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Dealing With Unwanted Gift Cards

Did you get a gift card for Christmas?

They can be really handy for some of us (I love getting crafting gift cards) but sometimes they’re almost useless.

Consider, for example, receiving a $20 gift card to Williams-Sonoma. If you’re not familiar with them, they make rather expensive cookware, etc. If you’re my brother and sister-in-law, you treasure this gift and save it for your next trip there. Or perhaps you combine it with other W-S gift cards because people know how much you like it.

If you’re me, on the other hand, you won’t be shopping there and you probably can’t find something which will use up the whole $20 (see this article by LifeHack, which reminds us that spending an even $20, and only that, in one place is unlikely). You also have a tight budget, so you don’t want to spend more money than you have to.

Here are some ideas for dealing with such gift cards.

1. Sell it.

Use eBay or Craigslist to get rid of your unwanted gift card. For a $20 one, offer it at $15 or $16 with $1 S&H. (should only cost you $0.41 to ship). Hopefully, someone who uses that store will come along and be delighted by the deal!

2. Swap it.

Remember my BIL & SIL? Well, suppose I know they got a $20 Target gift card. I might offer them a swap. Target’s a bit more useful to me than W-S. Ideally, you’d be able to swap it for a store you frequent and would already be shopping at. For me, that’d be Joann fabrics, crafts, and whatnot.

Cash in hand is best, but you may be able to get even value for a swap. That’s better than you can hope for in most sales. (You might be able to sell it in person to someone who’ll pay $19.50 if you’re lucky. Perhaps a friend who’d definitely use it.)

3. Regift it.

It’s a gift card, after all! Of course, it helps if you don’t give someone a Christmas-themed gift card for their birthday (unless it’s in Dec) but you can always use some excuse, like they still had a few and you thought it was cute.

The original gifter wrote on the accompanying paperwork? Make your own neat little card to go with it…be creative.

And if you’re nervous, give it to someone like me who’d be cool with regifts.

4. Reframe it.

If it’s a Visa or Amex card, you might want to use it only once and right away to avoid losing money through fees. Reframe it as your grocery budget money. Use it at the store and then (if you want) move the same amount of money in your budget from grocery to “entertainment” “dates” or “debt-repayment/savings.”

5. Send it to your favorite blogger!

You don’t want it? Send it to me!!! *ahem* Sorry.

Did you get an unwanted gift card this year? How did you handle it?

As for me, all my gift cards this year were for our coffee dates. Thanks to friends and family, we’ve got at least 1/3 of the year’s dates covered. Thank you, awesome people!!!

photo by rahims

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remodelingthislife December 27, 2007 at 3:16 pm

Between hubby and I, we got a GC to Home Depot (go figure), Best Buy, and Starbucks. All very useful. I particularly love when other people pay for my caffeine addiction. If we’d gotten one we wouldn’t use, I’d sell it for a few bucks less on craigslist. Just FYI – WS does have some cute inexpensive stuff for the kitchen. I picked up a cute kitchen timer and gadgety things for my stocking there this year. Yes, I stocked my own stocking *blush*

SavingDiva December 27, 2007 at 3:50 pm

This year, I didn’t get any gift cards! I usually spend them myself…I don’t think I’ve come into a gift card that I didn’t like!

As for Williams-Sonoma gift cards, I had one for $50 this winter. I purchased the most awesome toaster ever!!!!! I would never normally spend that much on a toaster, but I figure it was a gift. Now, I can’t imagine my life with my old free toaster that would burn one side of the toast and not even heat up the other side!

Patrick December 27, 2007 at 4:20 pm

Maybe you can do a combination of bullet item 1 and 2. Place an ad on Craigslist in which you tell that you want to swap your gift for a card from another vendor for the same value.

Now, the bad side in me… I wonder if you can buy an item with the gift card. Then go to the customer service, give the purchased item back and get cash back.

RacerX December 27, 2007 at 7:11 pm

The other possibility is to donate to a charity. Many will take all kinds and it beat having it sit in a drwaer and not be used! This is especially tru with remenants of total amounts!

CatherineL December 27, 2007 at 8:02 pm

Great tips. I didn’t get any gift cards but my children did.

I think the lobster one that you got was a great idea.

Arlen December 27, 2007 at 11:38 pm allows you to exchange your unwanted gift cards.

BillyOceansEleven December 28, 2007 at 1:39 am

I am always getting Starbucks cards, although I don’t drink coffee. I’d done the regifting thing, although I may try eBay for these. At this point I had so many it may be worthwhile.

Ryan S. December 28, 2007 at 12:38 pm

I get (and give!) lots of gift cards for the holidays; I use them as much as possible, although there are times I get ones I don’t use (Outback Steakhouse–I’d like to go, but my lady friend is vegetarian). I often regift those to friends of mine, not as a holiday present but just, “Here, I can’t use this and got it as a gift, I think you’d enjoy it!”.


Fabulously Broke December 28, 2007 at 5:36 pm

Got a $50 Future Shop gift cert but I hate Future Shop. Best Buy (their sister subsidiary) is MUCH better in terms of items, but.. c’est la vie.

Am going to either sell it to my brother for $45, or spend it on a SATC DVD…

Mrs. Nathan December 28, 2007 at 6:14 pm

If you were hypothetically interested, Mr. Nathan and I would gladly swap you cash for your hypothetical William-Sonoma gift card if you’d like…I have my eye on a dutch oven.

Peter August 19, 2008 at 11:51 pm

There are quite a few websites now that offer buy/sell/trade services for gift cards. You can find a fairly comprehensive list at

For Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover gift cards, you can transfer your balance (or part of it) to PayPal at

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