What to Do With Your Unwanted Gift Cards

December 27, 2010

One reader asks what she can do with cards she just received -- as well as some still unused from last year. Here are smart ways to repurpose your unwanted cards.

Q: What can I do with unwanted gift cards? I still have unused cards left over from last year!

A: Gift cards remain a popular choice for gift givers. About 77% of shoppers surveyed said they planned on buying gift cards this year, with the average shopper spending about $145 on gift cards in November and December, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. Of those cards, up to 15% goes unused every year, according to some estimates.

Not everyone appreciates receiving a gift card -- or has the opportunity to use one. Often shoppers will buy gift cards from local stores, which may not be a favorite (or convenient) place to shop of the giftee. In other cases, consumers like our question asker already have a wallet full of gift cards they haven't spent from last year.

If you received unwanted gift cards this year, or have others you haven't spent, there are a number of ways to "repurpose" the gift. Websites such as Cardpool.com, GiftCards.com, PlasticJungle and SwapaGift let you trade in your cards for cash. You won't be reimbursed dollar-for -dollar; in most cases, you'll recoup between 92% to 95% of the value of the card. For example, at GiftCards.com, a $25 Cheesecake Factory gift card has a redemption value of $17.50. But hey, it's cash you wouldn't have if you didn't trade the cards in, right?

If you're a fan of Amazon.com, Cardpool and PlasticJungle will exchange your gift card for an Amazon.com gift card, though again you won't get the full dollar amount. This year, Cardpool is also allowing users to trade gift cards for Facebook credits to buy games and applications.

If you'd rather give than receive, donating the value of your gift cards to charity is another way to lighten your wallet -- and get a tax deduction to boot. For example, CharityChoice and TheGivingEffect websites have lists of charities that welcome gift card donations.

HAVE A QUESTION FOR "ASK THE EXPERT"? Email Physician's Money Digest at tcullen@hcplive.com.