How to Best Maximize the Value of Gift Cards


MOMentumNation_giftcardOne popular present people love to give is the gift card. Whether it’s to a particular store or just a general cash card, these gift cards can be valuable – if you use them. Between 2005 and 2011, more than $41 billion in gift cards went unused.

People don’t use their gift cards for many reason – they forget, the card is for a store they don’t shop at or there’s an unused balance that’s difficult to use up. Here are tips on how to best maximize the value of gift cards.

First Steps
Upon receiving a gift card, take these first steps to get organized.

  • Make sure to register and sign the gift card. Look on the back for the registration website. Registering is helpful should you lose your card as it is proof you owned it.
  • Know your balance. If you only partially used the value of the gift card, write the remaining balance on the back of the gift card. If you forget, go to the website listed on the back to look up your balance.
  • Read the fine print. Some gift cards deduct a monthly fee after a year. Make sure you know the due date of when the value of the gift card should be used up.
  • Keep gift cards in sight. Gift cards that are out of sight are often out of mind. Make an ongoing list of the gift cards you’ve accumulated and hang it on your refrigerator. Or keep the gift cards in an organizer in the office or kitchen.

Don’t Want the Gift Card?
Sometimes you may receive gift cards for stores you’d never shop at. Perhaps grandma’s favorite place to go is the country home store, but that’s not quite your style. Don’t waste that gift card! Here are tips to ensure you still get something out of it.

  • Give the gift card to someone else. If you know someone who would love to shop at that store, then by all means make their day and give it to them. It’s better than completely wasting the value of the card. The recipient will remember your kind gesture.
  • Sell on eBay. There is no shortage of gift card auctions on eBay. Start the bid price at half the card’s value to get the auction going. Hopefully bidders will drive up the auction price, but if you only end up getting half the value that’s still not bad given it’s all profit for you.
  • Sell on Similar to email, is a gift card marketplace but without bidding. Consumers list an e-card for free or a physical gift card for $1. They can sell their cards at any price. When sold, takes a 15 percent cut.
  • Exchange the gift card with the help of Gift Card Granny. This site curates other gift card exchange sites that are vetted by the company and then compares them. Gift Card Granny does the research for consumers by looking at the length of time taken for the reseller to exchange a card for cash, their exchange policies and any money-back guarantees.
  • Exchange the gift card with Alula. The Alula website directs consumers to kiosks that accept gift cards and then prints out a voucher that can redeemed immediately in the store. The kiosks accept gift cards from over 150 retailers and pays out between 65 percent and 85 percent of the card’s value. It then sells the gift cards to partners that sell directly to consumers. The main limitation with Alula is that its kiosks are only available in a few scattered locations nationwide. Some examples of grocery stores carrying Alula kiosks include Safeway in Seattle, San Francisco and Phoenix, Jewel Osco in Chicago, Giant Eagle in Ohio and ACME in the East Coast.

What to Do With Unused Balances on Cash Gift Cards

Cash gift cards like the Visa gift cards are popular as they allow the recipient to use the money at any retailer. The issue arises when there’s an unused balance. The items you wish to purchase typically must be the exact amount or less than what is on the gift card or else the transaction won’t go through. Many retailers will not allow you to use the full balance on the gift card and supplement any overage with a second credit card or cash. This means that those gifts cards with only a few dollars left on than often remain unused.

  • Reissue the remaining balance onto an Amazon gift card. Amazon gift cards accept any amount, so if you only have $8.68 left on your cash card then you can use it to purchase an Amazon one for the exact same value. Amazon offers almost any product you can imagine, so it’s a great way to use up every penny left.
  • Use up as much as you can. If you know there’s only $2.38 remaining on the cash gift card, then the next time you’re at a drug store or any other place selling low cost items, then use it. You may end up losing a few cents, but considering the card was a gift then it’s no out of pocket loss for you.

Have more tips on how to best maximize the value of your gift cards? Suggest them here in the comments section.

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