In this recession-bound economy, it sounds a little nuts that there is a secondary economy for gift card exchanges. If the people who are giving unwanted gift cards would just stop — of give cash instead — everyone would probably be a lot happier. But still, we all seem determined to hand out these little plastic vouchers, shelling out an average of $145 each on gift cards this holiday season,according to the National Retail Federation.
Hence the slew of gift card exchange sites. If you want to buy into the fracas and give a brand new gift card this year, you'll first want to know the gift card policies of the major stores. But if you want to find one at a discount, or you want to get rid of a gift card you won’t use, then you need to check out these marketplaces.
The top three of these sites offer features that help you find what you want and connect with a seller:
- GiftCardGranny: As gift card exchange comparison site, GiftCardGranny aggregates the cards that are available from a number of site. Currently, it's promoting deals for up to 60% off, or selling for 92% cash back. But current front-page deals are mostly in the 15%-20% range, like a $42 AMC Theater Card for $33.60.
- Plastic Jungle: The most popular of gift card exchange sites, PlasticJungle is even a little more conservative in its savings this year. While the site messages that the average buyer saves $68, the hot gift card deals are mostly under 10% off, with no availability for major stores like Target, Walmart, Home Depot and Best Buy. There are a ton of iTunes cards to choose from, at a discount of about 8%, or $13.80 for a $15 card.
- GiftCardRescue : Leans heavily toward the seller as a place to get cash back for your unwanted cards. The most choice available -- 55 cards available at 10% off -- was for the group of restaurants that includes Chili's, Macaroni Grill, On the Border and Maggiano's, which should suggestion something about the popularity of these casual dining chains. The highest discounts were for 15% at Gymboree.
We've tried others gift card exchange sites in the past, and you can click to see the results of our gift card exchange site reviews.
Before you use any of these sites, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
- Stick to a well known gift card exchange like those listed above. These sites add safeguards to make sure that you don’t end up buying an empty gift card. Gift Card Rescue has a 100% money back guarantee for gift cards.
- Be aware of expiration dates and limitations. While many major gift cards are now available with no expiration date, there are still some cards that will expire. Gift Card Granny doesn’t sell any cards with expiration dates, but the money back guarantee is only valid for six months.
- If the gift card you buy doesn’t have a round amount on it, like $100, you can take most of them into a local store and add the additional amount . This is important since you may be able to find a better deal on a partially used card with an odd amount.
If you buy from a gift card exchange, be very aware that it won’t be a last minute present since cards take two to seven days to arrive. But when they do get there, you’ll be able to give a gift card at a discount and you’re the only one who will know!
Got unwanted or unused gift cards sitting around your house right now? Snap a picture of them and send it to us on our new Tumblr blog (you must be logged in to photo reply). We'll pick the winners and feature them on the site!
Josh Smith is a freelance writer who writes frequently about technology and consumer electronics and is based in Ohio. Follow him on Twitter — @josh_smith. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.
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