This holiday season, I’m making a list and checking it twice. I’m especially ensuring that my wish list includes very specific items such as designer rain boots and a Fitbit. The problem I’ve found is that asking for “anything from Target” either lands me anything except what I don’t actually need from Target, or a gift card — which is nice, but perhaps may not cover the cost of what I’m looking for. (Honestly — how far do you really think $15 gets you these days?) Similarly, the rise of group deals means many this holiday season will find themselves with stockings stuffed with two-for-one massages or subscriptions to magazines they will never read. For those gifted Groupons to restaurants where they’ll never (or can’t) dine, the idea of the gift is good at heart, but actually useless in execution.
Luckily, for those of you who receive unwanted gift cards or Groupons this holiday season, you can safely and easily turn these into cash that can be spent on holiday wish list items you actually desire or need. Unlike years prior, where disappointed gift card recipients turned to sites like Craigslist to pawn or exchange gift cards in sketchy scenarios, there are actually several legitimate services that broker the exchange or purchase of your unwanted gift cards. Other sites even facilitate the sale of Groupons that you may have been gifted, or no longer wish to give. These sites allow you to recoup almost the entire value of the gift card or group deal, exchange it for the equal value, or sometimes sell it for more.
If you receive a gift card for a major retail chain this holiday season and don’t want to use it, you have two options: hold onto the gift card in case you find yourself shopping at that retail outlet sometime in the future, or sell it. While in some states, gift cards hold no expiration date, you may want to use the value of the gift card immediately to purchase a gift for yourself.
Services such as Cardpool and and Plastic Jungle allow gift card recipients to sell gift cards directly to the service for nearly the entire value of the gift card — up to 92% of the face value. The process for “selling” a gift card to one of these services is super-simple: just choose the retailer, type in the value of the gift, as well as the gift card number and PIN. You’ll then be able to choose whether you want to be paid via PayPal, or receive an Amazon gift card. The latter option actually allows users to receive up to 97% of the value of the gift card, which is a great option for those who have something on their wish list from Amazon.com. (And who doesn’t?) Then, you just send in your card and, after it processes, you’ll see your payment in a few days.
We’ve also previously written about Lifesta, a service that allows users who have purchased group deals to resell them should they no longer want — or can no longer use — the deal. After writing about the service, I successfully sold a group deal for a case of wine after I decided I had no need for a dozen bottles in my apartment. However, the service also works well for those of you in the pre or post holiday spirit, whether you have erroneously purchased a group deal to give or receive one you can’t really use. For example, I thought a recent Groupon for a one-year subscription to O, The Oprah Magazine, would be a thoughtful gift for my mom. It was so thoughtful — and fitting — that I had actually purchased a two-year subscription for her last year, and I failed to notice the stack of magazines accruing under the coffee table at her house until after I bought the recent Groupon. Luckily, I was able to sell it on Lifesta and easily recoup the cost.
Of course, these types of services aren’t just limited to unwanted gift cards and group deals during the holidays. Anson Tsai of Cardpool says that the company accepts over 400 merchants, virtually all national brands, all year long. (Notably, Plastic Jungle offers similar prices for gift cards from most of the same retailers.) Tsai does encourage recipients of unwanted gift cards to take advantage of these types of services, though, especially if they reside in a state that enforces expiration dates on gift cards. Tsai says that “many consumers hold onto gift cards thinking ‘one day’ they’ll use them, but many gift cards never get used, up to an estimated $5 billion / year.” Rather than risk it, these services allow consumers who receive unwanted gift cards and Groupons (or other group deals) to actually use the cash to get what they really want.
Which, in my case, may or may not be a pair of expensive rain boots.
Would you use a service like Cardpool or Plastic Jungle to trade in unwanted gift cards for cash this holiday season? Let us know what you think of these options for unwanted gifts in the comments.