How can we glean value from unused gift cards? That’s an important question, considering more than $45 billion in gift cards have gone unredeemed since 2005, according to TowerGroup and CardHub estimates.
CardHub – the only marketplace that allows you to sell ANY gift card, regardless of denomination or store affiliation – has come up with a list of 5 Tips for Using Unwanted Gift Cards in order to help people make more efficient use of their money. After all, we could use the extra cash to help pay off some of the roughly $60 billion in new credit card debt that we added to our tab in 2014.
You can check out the tips below, followed by our Ask The Experts section, where a panel of retail and consumer spending experts discuss the best ways to use old gift cards as well as other trends in the field.
Sell Them for Cash
An online gift card exchange enables consumers to sell gift cards for cash and fetch up to 95 cents on the dollar in return. CardHub’s gift card exchange is the only one that allows you to sell any gift card you wish at any price without charging any fees. The ability to sell to either individuals or respected gift card companies also increases your chances of finding a buyer.
This is beneficial to people who had no idea gift cards could be sold for cash as well as to those who are discouraged from doing so because:1) their card is not affiliated with a major national retailer and therefore will not be accepted by an online gift card exchange; 2) they’ve used some of the card’s funds and an unusual denomination remains; 3) they have store credit instead of an actual gift card; or 4) they don’t want to give up any value to middle men.
The holiday season isn’t the only time people give gift cards. In fact, holiday sales only account for about a quarter of the gift card market’s annual sales. So, if you think an unwanted gift card has someone else’s name written all over it, why not hang onto it, re-gift, and save the time, money and energy you would have expended looking for another present? Most stores allow you to trade in old gift cards for new ones, so there is no need to worry about giving a card bearing outdated branding.
So, before trashing a card or selling it at a steep discount, it’s worth checking out your friends’ gift card wish lists as well as doing a pass through your mental Rolodex to see if you know anyone who might enjoy the card. You can kill two birds with one stone.
Pay Down Debt
The average household owes roughly $7,126 to credit card companies, and we’re beginning to rack up debt in some serious amounts: $122.2 billion from 2011 – 2013, roughly $60 billion in 2014 and at least that amount again this year. That means any extra money that can be allocated to building an emergency fund or paying down debt should be welcomed.
And that, of course, makes the fact that you can sell unwanted gift cards for cash through a gift card exchange such as that offered by CardHub very useful. Why? Well, according to CardHub’s latest data, the average household has around $370 in unused gift cards lying around. A credit card calculator will show you that cashing in your gift cards could therefore provide you with the first monthly payment in a 24-month plan for becoming debt free.
CardHub offers the only gift card exchange that incorporates Facebook, thereby allowing consumers to simply swap gift cards with friends, neighbors or colleagues if they so choose.
Finding a willing partner for a gift card trade is a great way to turn an unwanted gift into something you desire without sacrificing value. Simply use your social network to find someone who likes the gift card you have and has a comparable gift card from one of your favorite stores.
Donate to Charity
Charity organizations usually accept donations in a variety of forms, which may include gift cards. Even if a particular charity will not accept a gift card, you can always redeem it and donate the resulting goods.
(Obvious) Bonus Tip: If the above options don’t work for you, simply using your gift card is always a possibility, especially since you’ll be hard pressed to find a store from which you want or need nothing. Most all stores carry the essentials for their genre. For example, all clothing stores will have socks, all electronics stores will have headphones, and all hardware stores will have light bulbs.
So while using a gift card for the sake of using it can be a waste of money, it might also be the best remaining course of action if you haven’t been able to offload an unwanted card for quite some time. The one thing you need to watch out for is overspending due to the fact that you’re using a gift card. Roughly two-thirds of consumers spend more than the value of their gift card and you don’t want to make the situation even worse.
In search of added insight into the dynamics of the market for unused gift cards and the sources of consumer waste, we turned to a panel of leading experts in the fields of retail and consumer studies. You can check out the questions we asked them below, followed by their headshots and bios.
- What are the best ways for people to put unwanted gift cards to use?
- How much interest are you seeing among consumers in the secondary market for gift cards?
- What are the biggest impediments to the secondary gift card market gaining mainstream appeal?
- Why do you think so much value is wasted by gift card buyers/recipients ($45 billion in unused cards since 2005)? Do you think this undermines the perceived popularity of gift cards?
Image: Fabio Berti/Shutterstock