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Got Gift Cards You Don’t Want?

It’s nearly Christmas and every year people exchange millions of dollars in gift cards. Billions? And of that, millions goes unclaimed. I’m a big proponent of giving cash if you’re going to give money and dressing it up if you like the presentation of a gift card. Including notes if you have intentions for where it’s going to be spent.

But, of course, you can’t control what other people give you. So if over the Christmas holiday (or for your birthday or any time) you end up with a gift card you have no way of using it, or know you probably won’t get around to using, here are some ideas for other things you can do with it:

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 cost you less than $0.50 to ship). Hopefully, someone who uses that store will come along and be delighted by the deal!

Or sell it in person to a friend who thinks they could use it. This might get you an even deal (or $0.50 short) on the gift amount.

2. Swap it.

Maybe you know someone who shops there often. See what they have to trade. Or put an ad on Craigslist. Or carefully use a website like,, or try the list at Gift Card Advocate

Ideally you’ll get something that you can use as well. Some swap sites offer cash too, though at lower values.

3. Regift it.

It’s a gift card, after all!

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.

Or if you’re a blogger…hold a giveaway on your blog.

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.

There are so many options. Don’t let it expire unused.

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Dawn December 23, 2008 at 11:41 am

It seems a shame to waste gift cards – it is like throwing money away.

Paul December 23, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Whenever I get one of those Visa or Mastercard gift cards, the first thing I do is immediately use it to purchase an gift certificate for myself in the amount of the gift card. That way I don’t worry about losing or forgetting about the gift card or losing any money to fees, and the amount just sits in my Amazon account. When I go to purchase a book or movie, it’s automatically deducted from my total.

Craig December 23, 2008 at 3:40 pm

I ave sold unwanted gift cards in the past to family members who could have used them. That was the easiest way to get rid of them. Do people on craigslist look for that though? I feel like they wouldn’t but it, cause it doesn’t help them out at all. Swapping is a great idea though and can see that being successful.

glblguy December 23, 2008 at 7:41 pm

You forgot one: Give them to me 😉

Good tips. Personally I like gift cards as my interests are kind of hard to buy for.

Gift Card Guy December 24, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Don’t forget Plastic Jungle ( — the most visited Web site to sell cards for cash, exchange them for Gift Cards, or trade them for something you’d rather have. Plus, Plastic Jungle is the only place where all transactions are guaranteed.

Student Scrooge January 4, 2009 at 8:32 pm

I do the same thing as Paul with those Visa/Mastercard/AmEx gift cards — I’ll buy myself a gift certificate to a store I know I’ll visit at some point. Whereas those Visa-like gift cards often have dormancy fees and other restrictions, most retailer gift cards don’t expire. Of course, I only stick to things I’ll know I’ll use quickly (, grocery store, etc.). That way, I’ve locked the full value into a form I’ll know I’ll use at some point.

Of course, that doesn’t work for other gift cards, in which case I consider some of the steps you suggested.

Jim Dutton July 20, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Another site that will exchange is

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