The gist: Sell unwanted gift cards for cash or buy them at a discount!
Gifts cards are great. They’re quick, easy and safe. You don’t have to spend unnecessary time putting thought into gifts for your loved ones—no need to prod around for ideas or pretend to take an interest in their hobbies or endeavors. Head to Wal-Mart, grab a handful of plastic and call it a holiday.
But sometimes, even gift cards miss the mark. Unlike traditional gifts, gift cards offer versatility by providing the recipient the option to choose his or her own gift. You only need a vague idea of what Cousin Mildred is into these days to satisfy your familial obligation. But what if you buy her a gift card to Spatula World only to discover she fell victim to a traumatic burger-flipping accident this autumn? Then what? Gift cards are almost always nonrefundable, and even though Spatula World has attempted to diversify its wares by stocking knitting supplies and loofas in recent years, good luck getting Milly to set foot in that godforsaken establishment. Wow. Good job, cousin. You really know how to spread the holiday cheer.
Poor Mildred bites her tongue, bows her head and says thanks, unable to muster an ounce of conviction. But there is hope! That $200 gift card doesn’t have to go to waste. A number of websites will gladly buy it for cash, and she can take her business elsewhere.
Where to sell your gift cards
There are a handful of gift card exchange sites eager to purchase your unwanted gift cards. Our main piece of advice is to make sure you shop around before committing. Such sites buy gift cards at a percentage of their actual value (generally anywhere from 50-90%), and you want to make sure you get the best deal. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you’ll get the same rate regardless of where you sell. Gift Card Rescue will buy your Barnes & Noble gift card for 78% of its actual value, while Gift Card Castle offers a pathetic 55%—that’s a $23 difference on a $100 gift card!
Here’s a small sampling of rates you can expect from major gift card buyers. The numbers represent the percentage of the card’s value you can expect to receive. So for example, 86% means you will be receive $86 for a $100 gift card.
|Plastic Jungle||Cardpool||Monster Gift Card||GiftCards .com||Card Cash||Gift Card Rescue||I Buy Gift Cards||Gift Card Castle|
|Barnes & Noble||78%||77%||76%||73%||77%||78%||63%||55%|
By and large, we’d recommend sticking to Cardpool, Plastic Jungle and GiftCards.com. They’re trustworthy, established and fair. One of these three sites will almost always yield the best value for your card. But again, don’t limit yourself. Shop around as much as possible before settling on a site. You never know who will give you the best offer.
Buying discounted cards
Gift card swapping sites also allow you to purchase cards at discounted rates. You can save anywhere from 5-25% on most gift cards. This is a smart move for people trying to save a few bucks on post-holiday shopping. Of course, it requires a little patience. Rather than running out the day after Christmas and blowing all your holiday cash on everything Santa forgot, shop for gift cards online first. Say you want some jeans from Aeropostale. Right now, you can find Aeropostale gift cards discounted at 14% on Plastic Jungle and 10% on Cardpool. Once your cards arrive, that’s an automatic 10-14% savings with nothing to stop you from using additional coupons and discounts s in-store.
However, gift card availability is very limited and highly competitive. Big names like Target and Apple go fast and usually don’t offer great discounts. The best gift cards to shop for tend to be lesser-known (thought still mildly popular) chain stores. For example, right now you can get Michaels gift cards for an 18% discount on Cardpool and Boston Market gift cards for a 20% discount on Plastic Jungle.
Gift card exchange sites are particularly helpful for making high-value purchases. If there’s a exceptionally beautiful handcrafted giraffe sculpture at Pier 1 Imports screaming your name, and it will cost you a slightly excruciating $1,000 to acquire, hop on Cardpool and buy up gift cards at a 15.2% discount. Right now, Cardpool has a $1,000 Pier 1 gift card for $848—that’s over $150 you won’t have to spend!