NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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What to Do With Unused Gift Cards

What to Do With Unused Gift Cards


            Back in 1994, after struggling with a ridiculous amount of counterfeiting of the then popular gift certificate (a piece of paper filled out by hand or by printer), the then thriving Blockbuster Movie Rental chain created plastic gift cards that resembled a credit card to replace the unsecured gift certificate. Then, in 2001, a small coffee company called Starbucks developed cards that could be used repeatedly. This started a chain reaction that would create a multi-billion dollar industry that is evident at every big box retailer, mall, and shop in the United States – gift cards!

            Gift cards are an easy to pick up, one size fits all type of gift that allows the recipient to choose the details of their gift and so are very popular. But sometimes, the gift card is to a business we don’t frequent or we choose not to use it. What to do with an unused gift card?

            Donate Cards. Your card can become a charitable gift. If there’s a local non-profit you enjoy supporting, ask if they might have a use for a specific gift card. A gift card will be tax-deductible for the face amount of the card. If you have a combined federal and state marginal income tax rate of 35%, you’ll get a direct tax benefit of $35 on the donation of a $100 gift card.

            Sell It: Websites such as cardpool, raise and creditcardgranny connect you with card buyers. You will not be able to sell it at full face value, but depending on the retailer you might receive up to 90 cents on the dollar.

            Cash in at the Issuing Retailer: The issuer may refuse to accept a return of the gift card unless you have the purchase receipt so you may need to approach the person who gave you the gift, and request the receipt. Having the receipt will open up more options for you. Returning gift cards to the issuing retailer will usually net you 90% or less of the face value of the card and if the issuers will only give you a store credit you are basically back to square one.

             Use to Purchase Items to Sell: The retailer may not be selling items you are interested in but someone else might be!  If there is no other way to redeem the gift card, consider buying one of the more popular items that the issuer sells which you in turn sell through a local ad or a website such as eBay

            Re-Gift: Check for any expiration dates and that your name is not written or embossed on the card but if it is from a business that a friend frequents, regifting can stretch your gift budget>      Check out Gift Card Exchange Websites: Some gift card purchasing sites also do gift card exchanges.  Since the discount fees associated with each card are different, you may end up paying a small fee in the exchange, or you can even earn a small amount if the gift card that you are offering comes with a smaller discount.

            Sell or Exchange Them with Friends: Send out emails people in your social circle inviting them to do an exchange of your unwanted gift cards for any unwanted cards that they have. It may be that others will have a similar inventory of unwanted cards, but you’ll never know until you ask.

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