Well, the Holiday Season is not quite here yet but I figured any time is good to write a quick article about Gift Cards, cash and the pursuit of happiness.  According to research from CEB Tower Group, it is estimated that $110 billion worth of gift cards were purchased in 2012 in the United States alone, a 10% increase over 2011.  So yes, if you’re not one of the lucky recipients or purchasers of one of those gift cards, maybe something is wrong with you!

I personally get a lot of them!  Starbucks, miscellaneous restaurants, electronics stores, movie theaters, Amazon (my favorite, hint, hint) and so on.  But in that mix, I also get some that are for stores or places that either I’ve never heard of, or I have no intention to shop at.  So what do I do with all of those unused gift cards?  Well, typically, it came down to two options: 1)  They were buried in my office desk drawer until my next clean up cycle, by which time, I find out they have expired;  or 2) I donated them to charity.  (I’m not much into “re-gifting” so the charity donation made me feel much better.)

But now my friends, I’ve discovered another great option!  Trading them for cash!  Yes, I know, the option has been around for quite some time, but since I’ve never done it before, it is new to me.  You can do a quick search on your favorite Search Engine using the term “trading gift cards for cash” or something similar and you will see several results for companies that provide that service.  Since I don’t intend to “plug in” any particular company for any reason, I will just give you here my own experience.

I selected Gift Card Exchange Day since it was so simple to use.  Simply go to that website, select the store for which you have a Gift Card from the drop down menu, add the value of the gift card directly below it, and click on the “Get Offers” button.  You will get a list of stores that are willing to buy your Gift Card and the dollar amount that they are willing to pay for it.  Of course, the cash offers that you will receive will normally be around 25-30% less than the actual value of your Gift Card but if you consider that you’re trading a piece of unused plastic for cash, any amount of cash is actually quite good.

After using Gift Card Exchange to view the list of offers from various merchants, I ended up using ABC Gift Cards for my transaction.   I traded one $100 Gift Card for a store that I shall not name -in case the person that gave it to me happens to be reading this- for $72 and that amount was immediately deposited to my PayPal Account.  You mail the Gift Cards to them and you’re done.  The entire process was so simple that I was amazed!

Below is a screen shot of a simulated transaction through ABC Gift Cards.  I added two sample Gift Card values, one for Amazon.com and one for JCPenney so you can see the original face value of each Gift Card ($100) and the cash that you could get for each of them.

Trading Gift Cards for Cash

So there you have it!  Next time you get a gift card for a store or a merchant that you’re not so fond of, smile graciously to your friend, gladly accept the heartfelt gift, go online and pocket the cash.  And you can feel good about it too!  The Gift Card will actually be used by somebody else and with your newly acquired cash, you will be buying something you actually want, making a small contribution to stimulate our economy, create jobs and help our country’s GDP grow.

Until next time (and now accepting all types of Gift Cards) this is Manuel Gil del Real (MGR)