or a store that’s not convenient for you to shop at. A recent national survey by Consumer Reports found that 15 percent said they still had at least one unused card from 2011.

Here are three ways to get rid of a gift card:

Sell Your Unwanted Gift Cards

There are a number of websites that likely will be glad to buy your gift card. You’ll sell it for less than the full value and they will take a cut when they resell it to a buyer.

Several sites make it easy to sell gift cards. On PlasticJungle.com, for example, you can sell a card for up to 92% of its value (depending on the retailer) and get paid by check, with an Amazon gift certificate or via Paypal. Partially redeemed gift cards can be sold as long as the balance is at least $25. CardPool.com touts free shipping both ways and aims to put buyers at ease with its Purchase Guarantee Program that allows customers to return an unused gift card for within 100 days for a full refund. Other gift card sites include GiftCardRescue.com and ABCGiftCards.com. GiftCardGranny.com aggregates offers from various sites so you can instantly compare how much you can get for your card.

Regift It

If a card is still in good condition, you may want to give it to someone you know will use it. Of course, the tricky part can be having the right card for the right situation. If you received one featuring holiday scenes, it won’t exactly be appropriate to give as a birthday gift. And Grandma probably won’t know what to do with a Hollister gift card.

But done right, regifting a gift card can make sense. A real-life example: my daughter won a Barnes and Noble gift card in a school reading program, but since she has a Kindle, she is more likely to buy ebooks on Amazon than to pick a book up in the store. So she gave the card to someone who has a Nook and can use the card to buy a Nook book.

Just make sure you double check the value of your gift card before you hand it to someone else. You don’t want to give one you’ve partially used, or if it’s an older card, one that may have lost value due to fees!

Donate it to Charity

Many local charities will happily accept gift cards that they can then pass on to those who may need them. Grocery, gas, and chain discount store cards are especially appreciated, but even cards for local restaurants or clothing stores may be welcome. You can ask a local charity you’d like to support if they would like your gift cards. If not, you can sell them and donate the proceeds.

Gift Card: Good Gift or Bad?

“You may immediately think you won’t use the gift card you’ve just received, but give it some thought before you make the effort to ditch it,” says Trae Bodge, Senior Editor, RetailMeNot Insider. “For instance, if you receive a store gift card, just because you don’t shop regularly at that store doesn’t mean you can’t use the card. You may not buy clothes at Macy’s, but they also carry furniture, personal care products and small appliances.” Bodge suggests that if you do decide to use a card you’ve received, visit RetailMeNot.com first and look for coupons to stretch the dollar amount farther.

If you decide to get rid of a gift card, don’t feel guilty, especially if you think it may lure you into buying stuff you don’t really need or want. According to GiftCardGranny.com, 61% of gift card holders spend more than the amount of their gift card, and 75% of those who overspend spend 60% more than the value of their card.

Image: bfishadow, via Flickr

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