Smart SpendingSmart Spending

How to sell unwanted gift cards

The secondary market will give you up to 92% of face value. Put the money toward something you really want.

By Donna_Freedman Jan 13, 2012 12:10PM

Here's my feeling about presents: Once it's yours, you get to use it any way you like. If you want to regift it, donate it to charity, sell it at a yard sale or run over it with a steamroller, that's your business.

Which is why I sold two of the gift cards I got during the holidays. They morphed from $75 worth of might-not-get-used promissory plastic into $63.79 worth of gift cards.

Some would look at this as an $11.21 loss. Not me. I look at it as being that much closer to something I know I'll be using.

I did this on Dec. 26, Gift Card Exchange Day, when the secondary market supposedly offered its highest rates of the year. But the process is pretty simple the rest of the time, too.

  • Go to an aggregator site called Gift Card Granny and type in the name of the card you want to sell.
  • A number of resellers will pop up. Pick the best deal. (You may get a higher rate if you opt for an Amazon card.)
  • Email or snail mail the card. The latter option got me a slightly better payback. (The site may pay for postage.)

How much you'll get depends on the popularity of the card. One of the ones I sold was a $25 Barnes & Noble card, which is not nearly as hot a ticket as, say, Target scrip.

Since the secondary market has to make a profit to survive, the most I could get was 81 cents on the dollar for that B&N card even though the company currently sells that brand for 92 cents.

You might do better selling the card yourself -- that is, if you can find a buyer. Put the word out on social media, stick a note on the company bulletin board (electronic or real), or take a chance on Craigslist. Another option is to keep the cards until you owe someone a present. Post continues below.

A simple process

Some people would find that to be too much hassle. It would have been for me, since I'm starting to place a cash value on my time. By contrast, the secondary market process couldn't have been simpler: Within four or five days, the company emailed me my Amazon code.

As I've said before, gift cards can be great gifts. This time, though, not every single card hit its mark. That's one of the two main reasons that people sell cards. The other reason is that the recipients need or would simply rather have the cash.

I didn't sell these cards to make money per se, but to convert them into a more useful (to me) format. If I'd been strictly in the market for cash, the $50 Target card a friend gave me would have been a better deal. I could have gotten as much as $46.50 for it.

But I'm hanging on to that one. Not only is there a Target store within walking distance of my apartment, I'm planning to visit my daughter soon. The plastic will let me treat her to something she wants.

Yeah, it's the Curse of the Mom, this using of gift cards to meet other people's needs. On the other hand, I can take the money I would have spent on our shopping trip and apply it to something that I want. A massage, say -- or another Amazon card.

MSN Money columnist Donna Freedman blogs at Smart Spending and Surviving and Thriving.

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