Selling unwanted gift cards.

Here’s my feeling about presents: Once they’re yours, you get to use them any way you like. If you want to regift it, donate it to charity, sell it in 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 Amazon.com gift cards.

Some would look at this as an $11.21 loss. Not me. I look at it as being that much closer to the crib I need to buy.

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.)
  • E-mail 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.

Of course, the secondary market has to make a profit to survive. Thus I got 81 cents on the dollar for that B&N card even though the company currently sells that brand for 92 cents on the dollar.

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. (Or, if you’re me, to give them away on your website.)

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. The secondary market process couldn’t have been simpler: Within four or five days, the company e-mailed 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 rather have the cash.

I didn’t sell these cards to make money per se, but to convert them into a more easily used 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.

But I’m hanging on to that one. Not only do I walk right past a Target store on my way to the library, I’m planning an early-March visit to my daughter. Surely there are a few things she’d like to pick out. Like, say, crib sheets.


20 Comments

  1. I’ve looked into this many times, but never actually pulled the trigger for fear of it being a scam. So thanks for the recommendation.

    I too got a Barnes & Noble gift card, and spent my lunch hour yesterday trying to weasel every red cent out of it. In general, I dont shop Big Box, but when they’ve already got the money, I make an exception.

    The Ticketmaster giftcard languishing in my desk, though… that needs a new home.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Dogs or Dollars: I just took a quick look on Gift Card Granny. You could get up to 83% of face value back.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  2. I wonder how much the crib will actually cost you. I bet that you will keep track of the costs. Hmmmm, the title of “a $6 crib” might get some attention. Maybe by DCFS. LOL

    • Donna Freedman

      @SonyaAnn: Cribs and car seats are among the few things I wouldn’t buy at a yard sale, given all the recalls. It’s a moot point, since Abby is the one who will pick it out; I’m just the one who has offered to pay.
      However, if all of it but $6 were covered by my free Amazon cards, then “The $6 crib” is a headline that would definitely get some attention. Thanks for the idea. :-)

  3. I’m probably more likely to keep the B&N card, but that’s mainly because my professors keep telling me to read books that aren’t always available in the library. That often means that my clothes become ragged because I spend more money on books, kind of like Gertrude Stein advised Ernest Hemingway to do. But it is a good idea to sell gift cards, because sometimes some people’s favorite stores may be stores that you would be less likely to go to.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Neurotic Workaholic: I’m trying to pare down my number of books right now, because I’m feeling overwhelmed. If I should want a book that wasn’t in the library, I might regret having ditched the card. On the other hand, I could use my free Amazon GCs from Swagbucks to order a used copy.
      I’m with you on the clothes expenditures, though.

  4. Ever thought of using the gift cards for your charitable giving? I would think you could deduct the full face value of the card.

  5. BTW, 81 cents on the dollar can be a pretty good deal; the giver very possibly did not pay 100 cents on the dollar. Costco sells a lot of gift cards for about 80 cents on the dollar; when we bought some Jamba juice cards to give to the kids’ friends, they threw in some smoothies for us.

  6. ImJuniperNow

    This is a great idea. But I’ve decided to keep all of mine and use them exclusively to buy gifts for other people. For example, I figure if Mary was good enough to get me a gift card from Macys (because that’s where she shops) I’ll use that card when I have to buy her a gift. So, while I would have preferred that she give me a case of canned cat food (which is somehow ungiftworthy to other people) at least she’s freed up some of my cash for that purpose.

    Brrr. Does this all sound cold, calculating and without holiday spirit?

  7. I sold a few gift cards to Plastic Jungle last year. It was an easy way to gain $80 for a Bath and Body Works gift card (I’m allergic to most scents), and a Morton’s Steakhouse card (I’m a vegetarian).

  8. ImJuniperNow

    Update to Donna and Readers:

    This morning I received a gift card in the mail from a charity I gave a donation to. The card is only good for locations in another state and for 3 months, so I’d never even have a chance to use it if I wanted to. Thanks to you, I was able to sell it for 80% of its value. And I can reroute the cash back to other good works!

    • Donna Freedman

      @ImJuniperNow: Glad that someone will get to use the card. And how kind of you to donate the proceeds.

  9. Thats a great idea, didnt know you could do that. Useful for me with 2 gas cards for stations that arent in my state! And I could really use the gas credit. :( Ill give that a try. thanks!

  10. Just last week I sold a Cheesecake Factory $50 card and a $25 Carraba’s card to Cardpool.com and got $63.00 credit for Amazon.com. It was so easy. There was even a downloadable label to send it free. Within just a few days a got my Amazon code. I could have gotten cash, but it was a better deal to go with Amazon. Since I love buying books on Amazon due to the free shipping and no sales tax it worked out perfectly for me.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Donna K: Absolutely agree. The cards I might or might not have used became credit at a place I know I’ll use (and already have used, to buy myself some glucosamine).
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  11. Donna, I have been enjoying your articles for several years. I very much love your down-to-earth suggestions. Keep up the good work!

  12. Johnathan Yu

    I found an actual secondary marketplace that I sell gift cards all the time. You choose the selling price, rather than letting one of these terrible sites like Plastic Jungle give you 50 cents to the dollar. I list gift cards for about 95% of its value and they only get a commission when it sells. You guys should check it out, I’ve already cashed out on 6 cards. http://www.coupontrade.com – they are legit too, I saw some news they were on

  13. Johnathan Yu

    Plus they accept all types of gift cards, not only top 100 merchants but local shops as well that have gift cards! I sold one recently to a breakfast place called Meli right by me that nobody else accepted. You put in the restaurants location and only people within my area saw it. Pretty cool stuff, def. a step in the right direction

    • Donna Freedman

      @Johnathan Yu: I agree, that is pretty cool stuff. Thanks for passing it on.

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