Swimming in Gift Cards You'll Never Use? Here's How to Get Cash Instead

You don't have to keep unwanted gift cards.
You don't have to keep unwanted gift cards. / 401(K) 2012, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you get a lot of gift cards for birthdays and holidays, it’s possible people perceive you as difficult to buy for. (Alternately, they’re just not that interested in shopping for you.) Whatever the case, people can wind up with a surplus of gift cards to online retailers they don’t often visit.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be stuck with them. There are a number of ways to unload the cards for cash you can use anywhere, though there is one caveat to that—you won’t typically get the full face value of the gift card.

The financial advice site WalletHub has compiled a list of gift cards according to popularity and their average resale value. On the whole, you can expect to get $70 to $90 per every $100 on a card.

The reason is simple economics. If a card is both easy to obtain and not in high demand, like one for Dunkin’ Donuts, its resale value will be lower. (Around $58, according to WalletHub.) Cards for retailers like Walmart command a higher price ($83). Cards won’t often sell for their full value because consumers see little reason to buy one on the secondary market when they can buy directly from the business.

So what do you do with the unwanted gift cards? Sites like CardCash and Raise allow you to interact with other gift card ingrates and buy, sell, or even trade your unwanted cards. The latter might prove appealing if you want to maintain more of the card’s value while getting a card for a business you prefer. Some of these sites, like CardCash, will simply buy your card outright, which means you won’t have to wait to find a buyer.

Of course, you can do what plenty of consumers do, which is simply set a gift card aside and forget about it. One 2019 estimate put the amount of unclaimed gift card balances at between $2 billion to $4 billion. What happens to the money? In some cases, it gets diverted to state governments as unclaimed property. Let that unused gift card sit long enough and one day it might help pay for local infrastructure.

[h/t WalletHub]