6 ways you can still enjoy unwanted gift cards

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Published December 08, 2010

| CreditCards.com

Gift cards top the wish lists for nearly half of allAmericans during the holiday season, but not everyone ends up thankful forthem as some $30 billion never get used. But you don't have to let that plasticlanguish in your kitchen drawer. You've got several smart options if you wantto get some value out of the cards -- even if you never buy a thing from thestore that issued the card.

1. Sell them forcash.  A number of websites,including Plastic Jungle, SwapaGift.com andGiftCardRescue.com offer you cash for your gift card.Though you won't receive the face value of the gift card, you can get close,says Kwame Kuadey, CEO and founder of GiftCardRescue.com "We have payoutsbetween 65 percent and 90 percent, with an average of 80 percent," he says. "You'llreceive the most for popular stores including Target, Walmart and Whole Foods."  The sites will tell you in advance how muchthey'll pay for the card, and you'll receive payment a few days after mailingit in. Most sites will accept cards from hundreds of regional and nationalchains.

To get the most for your card, remember that timing iseverything -- sellers are more likely to get the most for their cards justbefore the holidays, when supply is lower and demand is high. After theholidays, when these sites are inundated with cards, you may get slightly lessmoney for your cards.

2. Swap them for othercards. Both SwapaGift.com and Plastic Jungle offer the chance to exchangeone gift card for another, although the process itself can be a bit clunky.Savvy users have also cashed in numerous low-value cards to get a singlehigh-value card. In-store options are also a possibility, says Shelley Hunter,founder of Gift Card Girlfriend: Go to the issuing store and see if it has a display of other stores' gift cards, then use the gift card you have to buy the gift card you really want. "I got aBabies R Us gift card that I couldn't use, but I went to the store, where theyhad a gift card kiosk, and bought a Subway card. It required a trip to thestore, but I was able to pick out something I knew that I would eventually use."You can find gift card kiosks at grocery stores, drugstores and many big-boxretailers.

3. Re-gift -- wisely. Agift card that's useless to you might be perfect for someone on your holidaylist. But before you attach a bow, follow a few common-sense guidelines, saysHunter. "Take off the backer card it comes on if it's been damaged, andmake sure it hasn't been partially used. Double-check to see that PINinformation hasn't been scratched off," she says. "Make sure it looksnew."

4. Donate them to yourfavorite cause. If you're looking for a simple way to do a good deed,Plastic Jungle has made it easy for you to donate part or all of the value ofyour gift card to a worthy organization. Simply sell a gift card on the site,then designate a portion (or all) of your earnings to one of the nearly 100nonprofits that have partnered with the site, including chapters of theAmerican Red Cross and Big Brothers Big Sisters. They'll even ask your favoritecharity to join if they're not yet listed. Even better news: The charities aren'tthe only ones to benefit, says Kristin Donelson, vice president of marketingfor the site. "We'll take care of the details for you and issue anacknowledgement of your gift that you can use come tax season," she says.

5. Think local.  If you've got a gift card to a localrestaurant or retailer that isn't accepted by larger gift card sites, you maystill want to call around to local schools or charitable organizations -- manyare happy to accept the donations. "They might bundle it into a packagefor an auction fundraiser, or use it to buy supplies to further their mission,"says Hunter.

6. Buy gifts for others.You may not be able to find the perfect present for yourself with a giftcard, but you may be able to find just the thing for a relative, friend, orco-worker. "Think of it as a way to get a gift for somebody else,"says Hunter. "The bottom line is that you can buy somebody a presentwithout using your own money, and that's valuable."

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