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How to trade your gift cards for cold, hard cash

Don't want that promissory plastic? Gift Card Exchange Day may be the answer.

By Donna_Freedman Dec 23, 2012 6:35PM

Logo: Ornament and credit cards (Tom Grill/Corbis)An estimated $110 billion worth of gift cards were sold this year in the United States, according to research from CEB TowerGroup. That's a 10% increase over 2011.

In other words, you might very well be among the millions of Americans finding  promissory plastic under the tree.

But suppose you unwrap a 'meh' or downright unusable gift card -- a steakhouse scrip although you've gone vegan, say, or credit at a movie theater chain that doesn't operate in your city?

Here's what you do: You smile, thank the kind giver and then trade the card for cash on Dec. 26 -- Gift Card Exchange Day.

Luke Knowles, founder of the secondary market aggregator site Gift Card Granny, created Gift Card Exchange Day for two reasons:

  • Online search activity for "exchange gift cards" peaks the day after Christmas, so clearly the interest is there.
  • Secondary market companies like  Cardpool and Plastic Jungle sold an awful lot of cards during the holiday season. Now they're willing to pay top dollar for fresh supplies.
The process is pretty simple. Visit the Gift Card Exchange Day website and find the name of the merchant in the dropdown box under "Sell a Gift Card." Enter the card value and you'll get instant offers from multiple resellers. Choose the one you want and you'll be redirected to that company's site to finish the deal.

Some sites offer more if you take an gift card instead of cash. For example, a $50 Target gift card recently garnered offers of $44 to $47.50 in cash and $47.88 to $49.88 in Amazon credit.

Some extra cash

Another reason to sell gift cards: You'd rather have the money. Students, recent grads, the under- or unemployed -- you know what I'm talking about. It was very kind of your parents to give you a $50 iTunes card or for your boss to hand over $25 worth of Sephora scrip, but a little folding green would be more useful right now.

This is especially true if you overdid the holiday shopping and are anticipating scary credit card bills in January.

"I'd rather have the money" may sound crass. But look at it this way: Once you receive a gift it's yours to do with as you please.

You don't have to keep that reindeer sweater, once you've modeled it for the well-meaning relative who gave it to you. Nor do you have to spend that bookstore gift card if you could really use the money.
That's why I spent a few minutes last Dec. 26 looking for the best offers on two gift cards ($25 and $50) that I received but didn't want to keep. These turned into $63.79 worth of scrip, which arrived in less than a week.

Sure, you could sell the gift cards yourself: at work, to friends, to strangers on Craigslist. You might have a kind friend or relative who'd pay full face value. Or you could hold on to the plastic until someone's birthday or anniversary rolls around.

The first way is more work. The second isn't likely. The third risks "spillage," the industry term for lost or forgotten cards. Besides, I can't imagine you’d do much better than $49.88 in Amazon scrip.

P.S. Don't forget to write your thank-you notes.

Have you ever sold a gift card?

More on MSN Money:

Dec 26, 2012 1:14PM
That site is a sham. It said my giftcards were worth 80 percent. I had 6 different ones. Clicked to go to the website it directed me to to sell it where again it confirmed they would be worth 80%, but then on the actual accept offer page they showed dollar amounts which equalled 66% not 80%. wow. I guess someone who didn't know math might fall for that deal.
Dec 26, 2012 8:31AM
I like all of these options to receive cash for your gift cards.  I noticed that you didn't mention They allow you to exchange your unwanted gift cards if you would like to receive another gift card instead of cash.  Just a heads up for anyone looking for other options.
Mar 1, 2013 11:39AM
I agree with the person below.  Many gift cards go unused and people don't know about these services.  I use to exchange my gift cards for other gift cards.  It's a great service.  Hopefully more people will find out about these companies.
Dec 26, 2012 12:14PM
Aopologies, in the previous comment the url auto-deleted because I used the whole www address.   They ALL go through giftcardgranny dot com
Dec 26, 2012 10:52AM
The cards we receive all are bought by relatives and friends locally ,at businesses, restaurants, etc, need for this article in our circumstances.
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.