Gift cards are at the top of everyone’s wish list, no matter the holiday or occasion. It’s the perfect gift because for two reasons: It’s quick and easy gift for the giver AND the recipient can pick out exactly what they want (or enjoy a favorite meal.) No need for any returns or exchanges.
That’s why, according to The National Retail Federation, the total spent on gift cards was more than $28 billion in 2022. Just about every business or restaurant offers gift cards — from local businesses to national chains. However, among the most popular gift cards every year are Amazon, Chick-fil-A, REI, Sephora, Starbucks, Target and Walmart.
Do you have an unwanted gift card?
More than likely, you do have an unused gift card in your wallet, a junk drawer or glove compartment. Whether it has a partial balance because you didn’t use it up completely or it’s from a retailer or restaurant you never visit (thanks to that aunt that doesn’t know you well), many of us have multiple gift cards we’ve been holding on to for years or just simply forget about.
The average amount spent on a gift card for someone else is $50. However, gift cards can be purchased in a variety of denominations — usually as low as $5 to an upper limit of $500. And it’s estimated that almost half of Americans are holding on to $21 billion in unused gift cards and/or store credits. Whether you have a gift card with a balance of just a few dollars or hundreds, it’s wasted money.
Fortunately, most gift cards don’t expire, so you’re still holding on to the full amount available on the card. However, some gift cards incur fees if not used within a specific period of time. If you have (or find) an unused gift card, you first want to contact customer service to determine the balance. It might be helpful to write the amount in marker on the back of the card or use a sticky note.
What to do with an unwanted gift card?
You could donate unwanted gift cards to charity or regift them — both good options. However, for savvy shoppers, the best alternative is to sell them for cash. Yes, you can turn that little piece of plastic into paper money. (OK, it may be not actual paper money, but you get the idea!)
There is a whole secondary gift card marketplace for buying and selling unwanted gift cards. First, it’s important to know that you will not receive the full face value of the gift card. However, something is better than nothing, right? You typically will be able to receive 50% to 75% of the card’s value. (In some cases, if the gift card is in high demand, you may get a higher percentage.)
TIP: If you’re looking to receive the full value of the gift card, consider selling the card directly to a friend or family member who frequents the store or restaurant often. It’s money they were going to spend anyway, so why not help a friend by buying the gift card first? All you have to do is ask, so don’t be shy.
How does selling an unwanted gift card work?
The gift card site buys your gift card for less than face value and, in turn, sells it at higher (but discounted) price to a third party. Ultimately, you get money for your unwanted gift card, the gift card reseller makes a small profit and the eventual buyer gets a discounted price on the gift card. In the end, everyone benefits.
And there’s no need to worry about not selling your unwanted card on an agreeable amount because you’re in total control. You will receive an offer on your unwanted card before the transaction is final. As a result, if you’re not happy with the amount, you can simply decline the offer. Unfortunately, there is no negotiating involved.
The price offered is solely based on supply and demand. The more popular your unwanted gift card is, the higher the amount you will be offered. As you’d expect, the more in-demand gift cards tend to be Amazon, Sephora, Starbucks, Target, Walmart, grocery gift cards and any other popular national retailer. You can always keep checking back until the offer is more acceptable to you.
Best of all, typically, there’s no need to send in the little plastic card in the mail. Your unwanted gift card becomes digital. In order to sell it, you just need to submit the gift card number and security code or PIN. From there, the gift card can easily be transferred digitally to another party. However, some sites may require you to mail in the unwanted gift card.
Many sites require gift card sellers to have a credit card or debit account on file before selling. Why? That’s because you’re responsible for guaranteeing the amount on your unwanted gift card. It’s a safeguard for all involved. For example, the seller may be held accountable for a gift card which is no longer active because of a compromised or incorrect balance. It basically means you can’t sell a gift card and then turn around and use it. Remember, you still retain the physical gift card because the transactions are all digital. As a precaution, you may want to hold onto the gift card in a safe place, in case, under the rare occurrence, there’s an issue with the validity or amount.
TIP: Cash or credit? Some gift card resellers allow you to accept credit rather than money for your unwanted gift card. By doing so, you will typically receive a slightly higher compensation rate. It just means you must use the credit on a different gift card available for sale on the site. You’re basically just exchanging your unwanted gift card for a gift card you do want and at a discounted price.
How do you get paid?
