What should you do with unused gift cards?

I happen to think that gift cards are a decent choice for Christmastime giving.  They’re convenient and flexible.  A well-chosen gift card can show that you know what the person really likes.

Once in a while, though, a gift card goes unused for a while.  This can happen for a number of reasons:

  • The timing wasn’t appropriate for one reason or another.  Even if a gym rat gets a gift card for some one-on-one training sessions at their gym, they could get in an accident and not be able to use the training sessions until they recover.
  • The giver of the gift card missed a little bit.  Gift cards usually match the interest of the person receiving it, but not always.
  • The person is disorganized.  Being disorganized can cost big money.  In my latest fit of trying to get my head above water on getting things organized, I found over $100 of unused gift cards!  No joke.  I’m thankful that they hadn’t expired yet.

You likely have options for your unused gift cards

So let’s say you’re like me, and find a gift card that was lost in a pile for a year or so.  After checking the balance of the card online, there’s good news!  The card is still good.

Here are a few things you can do with this newly-found treasure:

  • Use the card.  Duh, right?  If the card was unused because you didn’t know that you had it in the first place then this is a great time to plan to use the gift card if it still makes sense.  Time may not be on your side; some gift cards have monthly maintenance fees that eat away at the balance if they go unused for an extended period of time.  So enjoy them!  (That’s what we did tonight with our gift card.  We had a good dinner out!)
  • Re-gift the card.  If the card would be a good match for someone on your Christmas list, then congratulations: you’ve already bought their gift!  Unless the card itself looks like it’s been through the war, then it should be just fine.  Just be sure that (a) it wasn’t this particular person that gave you the card in the first place, and (b) it still has the full amount on it.  A $50 iTunes cards with $31.77 left on it is a dead giveaway for a re-gift.
  • Sell the gift card.  Unused gift card balances are worth money — as long as the particular store is in business, of course.  It’s almost completely unlikely that you’ll get a dollar for dollar match for your gift card, because it’s not the same as cash.  The money is good only at one store.  The amount you’ll get depends on how many different kinds of things can be purchased with the card, the balance, and the demand for that particular merchant’s gift cards.  Unused gift cards from big-box stores like Walmart or Target tend to command a higher percentage of face value than smaller retailers.

Any creative things you’ve done with unused gift cards?

John Wedding

Husband. Father. Web publisher. Musician. John has blogged at Mighty Bargain Hunter since 2005, helping people to recognize life's good deals.

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  1. says

    Here’s a little spin on gift cards – My wife and I just bought some for ourselves on Black Friday. We go to one particular restaurant once a month when they host a jazz music night. On Black Friday, they offered a deal to give you a $20 gift card for every $100 in gift cards that you buy. So we bought the $100 for ourselves, knowing that we’ll spend it – and the $20 bonus – over the next four months (we spend about $30 each time we go out for jazz night).

    • John Wedding says

      The jazz night by itself is a good deal! More bang for your buck anyway (even without the extra gift cards)!

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