How to Sell, Trade, or Donate Those Gift Cards You'll Never Use

iStock / AnthonyRosenberg
iStock / AnthonyRosenberg / iStock / AnthonyRosenberg

There's a reason gift cards line the aisles of nearly every big-box retailer, grocery market, and drugstore: annually, they are an estimated $130 billion industry, with nearly $30 billion of that coming in during the holiday season. They're efficient and generally customizable, but what happens when grandma sends you an Outback Steakhouse card, not knowing you went vegan this year?

Have no fear, there are a few ways to deal with those extra cards that you don't plan on ever using. The first thing to know, according to, is that you probably aren't going to get full value of the gift card you choose to sell. If you do, it is likely a scam. The FTC reports that there has been a nearly 270 percent increase in reports of gift card fraud cases over the last three years.

Rather than going to sites that don't offer enough consumer protection (like Craigslist or eBay), check out specialty sites that can give you a high value on return. On Gift Card Granny, you can get a certain amount back depending on how desirable the card is, as well as find sales on other cards you may want to buy.

If you're looking for quick cash, Cardpool offers up to 92 percent of the value of your card if you take the instant payment option, and guarantees it will pay sellers within one business day. CardCash also offers up to 92 percent cash back, as well the option to trade your card to multiple other retailers for more potential value.

If you prefer the option of in-person transactions, WalletHub recommends using Coinstar for the most effective results. The site also ranked the cards that offered the best exchange rates, with Walmart landing the top spot followed by the Apple Store and Red Lobster.

Of course, if you're feeling charitable, a number of organizations like Goodwill and the Salvation Army accept unused gift card balances. And for a digital option, the website CharityChoice allows you to donate gift cards to more than 1000 nonprofit organizations.