Unwanted Gift Cards? Here's what to do...

Category: Finance

Remember that gift card you got from Aunt Martha for Christmas or your birthday last year? Yeah, the one for that seafood place that's 2 hours away? You know you'll never use it. But rather than throw it away, here’s how to convert it, and other unwanted gift cards to cash. You can even cash in a pre-paid Visa, MasterCard, or American Express debit card that's collecting lint in your wallet. Read on for details, and some bonus tips on how to buy gift cards at a discount!

Online Gift Card Exchanges

A survey from CreditCards.com found that nearly half of U.S. adults have at least one unused gift card, pre-paid card, store credit, or voucher. The average amount per person is $175, with a shocking nationwide tally of over $20 billion in unused funds. So it should be obvious why stores want to sell gift cards, instead of actual merchandise. If you have a stack of unused or unwanted gift cards, you can trade them or sell them for cold, hard cash.

Several websites 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. There are also ways to get cash for a pre-paid Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, or Discover card.

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 your local vegan restaurant, or the Rubber Duck Superstore, simply because there are more potential buyers. The discount the buyer figures they will have to give when they sell the card also affects what they can offer for it.

Buy or Sell Gift Cards

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

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

  • 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. CardSell has apps for iOS and Android that help you trade gift cards for cash. They promise that if you download the app, enter your gift card information, they will verify your card and deposit the agreed amount in your PayPal account within 48 hours. But the reviews are overwhelmingly bad. The most common remark is along the lines of "They took my card and I never got paid!" Stay away from this one.

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. CardCash is another site you can check out before deciding where to sell a gift card for cash, or buy one at a discount. They've been around since 2011 and have been featured in Bloomberg and the New York Times. CardCash promises to sell your unwanted gift cards for “up to 92% cash back.” They buy cards from Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, CVS, eBay, Home Depot, Kohl’s Lowes, Starbucks and others.

CardCash also has options for bulk buyers and sellers, offering lower rates than the standard rates available on their website. A dedicated sales rep will hold cards for you, or negotiate on your behalf for better rates.

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. At CardCash, I saw a 42.56% discount on a Tony Roma’s restaurant gift card, and dozens others discounted at 20% or more. There are plenty of others, but the biggest discount I found on the site was for 20% at Applebee’s. The larger discounts typically require the purchase of higher-dollar cards. You can get $5 off your first order of $25 or more.

Sams Club has a page where you can purchase certain gift cards at a discount. Some deals are better than others. A $50 Bob Evans or Krispy Kreme gift card sells for $37.50. That’s a nice 25% discount. But a $75 card for Outback Steakhouse is $74.88, and a $25 Jo-Ann Craft card is $24.98. You save a whopping 0.08%!

Some gift card exchanges limit the amount of money in which it will deal. Some 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.

What About Pre-Paid Cards?

I mentioned above that in addition to unloading your unwanted gift cards for cash, you can also tap the value in a pre-paid Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover card. PrePaid2Cash.com offers apps for consumers to access their prepaid card funds. You can get cash via direct deposit for most branded prepaid card programs as well as gift cards from Walmart, Nordstrom, Best Buy and many other popular retail brands.

Using P2C's iOS or Android app, you scan your prepaid card, agree to the terms, and you can have the funds transferred directly into your bank account in as little as 15 minutes. For the "Instant" (15 minute) option, there is a 15% processing fee plus $1.50 for delivery of the funds. If you opt for Next Business Day, the processing fee is 7.5% plus $1.50 for delivery. The Prepaid2Cash app is available in the iTunes App Store and Google Play, and the reviews are very positive.

Other Options For Cashing In

The best exchange rate - 100% - may be available in a variety of other ways. The simplest is to use the card to buy something, either online or at a retail store. If it's a pre-paid debit card, it should work like a credit card at checkout. At some stores, you can use multiple payment cards in a single transaction. You get the goods, and there's no fee involved.

Consider 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.

You may also be able to withdraw funds from a prepaid card at an ATM. Most pre-paid Visa or MasterCard debit or credit cards have a PIN. Insert your card, enter the PIN, if you're lucky, the machine will spit out cash. If that doesn't work, head to the bank with your prepaid Visa card, and ask about cashing out the balance on the card. You may incur a fee ranging from $2 to $10.

PayPal and Venmo give you the option of adding prepaid cards to your online wallet. You can then spend it easily at stores that accept PayPal or Venmo at checkout.

Have you cashed in a gift card or converted a pre-paid debit card to cash? Tell me about your experience. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below..

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Most recent comments on "Unwanted Gift Cards? Here's what to do..."

Posted by:

Jo L. Will
23 Dec 2022

Did I miss this in the article? The easiest way if you're a member of Amazon, is to convert it to an Amazon credit. This works super easy for Visa,Mastercard, etc prepaid cards that have a value you on them. You put the number, and exact amount- to the penny in for an Amazon credit, and it takes a couple minutes to be approved and show up.

Posted by:

23 Dec 2022

It was a great read. Many things I had not realized about buying gift cards at a bargain price from resellers.

I had always worried about it being a scam, but it appears that it may be the seller who risks the most. I will be trying CardCash very soon.

Thanks to reader Jo L. for the info on getting an Amazon credit for prepaid debit cards.

Posted by:

23 Dec 2022

As usual, Bob always has great tips, tricks and ideas! Thanks for the info and also to Jo L. for Amazon info! Does anyone know if this works for Disney gift cards?

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