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4 Ways To Make Unused Gift Cards Work For You

If you’re like a lot of people, you probably have one  (or more ) unused gift cards hanging out in the recesses of your wallet; in that junk drawer in the kitchen; or in that already cluttered email inbox.

Those unused gift cards add up to a lot of money. In fact, according to one 2015 report, nearly $1 billion worth of gift cards went unused -- forgotten, misplaced and, in some cases, unwanted. After all, a gift card to that all-you-can-eat chain restaurant off the highway might be the perfect gift for grandma, but not her foodie, vegan, 20-something granddaughter.

But, your unused gift cards still have value to you … even if you never plan on stepping foot into the store or restaurant that they come from.

Here are four ways to get the most out of those unused gift cards.

1. Regift it: If you haven’t spent any money on the gift card, there’s no reason why it couldn’t go to somebody who actually wants it. Maybe that restaurant gift card would be a perfect thank you gift to your child’s teacher. Maybe your aunt would appreciate the card to the home decor store that’s not quite your style. You save money on buying another gift for your friends or loved ones -- and ensure the gift card will go to somebody who will actually appreciate it.

2. Donate it: When you donate an unused or even partially used gift card to an eligible nonprofit, you can deduct the value of the card from your taxes. Through’s Donate Your Card feature, you can donate your unspent gift cards and direct the money toward some of the more than 1,000 nonprofits that are part of the program. Goodwill also accepts donations of gift cards.

3. Trade it … at Target: Big box retailer Target lets shoppers exchange their unwanted gift cards, valid at other stores, for a Target gift card. The Target trade-in program lets customers bring in gift cards from leading brands, including California Pizza Kitchen, Gap, Honey Baked Ham and AMC Theatres, among many others, and turn them in for a Target gift card that can be used in Target stores or for online purchases at

4. Exchange it: If you don’t shop at Target, there are other opportunities to turn that unwanted gift card into cash or credit at a business where you’ll actually use it. There are all kinds of gift card exchange websites. shares some tips and popular sites for exchanging the cards. Consumer Reports recommends shopping around as not all exchange sites will give you the same amount of money for your gift card.

The Retail Gift Card Association also warns consumers to do their research if they plan on exchanging a card for cash or credit elsewhere.

In an article in Payments Journal, the association recommends consumers look for exchanges that offer post-purchase guarantees; verify the balance of gift cards before selling to shoppers; and are “genuine gift card exchange companies,” not a “private seller on Craigslist or other sites.”

After all, gift cards are essentially the equivalent of cash -- something you can exchange for goods or services. And it’s always best to vet every financial decision you make.

Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit committed to empowering and inspiring consumers nationwide to make wise financial decisions and live debt free. Speak with a certified counselor for a free debt analysis today


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