5 Ways to Get Rid of Unwanted Gift Cards After Christmas
5 easy ways to get out of the gift card avalanche that’s befallen you.
So, you survived Christmas. If you’re like most Americans, you probably gave a loved one a gift card for the holidays. Nearly 60% of Americans requested a gift card as a gift, according to one statistic, with 35% of all holiday spending going toward gift cards. Some 76% of American shoppers planned to buy at least one gift card purchase during the 2019 holiday season — up 72% from 2018.
Gift cards remain popular because they remove the frustrations of guessing what someone might like. However, with $1 billion in unused gift cards going to waste each year, even cards are less than perfect. You could receive a gift card for stores and restaurants that aren’t local. Other times, a gift card can be inappropriate for the recipient, such as a Cabela’s gift card to an animal lover or a Victoria’s Secret gift card to someone overtly modest. Often, we set aside cards for later use only to lose or forget about them.
Giving cash is easier, but it’s considered tacky in our society, leaving gift cards the best available option. If you find yourself burdened with unwanted gift cards, here’s what you can do with them.
Believe it or not, there’s a market for secondhand gift cards. As long as the gift card still has value, you can sell it at such marketplaces as Raise, Cardpool and Gift Card Granny. Typically, these marketplaces charge a commission, and cards most likely to sell are offered at a discount.
You can, in theory, buy and sell gift cards yourself using an auction website, like eBay. However, because the buyer isn’t able to verify funds are available on the card until after purchase, we don’t recommend it.
If you’re worried that your gift card will expire quickly, don’t be. The Credit Card Accountability Act of 2009 requires all gift cards to come with a minimum expiration date of five years after issue or loading with money — whichever is later. So that Chuck E. Cheese gift card your child received on their first birthday should still be good for their fifth, when it’s more appropriate.
There are dangers of holding on to gift cards, though. One is you may misplace them. Another is you may forget about them. Finally, the store where they were issued may close. For this reason, store your gift cards in a secure spot, categorize them properly and set up reminders that will notify you regularly. You may also want to set up RSS feed notifications or Google Alerts to remind you of sales or relevant news, such as bankruptcies and liquidations, for stores you hold gift cards for.
Many charities accept unused gift cards. Thrift shops can sell them at a discount or use them to buy merchandise for sale. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation regularly holds gift card drives through GiftCard.com to collect unwanted gift cards. These donations are tax-deductible, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing your unwanted gift did some good.
There’s an open morality question about regifting that we won’t address here. However, it may be better to give away an unused gift card in good condition to someone that will use and enjoy it than let it go to waste.
If you’ve used your card but there’s still value on it or the card has been through one too many washing cycles, you may still be able to regift it. Many stores allow the purchase of a gift card with a gift card. Check with the gift card’s issuer to see if gift card exchanges are permitted.
Some merchants allow the use of third-party gift cards as payment. These merchants have partnered with a clearinghouse that offer store credit — typically, at a discount of the cards’ face value — in exchange for the cards. Most stores don’t offer this, but if you were to come across one that does, it’s worth checking out.