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How to use up your unwanted gift cards

Online retailers & return process
Online retailers & return process 04:21

By MoneyTips

Did you get what you wanted for Christmas? We hope so, but you probably have at least one gift that you cannot use or do not want.

You can usually return unwanted gifts, but what can you do with a gift card that you will never use? As much as $1 billion sits, unspent, on these casualties of the gift-giving season, according to one study. Here are a few suggestions for what to do with yours.

Holiday spending surge 04:22

10 ideas for gift cards you won't use

  1. Sell/Trade It – The marketplace always has an answer. is one of many sites allows you to sell your unwanted gift card for cash or trade it for cards that you will use. Keep in mind that you will not receive full face value – the marketplace also requires its cut.

  2. Re-Gift It – Others may be happy to receive the card you do not want. Are you uncomfortable cashing in your Victoria's Secret gift card? