Consumer Reports: Trading gift cards for cash

June 29, 2010 8:28:39 PM PDT
Americans spend more than $80 billion a year on gift cards. But about $5 billion worth go unused. Consumer Reports ShopSmart says there are websites where you can unload unwanted gift cards and turn them into cash.

ShopSmart checked out seven of the websites to see just how much it could get for a variety of gift cards. They included Applebee's, Bath & Body Works, The Gap, Kohl's, Macy's, Payless, Pier 1, and Walmart. Prices varied widely. For example, a $50 Gap card, ranged from $32.50 to $40.

At the time ShopSmart checked, Walmart's card was the most valuable and the sites that paid the best prices were Plastic Jungle and Card Pool. But no one site always had the best deals, so you've got to shop around.

The sites will also let you buy gift cards at a discount. You could pay just $40 for a $50 gift card. That's $10 saved right there.

ShopSmart cautions that when buying a gift card, be sure to look for a guarantee on the site. If the site doesn't have a guarantee, you could be out of luck if the card turns out to be invalid or if it has less than the advertised value. And don't lose that gift card. You won't be able to replace it because you won't have a receipt.

The government is also getting ready to help people who've got gift cards they haven't used. In August, new federal rules make it illegal for gift cards to expire within five years after they've been purchased or reloaded with additional funds.

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