Gift cards can take the stress out of gift-giving. As the giver, you can purchase cards for restaurants or retail stores in a denomination of your choice and give as an anniversary, graduation or holiday gift. Although slightly impersonal, these gifts are quick, convenient and you don’t have to drive over the city in search of the perfect item. Of course, there’s no guarantee that a recipient will need or even use the gift card.
As the person on the receiving end, you might scratch your head and wonder what to do with an unwanted gift card. Unused gift cards are a bigger problem than some people realize. In fact, a survey found that since 2008, “unused gift cards total $44 billion.”
Part of the problem might be largely due to people tucking gift cards in a drawer or wallet and forgetting about them. But in other cases, some recipients don’t use a gift card because the retailer or restaurant isn’t their cup of tea. The good news is that there are ways to get rid of an unwanted gift card without being rude and declining the gift altogether.
There’s always the option of re-gifting. Some people have an issue with this practice, but a 2014 survey conducted by American Express found that “more than 3 in 4 Americans feel re-gifting is socially acceptable.” If you’re worried about getting busted, just make sure the new recipient doesn’t travel in the same circle as the giver. But on the off chance that you can’t think of anyone in need of a particular gift card, here are three options to consider.
Cash in Your Gift Card
It might come as a surprise, but you can take gift cards back to the issuing retailer and get the cash value. This isn’t an option everywhere, so you’ll need to read the terms listed on the back of the card, or you can call the retailer. Get the cash value and then use the money to purchase an item you need or want from a different store.
Sell or Exchange Unwanted Gift Cards
If the retailer won’t exchange a gift card for cash, another option is selling the gift card online for cash. Several websites will let you sell an unwanted gift card. There is a fee, but in many cases you can get 70% to 75% of the face value of the card, and then use the cash for whatever purpose you see fit. Sites that purchase gift cards include CardCash, Giftcards.com and Cardpool.com.
Some gift card selling sites also have an exchange option. Maybe you like the idea of a gift card, but you prefer restaurant gift cards over retail gift cards. To illustrate, an exchange site might be an option if you want to trade an Amazon gift card for an Olive Garden or Red Lobster gift card.
Give the Gift Card to Charity
If you want to make a charitable donation, clothes, furniture and other personal stuff aren’t the only items you can give to your favorite charity. Some charities allow gift card donations, whether there’s a full or partial balance on the card.
“Many food banks and assistance groups, for instance, would love to have grocery or drugstore gift cards for food or sundries,” says Teri Gault, founder and CEO of TheGroceryGame.com
You can contact your preferred charity to see if it accepts gift cards, or you can locate a charity at CharityGiftCertificates.org. A charity may sell the gift card and use proceeds from the sale to help their organization, or the charity may give the gift card to a person in need.
Unfortunately, saying “thank you, but no thank you” isn’t the best approach when you receive an unwanted gift card. This response can pretty much guarantee that you’ll never receive another present from the person. It’s much easier to fake a smile and accept an unwanted gift card. But at least with the above suggestions, you don’t have to let the card go to waste, or waste the giver’s hard-earned money.
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