Fortunately, thanks to technology, you usually receive the money for your unwanted gift card quickly within a few days, sometimes sooner. Most buyers pay the seller via Paypal, Venmo or other financial platform. However, if necessary, many also offer the option being paid with a physical check or direct bank deposit. Be warned, once your gift card is sold, all sales are final.
Where can you sell unwanted gift cards?
TIP: Don’t just go with the first place you check. Shop around and see which site is offering you the most money. Taking a few minutes to check multiple sites may put a few extra dollars in your pocket.
Founded in 2009, CardCash is one of the most popular sites for buying and selling gift cards. The site accepts gift cards from more than 1,300 retailers, including popular big box stores, restaurants, grocery stores and more.
Find out how much CardCash will pay for your unwanted gift card here. (Gift cards must have a minimum balance of $10.) Sell them and get paid via check, ACH direct deposit or PayPal.
Card Cookie states you can earn up to 90% of your gift card’s value. However, the final offer depends on their current weekly rates, as well as the popularity of said gift card. The site does not accept gift cards and merchandise credits with expiration dates or promotional cards.
Find out how much Card Cookie will pay for your unwanted gift card here. (Gift cards must have a minimum balance of $10.) The only option for payment is ACH Direct Deposit.
ClipKard only accepts physical plastic gift cards from more than 100 popular retailers and restaurants. The site also sells discounted gift cards.
Find out how much ClipKard will pay for your unwanted gift card here. (Gift cards must have a minimum balance of $15.) Get paid via Paypal or by check.
EJ Gift Cards
EJ Gift Cards is a smaller site that buys unwanted gift cards. Currently, they accept gift cards from 20 popular retailers. Search for all participating brands here.
Find out how much EJ Gift Cards will pay for your unwanted gift card here. (Gift cards must have a minimum balance of $10.) As of now, the only option for payment is PayPal.
Gift Card Outlets
Founded in 2021, Gift Card Outlets is unique among the gift card buyer sites because they let you name your price. Yes, you decide how much you want for your unwanted gift card. Plus, there are no fees for selling your gift card. However, that doesn’t mean every offer is accepted, but it does give offer more control and flexibility.
Get started at Gift Card Outlets.
Launched in 2017, GiftCash says it “makes selling your unwanted gift cards a straightforward and completely secure process.” The site accepts gift cards from more than 150 popular brands. Search for all participating brands here. You can even check your card’s balance at the same time.
Simply enter the brand’s name and the card’s balance to get an instant quote for your cash offer here. (Gift cards must have a minimum balance of $25.) Receive payment via ACH direct deposit or cryptocurrency.
The site also offers cash back on the purchase of gift cards.
Started in 2013, Raise lets you sell your unwanted gift card on their site. The listing is free. The site accepts gift cards and store credits from most brands, retailers and restaurants. (Gift cards must have a minimum balance of $5.)
You will need to create an account to list your gift card. As the seller, you determine the sale price. It’s probably best to go high because you can always adjust the price if it doesn’t sell.
Once the gift card sells, Raise charges a 15% seller fee. As a result, be sure to account for this fee in determining your final selling price. There are two different payout methods to choose from — ACH direct deposit and PayPal.
Other options: ebay and Facebook Marketplace
You also have the option to sell your unwanted gift cards on ebay or Facebook Marketplace. This gives you the most control over the sale price. However, there may be shipping involved of the physical card. Plus, be aware of all the potential fees associated with listing, selling and shipping. Do your research first before listing.
Buying discounted gift cards
With extra money in your pocket after selling your unwanted gift card, you may want to maximize the bonus bucks by buying a discounted gift card.
The best place to start is CardBear.com — a site that shows a complete overview of current popular gift cards for sale and, best of all, it keeps track of price drops. Click on a particular brand or store and see a comprehensive list of where the discounted gift card can currently be purchased and for how much. One stop shopping!
If you are a member of Sam’s Club or Costco, you can purchase discounted gift cards for restaurants, movies, gaming and even Southwest Airline tickets. (See a list of our related stories about Sam’s Club and Costco at the end of this article.)
And around the winter holidays each year, be sure to check Living on the Cheap’s exhaustive listing of gift card bonus offers for ways to get the most value when buying gift cards from restaurants and retailers. It’s our gift to you!
You may also be interested in:
- How to use gift cards to save money
- 7 purchases that will pay for your Costco membership
- Can a Costco membership save you money?
- Is Sam’s Club membership worth it?