I don’t know about you, but I have a drawer in my kitchen where gift cards seem to go to die. Well-meaning relatives from the East send us Cracker Barrel gift certificates (we don’t have Cracker Barrel here in the West) or a gift card for $25 to a place where the minimum reasonable purchase is more like $150.
We did get some fantastic gift cards this year. Fandango.com (movie tickets—we haven’t seen a movie in the theatre in ever so long, and it was a marvelous treat!), Starbucks and McDonald’s were great treats.
Universal currencies in my house are cash, Starbucks, and Amazon.com.
There is that small stack of gift cards that just won’t get used. Pizza gift certificates for a celiac (wheat allergies) aren’t very practical, but for others might be a bargain. Likewise, we don’t have any needs from the local jewelry store, as well-intentioned and generous as the gift was.
That said, we do still have goals, and turning these into cash may just get a few more steps toward the goal.
Plan A: Convert them to cash, fast! I’ve researched ways to turn gift cards into cash, and it’s easier than you might think. Here in Washington, if the value of the card is under $5.00 US, you can refund it for cash. Also, you can employ Web sites that allow for buying and selling gift cards, like www.cardpool.com and www.plasticjungle.com.
You can sell your card online at a discount, which benefits buyers (I’m totally buying gift cards this way in the future) and put the cashback in your PayPal account for use towards repaying your debt.
By way of example, I offered a Toys R Us Gift card for $25 and was offered $20 by Cardpool.com or $20.50 from Plastic Jungle. This card was from my kids’ stash though, so I didn’t get to complete the transaction.
Check your state laws about gift cards to see if it is possible to redeem the card for cash with the merchant, and if that fails, you may want to try selling the card through a broker like this.
Plan B: A tax deduction for charitable giving
If selling your car for cash seems a little too much like re-gifting, you could unload the card and still financially benefit without snubbing the gift-giver. Many non-profit organizations love to get gift cards for their fundraising events, such as auctions, or direct service needs. You get the benefit of the contribution without shelling out the cash for the gift card. (See your tax professional for the nitty-gritty-details of non-profit contribution deductions).
“Dear Aunt Sue, thank you so very much for the gift certificate. I don’t have that particular establishment near me, so I donated it to a local red cross to give to a family displaced by flooding in an area that has this store. I just wanted to let you know that your thoughtful gift has brightened the day of two families! You are the best!, Regards, -Me”
Plan C: Blatant and outright re-gifting (saves on your gift budget)
Put a bow on it! Gift cards re-gift beautifully! Just check the balance online to ensure it’s still a valid card, and re-gift away. I have one relative who I’m pretty sure sends re-gifted gift cards every year. We get an envelope with several gift cards from different merchants, but none ever have the original wrapper that says what the value is). College students love gift cards (my grandmother regularly sent me coffee gift cards while I was in college, as care-packages, and they totally made my day!).
Plan D: The ‘ole Switcheroo
I confess. I’ve done this, but not since college. You have a gift card that either A: You don’t want to use or B: You need cash more.
The way to handle this (albeit kind of shady) is to purchase something at the said vendor, and then return it–in exchange for cash. Proceed with caution! You must know the exchange rules of the merchant in question well before you do this. I did this a few times while EXTREMELY short on cash in college, but it always seemed like something someone addicted to meth would do. That said, it is a gift given to you, and it seems like it’s only right to get the value out of it.
Treat gift cards like cash–even if they’re merchant-specific. State laws dictate what you can expect from the cardholding merchant, but know you’re not alone when it comes to sitting on a pile of gift cards you may not be able to use.
I haven’t sold any of my gift cards from the drawer yet — I am holding on to some of them in case I can use them for gift-purchasing later (several weddings and birthdays in the next couple of months), but would love to hear from those of you who did receive gift cards this year. How do you handle them? Sell them? Use them, or re-gift them?