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Personal Finance

Did you receive a gift card you don't need? Here’s how to sell it for cash

If you’re willing to take a small loss, you can use your gift card’s value toward rent, gas, or other expenses.

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Jeff Greenberg | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

Proper etiquette is to always maintain a smile while receiving gifts — even if it's something you may not want or can't use. That said, hundreds of billions of dollars in gifts are returned each year.

A common offender is gift cards — a present slightly less personal (and less practical) than cash. Wouldn't it be great if you could return gift cards? After all, 47% of Americans have at least one unused gift card, according to a CreditCards.com study, and the average unused amount is $175 per person.

Fortunately, you can — sort of. If you're willing to give up a bit of value, there are simple ways to turn unwanted gift cards into cash.

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Sell your gift cards for easy money

There are a number of third-party websites that allow you to exchange gift cards for cash. They each work slightly differently, so the one you choose will depend on convenience — and sometimes, the gift card merchant.

Sites like Raise operate as a sort of marketplace with the burden of selling the gift card placed on you. You'll be able to choose how heavily you want to discount your card, and you can view the discounts that others with similar gift cards are offering. You won't receive any money until someone buys your gift card.

Raise imposes a 15% fee for the privilege of using its site to sell your card. In other words, the best possible return is 85 cents on the dollar.

That's a higher fee than many other sites, though Raise's strong reputation can make it worth the price for some. Selling gift cards for the first time can be a bit nerve-racking, after all. Raise offers two payout methods: ACH direct deposit and PayPal.

Photo courtesy of raise.com


Other sites, like CardCash, will remove the hassle of selling the card yourself. As soon as they verify your gift cards, they'll pay you and take care of the reselling themselves.

CardCash will give you up to 92% of the cash value of your cards. That's significantly better than the likes of Raise — though the return fluctuates greatly from one retailer to the next. For instance, at the time of this writing, a $100 gift card to Walmart will get you $86, the Apple Store will get you $80 and Microsoft a lousy $65.

One of the best features of CardCash (and an advantage it has over Raise) is that it's pretty indiscriminate as to which gift cards it will buy from you. It follows standard practices, such as refusing to sell gift cards with expiration dates or promotional cards that can only be spent in certain areas. But the list of accepted merchants seems to be much larger than that of Raise. So even if your obscure gift cards don't yield a huge return, you'll at least get something.

CardCash also gives you the option to trade in your gift cards for select other gift cards and receive up to 11% more value than had you simply cashed out. Popular trade-in options are Amazon, Target and Wayfair. Trading your current gift card for an Amazon gift card (which has just about everything) could be as good as cash — and a no-brainer way to preserve value.

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Buying discounted gift cards

In the same way you can use sites like Raise and CardCash to sell your unwanted gift cards, you can use them to buy other people's gift cards at a discount. If you're planning to purchase discounted gift cards through these sites, be sure to use a credit card that will give you the maximum return for your spending. Gift card marketplaces won't fall into any bonus categories, so the best strategy is to spend on a card that gives you a respectable flat rate on everyday purchases, such as:

Citi Double Cash® Card

  • Rewards

    Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time. Plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 months on balance transfers; N/A for purchases

  • Regular APR

    19.24% - 29.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    For balance transfers completed within 4 months of account opening, an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies; after that, a balance transfer fee of 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Fair/Good/Excellent

  • See rates and fees. Terms apply.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Enjoy 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services, 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; and 3% cash back on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    INTRO OFFER: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    20.49% - 29.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Intro fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Member FDIC. Terms apply.

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

On Wells Fargo's secure site
  • Rewards

    Unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate

  • Regular APR

    20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro for 120 days from account opening then BT fee of up to 5%, min: $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

Bottom line

You can easily turn gift cards into cash (or more desirable gift cards) through reputable sites like Raise and CardCash. The site you choose will depend on the ease of sale and the type of gift card you have. You won't get full value for it, but that's still better than letting a gift card go unused.

Next time you unwrap a thoroughly uninteresting gift card, you can display a genuine smile as you scheme to convert it into something you actually want with just a few clicks.

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At CNBC Select, our mission is to provide our readers with high-quality service journalism and comprehensive consumer advice so they can make informed decisions with their money. Every article is based on rigorous reporting by our team of expert writers and editors with extensive knowledge of financial productsWhile CNBC Select earns a commission from affiliate partners on many offers and links, we create all our content without input from our commercial team or any outside third parties, and we pride ourselves on our journalistic standards and ethics.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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