[WATCH] Trade Unused Gift Cards for Cash, Different Cards, or Charity

Three options that can help you pay bills, pay down debt, or help a cause

There is something about gift cards that seems to bring out our ‘inner hoarder.’ CardHub.com estimates that Americans have racked up more than $44 billion in unredeemed gift-card value since 2008. The “save it now, use it later,” mindset usually goes in a circle. Years can go by if we just stay on that merry-go-round. It may be in our better interests to be present, and realize that the power of gift cards extends far beyond the retailer’s name you’re seeing on the front of the card.

[Related: 3 Questions to Keep Your Emotions and Spending in Check this Holiday Season]

Here are three options for unused gift cards that can help you get out of debt, get what you want, or give to a cause of your choice.

  1. Exchange for cash: There are sites like CardPool.com, Raise.com, and CardHub.com that allow you to get a cash offer for the value of your card. You can expect to get about 90% of the value back, and many of the sites have a minimum balance requirement of $25. GiftCardGranny.com compares the offers of several potential buyers, allowing you to pick the best. You can “name your own price” by auctioning your card on ebay or craigslist. Again, this is money you can use to pay bills, pay down debt—whatever you need the cash for.
  2.  Exchange them for cards you want: Many of the sites that allow you to sell cards also offer an exchange option. There is a site called GiftCardSwapping.com that will arrange for you to swap the card you have with someone who has the card you want.
  3. Donate their value to charity: There are sites like CharityGiftCertificates.org and Gift Card Giver by PlywoodPeople.com that allow you to donate the entire or partial value of your card. You’ll get a tax receipt and can deduct the full amount of your donation.

Be sure that you know the value of your card—you can call the number on the back if you’re not—and be sure you’re selling, swapping, or trading with a reputable site and charity if you’re donating. You can get a lot of information from a Google search, check with the Better Business Bureau, and use CharityNavigator.org to check out your charity of choice.