Convert gift cards into cash

July 6, 2010 4:10:44 PM PDT
About $5 billion worth of gift cards go unused every year. You may have some gift cards stashed away in a drawer somewhere right now. But there are ways to unload unwanted gift cards and turn them into cash.

"I actually have a stack of gift cards that people have given me that I don't have time to use," said one Houstonian with whom we spoke.

Is your wallet full of gift cards you haven't used? Consumer Reports ShopSmart checked out seven websites where you can sell your cards for cash.

"It turns out you can sell unwanted gift cards for up to 90 percent of the card's value," said Lisa Freeman with Consumer Reports.

ShopSmart checked just how much it could get at each of the sites for a variety of gift cards. They included Applebee's, Bath & Body Works, the Gap, Kohl's, Macy's, Payless, Pier 1, and Wal-Mart. For a $50 Gap card, prices ranged from $32.50 to $40.

"We found in our search that Wal-Mart's card was the most valuable," Freeman said.

When ShopSmart checked, the sites that paid the best prices were plastic jungle and card pool. But no one site always had the best deals, so you've got to shop around.

These sites will also let you buy gift cards at a discount.

"You could pay just $40 for a $50 gift card," Freeman said. "That's ten dollars saved right there, but you have to be careful."

When buying a gift card, be sure to look for a guarantee on the site.

"If the site doesn't have a guarantee, you could be out of luck if the card turns out to be invalid or if it has less than the advertised value," Freeman said.

And don't lose that gift card. You won't be able to replace it because you won't have a receipt.

The government is also getting ready to help people who've got gift cards they haven't used. In August, new federal rules will make it illegal for gift cards to expire within five years after they've been purchased or reloaded with additional funds.

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