22 Uses for Dead Gift Cards

Photo (cc) by 401(K) 2013

In the past week I’ve gone through several discounted gift cards, i.e., used them up and asked the cashier to “recycle” them. Wonder if they ended up in the circular file rather than the “clean this up and reload it” bin?

Probably the former, because the ones in the typical “gift card mall” look utterly pristine. You can’t really say that about the cards that I use and toss. Not only were they secondhand when I bought them, they’ve suffered tremendous indignities in my wallet and purse. (Hint: In both those locations I also carry keys, paper-clipped items, a comb and the occasional gleaned My Coke Rewards.)

Maybe you, too, buy from the secondary market and thus aren’t interested in reloading them. Or maybe you get gift cards for places you don’t generally frequent and thus have no interest in adding more dollars to the scrip once it’s depleted.

What do we do with all these plastic rectangles, especially because the holidays probably mean even more gift cards coming our way?

We get creative. Or silly. Or both!

Useful life skills

Use your now-empty plastic to:

1. Clear off frosty windshields. Shout-out to all you surprised-every-now-and-then Floridians: How many of you actually own real ice scrapers?

2. Grate cheese. No, really. Apparently the name-and-numerals part of the card will turn Parmesan or Romano into cheesy particulates. A nice trick at your next dinner party, as long as everyone knows you washed the card beforehand.

3. Break into houses. Kidding! But apartment dwellers should get into the habit of keeping a dead gift card with their laundry supplies, the better to save their butts if they inadvertently hit the knob-lock button before heading down to the washing machines in the basement. (As a former apartment building manager, I speak from bitter experience.)

4. Never buy a shim again. Instead, stuff old gift cards in there until the spirit level says, “You got it.”

Off, off, damned spot!

Sometimes, it’s all about removal:

5. Remove dried-on food from last night’s dishes.

6. Remove hardened candle wax from wherever it has dripped (that way it doesn’t end up under your fingernails).

7. Remove gum from the floor.

8. Remove adhesive from windows. Yes, you told the kids not to put stickers on the panes. But did they listen?

9. Remove dog poop from the sole of your sneaker. (Speaking of “damned Spot.”)

Cutting and shaping

Show off with some crafty crafts:

10. Seedling markers! Cut them into strips and use a Sharpie to write “beets,” “turnips” or whatever.

11. Turn them into a Jacob’s ladder toy. Or make it with canceled credit cards and staple on a moral about “escalating” debt.

12. Create a mosaic. Extra points if you frame it and give it a name, e.g., “Why I can never retire.”

13. Earbud holder. So clever!

14. Get picky. Cut cards into teardrop shapes and give them to guitarist friends. (Or sell them on Etsy.)

15. Turn them into earrings. Cut to the size/shape you prefer. Those bold Target or Subway logos will surely turn heads at the next opera gala.

Health, beauty, survival

16. Impromptu finger splints. Jam a joint in a backyard volleyball game? Tape the injured digit – plus one or two others to keep it company – to a gift card. Make sure someone else drives you to the ER, though, as immobilized fingers make it hard to shift gears. (Also to change stations on the radio. You might get stuck on the “all show tunes” channel or something.)

17. Measure chocolate. Some doctors now advise eating up to 3 ounces of dark chocolate per day as a health measure. (Where can I get a prescription like that?) Apparently this is a piece about the size of a gift card.

18. Conform to patriarchal grooming standards. Applying a cream depilatory to your legs? Use a card to “shave” off the kaput follicles.

19. Make a zombie apocalypse weapon. Trim card into arrow shape, sharpen by rubbing against concrete, and bind to broom handle or tree branch with duct tape. You gotta use what you can get, right?

Finally, you could also go the cruel cruelties route:

20. Mess with the neighbor kids’ heads. Glue the card to a sidewalk and watch them fume and scheme.

21. Psych out your best friend. Let him think he’s getting a $50 Hooters gift card!

22. Mess with other people’s heads. A commenter on my personal website does the psych-out even better. She saves all expired gift cards until it’s time to give new presents. Then she wraps a new, unused card with a bunch of defunct ones and a note saying, “Enjoy your gift — once you figure out which one it is.” Inspired.

More on DonnaFreedman.com:

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
New Ways to Save Money on Insurance of Every Kind
New Ways to Save Money on Insurance of Every Kind

Tech startups are making it easy to find the best rates for all kinds of insurance policies — and get covered fast.

8 Things I Always Buy at Costco
8 Things I Always Buy at Costco

From bacon to birthday cakes, here are my favorite deals at the popular warehouse store.

Can My Wife Use My Social Security Benefits While Letting Hers Grow?
Can My Wife Use My Social Security Benefits While Letting Hers Grow?

Your self-discipline in not uttering three little words helps determine whether you can use a key claiming strategy.

The 14 Most Deadly Car Models
The 14 Most Deadly Car Models

These vehicles are involved in fatal accidents at least twice as often as the average car.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

Do This in the Car If You Want to Avoid COVID-19
Do This in the Car If You Want to Avoid COVID-19

It takes just seconds to take this simple preventive measure.

Netflix Hikes Prices: Here Are 10 Cheaper Streaming Options
Netflix Hikes Prices: Here Are 10 Cheaper Streaming Options

Prepare to dig a little deeper into your wallet for Netflix — or switch to a cheaper alternative.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare
14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare

These services could save you money and help prevent costly health problems.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.