How to Unload Unwanted Gift Cards

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Gift cards can make great gifts, but they're also the best bad gift you can get someone – because they're easy to convert into cold, hard cash.

Here’s my feeling about presents: Once they’re yours, you get to use them any way you like. If you want to regift it, donate it to charity, sell it in a yard sale, or run over it with a steamroller – well, that’s your business.

Which is why I recently sold two of the gift cards I got during the holidays. They morphed from $75 worth of might-not-get-used plastic into $63.79 worth of Amazon.com gift cards.

Some would look at this as an $11.21 loss. Not me. I look at it as being that much closer to the crib I’ve promised to get for my daughter, who’s expecting a baby.

I did this on Dec. 26, Gift Card Exchange Day, when the secondary market supposedly offered its highest rates of the year. But the process is pretty simple the rest of the time too…

  • Go to an aggregator site like Gift Card Granny and type in the name of the card you want to sell.
  • A number of resellers will pop up, so pick the best deal. (You may get a higher rate if you opt for an Amazon card.)
  • E-mail or snail-mail the card. The latter option got me a slightly better  payback. (The site may pay for postage.)

How much you’ll get depends on the popularity of the card. One I sold was a $25 Barnes & Noble card, which is not nearly as hot a ticket as, say, Target.

Of course, the secondary market has to make a profit to survive. Thus, I got 81 cents on the dollar for that B&N card even though the company currently sells that brand for 92 cents on the dollar.

You might do better selling the card yourself – that is, if you can find a buyer. Put the word out on social media, stick a note on the company bulletin board (electronic or real), or take a chance on Craigslist. Another option is to keep the cards until you owe someone a present. (Or, if you’re me, to give them away on your website.)

A simple process

Some people would find that to be too much hassle. It would have been for me, since I’m starting to place a cash value on my time. The secondary market process couldn’t have been simpler: Within four or five days, the company e-mailed me my Amazon code.

As I’ve said before, gift cards can be great gifts. But not every single card hit its mark. That’s one of the two main reasons that people sell cards. The other reason is that the recipients need or would rather have the cash.

I didn’t sell these cards to make money per se, but to convert them into a more easily used format. If I’d been strictly in the market for cash, the $50 Target card a friend gave me would have been a better deal. I could have gotten as much as $46.50.

But I’m hanging on to that one. Not only do I walk right past a Target store on my way to the library, I’m planning an early-March visit to my daughter. Surely there are a few things she’d like to pick out. Like, say, crib sheets.

Stacy Johnson

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