Clever Gift Card Tricks

Gift cards get a lot of love. Have one in your pocket? It’s instant money to spend on your favorite things. Have one to give? As gifts, they’re stress relievers—providing a delightful “cash” present for family and friends to get exactly what they desire—usually from a favorite store or restaurant. Gift cards can be digital (aka eGift cards, electronic gift cards) or physical (the kind you hold in your hand). According to CardCash.com, while physical gift cards are growing at an annual rate of 6 percent, digital gift cards are growing at an annual rate of 200 percent.

But even with their popularity, the best gift givers can get it wrong, and sometimes a gift card just falls short. So what do you do with a gift card you don’t want? Or, what do you do when you spend a portion of your gift card but don’t know what to do with the remaining dollars on it?

Here are some tips and tricks to help make your life easier with gift cards—from buying and using them, to gifting them, or to rid yourself of surplus.

BUY THEM AT A DISCOUNT
Lots of people buy gift cards at less than face value at a gift card reseller/discount gift card website. These are a great place to find bargains.

Some top exchange sites to try are CardCash, GiftCardGranny, Raise and Cardpool. Unlike eBay or Craigslist, these sites are dedicated to selling cards, and offer a balance guarantee on any card purchased through them.

Most sites let you search by retailer so you can find a specific card. Some offer searches by category, price and discount. The more search options, the easier it is to find that perfect gift card.

If you belong to a warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club, you may be able to use your membership to buy gift cards at discounted prices. You can buy cards from local businesses to national brands.

Make sure you read the fine print before you buy. Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites, because the cards may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently. The FTC has consumer information available about safely shopping for and using gift cards.

SELL (OR EXCHANGE) THEM FOR CASH
Remember the unwanted cards we spoke about? Take your unwanted gift cards online to get cash for your cards that are collecting dust. It’s a fairly painless practice. Gift card reselling can be done from home, so no painful visits back to the store.

The process of buying and selling gift cards is pretty similar for each gift card exchange site, so you can go to these same sites to sell. Most of the sites allow you to sell for cash—others will also allow you to trade cards for those of other, more desirable merchants.

The exchange rate depends on the popularity of the cards you’re trading in and getting back.

Exchange sites each have different redemption rules and minimum balance amounts. Raise, for instance, requires that cards have at least $10 on them before you can list it on their marketplace. Cardpool’s  minimum is $25. But CardCash will take any amount. Maximum amounts vary, too. Some sites have selling fees that can take a percentage of your payment.

BONUS: According to GiftCards.com, some states with gift card laws require merchants to cash out old gift cards. In these states, if the balance of a store-issued gift card falls below a certain threshold, the merchant is required to redeem the gift card for cash upon request. In California, for example, a card under $10 can be refunded. In Maine and New Jersey, the limit is only $5.

TRADE THEM FOR TARGET OR AMAZON PURCHASES
Target has a gift card trade-in program that lets you apply the amount of unused retailer, restaurant, or airline gift cards to your Target online account or for a Target gift card. Click here for a list of accepted cards. Just note that you might not get full value for the card. Some Target stores also allow you to exchange third-party cards for Target gift cards at their in-store mobile kiosks.

Amazon’s CardCash program will buy your unwanted cards for up to 92 percent of the card value. Or, you can trade them in for the gift card of your choice for an even better value. You can also apply the amount to your Amazon account.

RECEIVE RESTAURANT BONUS DEALS
During the holiday season, many restaurants (and some stores) offer gift card promotional offers. If you’re looking for ways to save on dining out over the holidays, or you’re planning to give a gift card present–start scoping out ads or radio spots in early December to take advantage of money-saving deals.

For example, buy a $75 gift card, and receive a $10 bonus card; or buy $100 in gift cards to receive 10 percent off your next purchase. Restaurant.com offers great discounts to more than 62,000 restaurants and providers nationwide.

Resources: MoneyTalksNews, CardCash, The Balance