Cash In On Your Gift Cards

Category: Finance

Your well-meaning niece was only thinking of your health and karma when she gave you that gift card from a vegan restaurant for Christmas. But now how do you get rid of the thing? Rather than throw it away, here’s how to convert it and other unwanted gift cards to cash. Read on for details, and some bonus tips on how to buy gift cards at a discount!

Online Gift Card Exchanges

A host of Web sites act as gift card exchanges, buying unwanted cards for less than the value stored on them and reselling them at higher prices (though still less than stored value). Some sites offer up to 92% of stored value for certain cards, and resell cards for as little as 65% of their stored value.

What you may get for a given card depends on how easily the buyer can resell it. A Walmart gift card has a higher cash value than a card from a local vegan restaurant, or one from Brooks Brothers for that matter, simply because there are more potential buyers. The discount the buyer figures he will have to give when he sells the card also affects what he will offer for it.

A typical gift card sale via a Web exchange goes like this:

  • You type the card’s issuer name (e. g., “Target”) and the amount stored on it into an online calculator, and get an offer.

Buy or Sell Gift Cards

  • If you like the offer, you may be able to enter the card’s serial number and PIN to “submit” it electronically. Otherwise, you’ll have to mail the physical card to the buyer.

  • After verifying the legitimacy of the card and the amount stored on it, the buyer sends payment to you.

Each card exchange has its own wrinkles on the basic process. provides a prepaid postage label, and the option to get an extra 6% for your card by accepting an Amazon Gift Card instead of check or cash. On the other hand, Cardpool pays $5 less if you submit a card electronically instead of mailing it in. Cardpool also requires your credit card details in case the card is used after it is submitted electronically; in that case, your card will be charged the amount you claimed was on it plus a 10% “service fee” for being a fraudster.

I've read that 80% of all gift cards are never used. GiftCard Zen estimates that works out to about $300 per household in unused gift cards, just sitting around collecting dust. They've helped over 50,000 people with buying or selling their gift cards, and they deal with over 800 merchants.

Buy or Sell?

It's great to trade in your unwanted gift cards for cash. But you can also save money by purchasing a discounted gift card. Let's say you plan to buy something. GiftCard Zen currently offers gift cards from major retailers that can save you 5.1% at BestBuy, 11.2% at Staples, 13.7% at Macy's, or a whopping 23.7% at PetCo. There are plenty of others, with discounts of 20% or more. The biggest discounts I found on the site were Claire's (39.8%) and Payless Shoes (36.3%).

Each exchange also limits the amount of money in which it will deal. Some exchanges will buy or sell cards with up to $5,000 stored value, while others draw the line at $200. Most exchanges require a minimum of $20 in stored value, but you can combined the smaller values stored on multiple cards in one sale.

It pays to shop around for the best rate on the card(s) you want to buy or sell. It also pays to do some due diligence on a card exchange before handing over your cards. I can vouch for the integrity of the folks at GiftCard Zen, because I know the owner personally. (Hi Aaron!) Cardpool, MonsterGiftCard, and CardCash are some others you can check out before deciding where to sell a gift card for cash, or buy one at a discount.

The best exchange rate - 100% - may be available simply by calling the issuing merchant and asking for a refund of the balance on an unwanted card. It doesn’t always work, but it does often enough to be worth a toll-free call to the customer service number on the back of the card.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Cash In On Your Gift Cards"

Posted by:

Chris Partezana
11 Jan 2016

You can also purchase cards at a discount from places like Sam's club. i.e. two (2) $25 gift cards for Boston Market for $39.98

Posted by:

11 Jan 2016

Thanks for the additional idea of calling the merchant to see if they'll refund it. Even at a discount would still be easier.

Posted by:

Bill Boogaart
11 Jan 2016

One of the big shopping centers here (Calgary, Canada) has a gift card exchange (actually was Jan 10) where they will exchange any valid gift card dollar for dollar that any store in the mall will accept. They donate the cards they have taken in trade to the Children's Wish Foundation.

Posted by:

11 Jan 2016

Why don't people just give cash (or a check) instead of gift cards? Then the recipients can buy whatever pleases them most, minus all the hassles and complexity outlined herein. Just a "crazy" thought from a "non-conformist":)

Posted by:

11 Jan 2016

I actually like gift cards. I like giving them. I like getting them. However, as with any gift, there is a sensible way of going about choosing a gift card - give one that is applicable to the recipient! That may seem like a real "duh," but it surprises me the number of people who give gifts (not simply gift cards) that are based on the giver's tastes rather than the recipient's tastes. That's rude and thoughtless, in my opinion. When given the appropriate amount of thought, a well-chosen gift card can be a great gift! For Christmas, my stepson gave his wife a gift card to her favorite makeup store. It was one of her favorite gifts this year. Had he chosen to give her a gift certificate of equal value to the auto parts store (he likes working on cars,) it would have been an entirely different story! Yet, I see this sort of "gift" giving go on too often, with traditional gifts as well as with gift cards.

Anyway, it's nice to see that there are options for handling gift cards that a person may not wish to use. It's better than the entire value going to waste.

Posted by:

Dennis Reynolds
12 Jan 2016

I saw on the news where Target will take ANY gift card, letting you use a slightly less value of the card. Like you can use a $50 Home Depot card, and get $45 of spending value of that card at Target.

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