21 uses for a dead gift card.

thIn the past week I’ve gone through several discounted gift cards, i.e., used them up and asked the cashier to “recycle” them. Wonder if they ended up in the circular file rather than the “clean this up and reload it” bin?

Probably the latter, since the ones in the typical “gift card mall” look utterly pristine. You can’t really say that about the cards I use and toss – not only were they secondhand when I bought them, they’ve suffered tremendous indignities in my wallet and purse. (Hint: In both those locations I also carry keys, paper-clipped items, a comb and the occasional gleaned My Coke Rewards.)

Maybe you, too, buy from the secondary market and thus aren’t interested in reloading them. Or maybe you get gift cards to places you don’t generally frequent and thus have no interest in adding more dollars to the scrip once it’s depleted.

What do we do with all these plastic rectangles, especially since the impending holidays probably mean even more gift cards coming our way?

We get creative. Or silly. Or both!

Useful life skills

Use your now-empty plastic to:

1. Clear off frosty windshields. Shout-out to all you surprised-every-now-and-then Floridians: How many of you actually own real ice scrapers?

2. Grate cheese. No, really. Apparently the name-and-numerals part of the card will turn Parmesan or Romano into cheesy particulates. A nice trick at your next dinner party, as long as everyone knows you washed the card beforehand.

3. Break into houses. Kidding! But apartment dwellers should get into the habit of keeping a dead gift card with their laundry supplies, the better to save their butts if they inadvertently hit the knob-lock button before heading down to the washing machines in the basement. (As a former apartment building manager, I speak from bitter experience.)

4. Never buy shim again. Instead, stuff old gift cards in there until the spirit level says, “you got it.”

Off, off, damned spot!

Sometimes, it’s all about removal:

5. Remove dried-on food from last night’s dishes.

6. Remove hardened candle wax from wherever it has dripped (that way it doesn’t end up under your fingernails).

7. Remove gum from the floor.

8. Remove adhesive from windows. Yes, you told the kids not to put stickers on the panes. But did they listen?

9. Remove dog poop from the sole of your sneaker. (Speaking of “damned Spot.”)

Cutting and shaping

Show off with some crafty-crafty-crafts:

10. Seedling markers! Cut them into strips and use a Sharpie to write “beets,” “turnips” or whatever.

11. Turn them into a Jacob’s ladder toy. Or make it with credit cards and staple on a moral about “escalating” debt.

12. Create a mosaic. Extra points if you frame it and give it a name, e.g., “Why I can never retire.”

13. Earbud holder. So clever!

14. Get picky. Cut cards into teardrop shapes and give them to guitarist friends. (Or sell them on Etsy.)

15. Turn them into earrings. Cut to the size/shape you prefer. Those bold Target or Subway logos will surely turn heads at the next opera gala.

Health, beauty, survival

16. Impromptu finger splints. Jam a joint in a backyard volleyball game? Tape the injured digit – plus one or two others to keep it company – to a gift card. Make sure someone else drives you to the ER, though, as immobilized fingers make it hard to shift gears. (Also to change stations on the radio. You might get stuck on the “all show tunes” channel or something.)

17. Measure chocolate. Some doctors now advise eating up to three ounces of dark chocolate per day as a health measure. (Where can I get a prescription like that?) Apparently this is a piece about the size of a gift card.

18. Conform to patriarchal grooming standards. Applying a cream depilatory to your legs? Use a card to “shave” off the kaput follicles.

19. Make a Zombie Apocalypse shiv. Trim card into arrow shape, sharpen by rubbing against concrete, and bind to broom handle or tree branch with duct tape. You gotta use what you can get, right?

Finally, you could also go the “cruel cruel cruelties” route:

20. Mess with the neighbor kids’ heads. Glue the card to a sidewalk and watch them fume and scheme.

21. Psych out your best friend. Let him think he’s getting a $50 Hooters gift card!

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  1. I know someone who cuts the cards into long, skinny triangles that are the right shape to use to clean under his fingernails or to substitute for a toothpick.

    “Shims” were my first thought.

  2. This is great! I might actually make the earbud holder!

    My SO was just nakig fun of me last week for keeping a huge stack of expired credit cards and membership cards in my files. But when I needed to prove my identity to the state department to get my passport, my expired cards were a lifesaver.

  3. Use them on one of those just-out-of-reach “itchies” on your back that your fingers are about 2″ too short to reach.

  4. My favorite use for dead gift cards is to put a stack of them in a gift box, along with one I’ve purchased, and give as a gift. I always include a note that says, “Hope you enjoy the gift card…when you find the one that has the money on it!” The look on the recipient’s face is priceless when they realize the effort it will take to find their bounty. Usually they don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or punch me in the face. LOL.

  5. A strip of a gift card is useful for quilters – once you have figured out the width of the “scant” quarter inch seam on your individual machine, you can tape the strip of card to the surface of your machine and it gives a raised edge guide for your fabric.

    Esoteric? Yes. Useful? Yes. But only for a subset of the population, I guess.

    • Donna Freedman

      Quilters are their own species. A species with really pretty beds.

  6. Brilliant ideas. I use mine as you say to scrape ice off my windscreen and also along with hair removal cream, so much more effective than the plastic contraption provided!!!

  7. I use them to scrape acrylic paint around to make backgrounds in my art journal. Like the uilding idea, useful for only a small subset of the population!

  8. I keep them with my tools for smoothing wet caulk along corners. Also wrap string around them to keep it from knotting up – punch a hole in a corner and hang these on a nail. Cut them to a desired length to use as a template for repeated marking or cut shapes to trace around. Lots of uses for these things.

    • Donna Freedman

      Agreed! And I just thought of another: Put one under each couch/chair leg to help prevent those deep divots in the carpeting.

  9. I use them for scraping dried/burnt gunk out of pots & pans, and off the stovetop. And for scraping up the dried-out hairball found when hubby FINALLY moves the sofa … don’t ask. In fact, they’re good for scraping anything off almost anything.
    They’re good for getting fresh (or old)paint/putty off window glass.
    The rounded corners work very well when re-caulking bathroom fixtures.

    • Donna Freedman

      Loving all these tips. Glad I’m not the only person who hesitates to throw something away if it could be used again.

  10. I hate clutter so mine go straight to the recycling, but I’m quite impressed by this list.

  11. I stuck a magnet on the back of some with a cute holiday theme…instant Christmas decorations!


  1. Carnival of Personal Finance #438 – November 11th, 2013 Edition — My Personal Finance Journey - […] Freedman from Surviving and Thriving presents 21 uses for a dead gift card, and says, “What do we do…

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