Consumer Reports: What to do with those unwanted gift cards

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Consumer Reports put several websites to the test. (WABC)

Chances are you received a gift card this holiday season. Gift cards have ballooned into a $32 billion a year business, with about half of shoppers saying they plan to buy one this year, according to a Consumer Reports survey.

But what if you get a gift card you don't want?

You can buy store gift cards almost anywhere, but not everyone likes to get them.

"Once I got a gift card to this clothing store I had no interest in. I gave it to my little sister," one man said.

Another way to get rid of gift cards - trade them for cash at one of the many gift-card exchange websites out there.

Consumer Reports' Tod Marks checked four of them.

"These websites buy your cards at less than face value and then resell them. That means you'll get less, sometimes a lot less than they're worth at the store," he said.

For example, a $100 Toys R Us gift card gets $80.50 at but shrinks to $50 at

"We looked at 13 different store gift cards in our experiment, and gave us the most money overall. However, you cannot count on any one site to give you top dollar for each and every card, so it pays to shop around," said Marks.

You'll generally get more cash back for gift cards from popular retailers. With Walmart, a $100 gift card gets you around 90 dollars at all the sites Consumer Reports checked.

Another option: You can get cash right away at Coinstar Exchange kiosks found in stores throughout the country. But you may not get as much money back as you would have on the websites.

A $100 Walmart card got only $71 there.

Giving a bank gift card makes it easier for the person who gets it.

"If they carry the logo of Master Card, Visa, American Express, or Discover, they can be redeemed at any merchant that accepts those cards," said Marks.

Keep in mind that those bank gift cards usually cost four to six dollars to purchase. So that's a cost to keep in mind the next time you think about giving gift cards.
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