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Turning Gift Cards Into Cash

March 22nd, 2010

giftcardsAlong with a sharp rise in the purchase of gift cards, there has recently been an even larger increase in the sales of these cards. An estimated 10% of all gift cards sold typically go unused, and more people are now seeking out ways to sell them. There is increased interest in this secondary market for transferring the gift cards from people who do not want to use them into the hands of those eager to have them. Whether you are a buyer or a seller, there are advantages for everyone.

Advantages for the sellers:
1. You may have one or more cards that you can’t use because they’re from stores where you don’t shop.
2. You’d like to swap several luxury gift cards for a card of higher value that could pay for a single practical item.
3. Because of economic conditions you’d rather convert a gift card into cash without the risk of offending the donor.
4. Avoid dormancy fees that use up the value of the card.

Advantages for the buyers:
1. You can select cards for your favorite stores and buy them at a discount.
2. Bargain hunters can combine the discounted gift cards with coupons and sales for even bigger savings.

How to Find a Reputable Site?

Gift card sites come and go, so finding a reliable site is important. There are almost 50 different opportunities listed at Gift Card Advocate, with a brief description of each and the date the domains were registered. Among them are bidding/auction sites, social media apps that act only as a bulletin board for listing the cards, sites with excessive annoying advertisements, and many that are already gone. Most are not viable choices. After reviewing them all, there were only a few that I would feel comfortable dealing with.

There are some features you should look for in order to have the best experience.
1. Choose a site that purchases the cards from sellers, verifies them, and then offers them to buyers for sale. In this case, the transaction is between the buyer or seller and the site, and not between two individuals. Avoid sites that only offer to post the listings, or require that you puchase credits to bid or buy.
2. Look for sites with a large selection of cards, some form of certification, and a reliable guarantee.

ABC GiftCards
One site that meets these requirements for me is ABC Gift Cards.  This New Jersey company started with local kiosk locations in a tri-state area and now operates an online site that allows you to buy, sell, or trade gift cards. The site purchases the cards, verifies them, and then offers them for sale. Some cards may be partially used, but all cards sold by ABC are guaranteed for value and validity. They are accredited by the Better Business Bureau and will replace or refund your money if any card is found to be fraudulent. The transaction is also covered by Paypal or credit card buyer protection plans. Fees vary from 3%-30%, and shipping is free over $50, otherwise it’s $1.

A similar site is Plastic Jungle, where you can browse or search their gift card list without registering. All transactions are guaranteed, and shipping is free for buyers. Registered members can sign up for email notifications that will alert them when cards that meet specific buying criteria become available. Buyers pay no fees at all; sellers pay a 10% commission plus shipping charges, which range from $0.58-$16.25, based on shipping method.

At SwapaGift, you can sell your $25-$300 gift cards to them for 60%-70% of face value if the card merchant appears in their preferred merchant list. Sellers have a choice of payment in cash or slightly higher value Amazon gift cards. Cash can be paid within an hour if you take your cards to one of their certified partner locations. Gift card buyers are directed by a link on their page to GiftCards.com, where gift cards can be purchased at discounts up to 25% off retail prices.

This site doesn’t offer an option to trade cards, but you can sell your unwanted gift cards for 60-80% of face value at GiftCard BuyBack and buy the ones you like at discounts up to 20% off from their companion site, GiftCards Again. Prices vary by company based on the marketability of their cards. Sellers pay no mailing costs or other fees, and buyers are guaranteed that the card values have been validated and get a 30-day return policy.

The only bidding site I would recommend is eBay. While the transactions are between individuals and the site does not validate the cards, buyers still have credit card and Paypal protection. The sellers pay all fees, and buyers may be lucky enough to win the auctions at a good price. The Buy-It-Now listings offer the same experience as the other sites, or you can go through the bidding process and try to save more. Of the more than 2400 gift card listings, over half offered free shipping.

With the popularity of gift cards growing every year, it is probably unavoidable that you will, at some time, receive one. You should then be aware that one of your options is to go online to swap or sell the card, rather than to toss it in a drawer and potentially waste part or all of its value as time passes. Picking a secure and reliable site for your transaction will ensure that your experience will be a positive one.

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