What to Do With Your Unwanted or Unusable Gift Cards

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Every year, I somehow receive at least one gift card for a gas station from a family member. The problem? I don’t have a car. I live across the country from much of my family, and they also often give me gift certificates to businesses that don’t have locations in my state. I’m not the only one who lets my gift cards languish (or loses them immediately); according to MarketWatch, about $1 billion in gift cards went unused in the U.S. in 2015.

But there are ways to make sure your unwanted gift cards don’t go to waste, whether they're to a store you hate or one that doesn’t have an outpost in your town. There’s the feel-good (and tax-friendly) option, or the quick cash option:


Charity Gift Certificates accepts donations of gift cards, whether you’ve used part of the balance or not. In exchange, you get a tax write-off for the full value on the card. However, they only accept cards from certain merchants, though the list is pretty extensive. You choose where you'd like the money from the card to go from a list of some 1000 charities. Some other nonprofits, like Kars4Kids, accept gift card donations directly.


There are plenty of sites that will buy back your extra gift cards. If you're looking to get the best value, Gift Card Granny will generate a list of potential offers from different sites for the amount of your gift card. But be warned: You’ll probably get less than the full retail value. For instance, a $25 gift card to The Container Store will probably only get you about $18 on many sites. On Cardpool, you can get a little more value by trading your gift certificate in for Amazon credit instead of receiving a check, but you’ll still be getting less than your gifter paid for it.

If you don’t want to deal with a website, Coinstar also exchanges gift cards for cash at its kiosks in grocery stores. The kiosks will only accept cards loaded with more than $20, though.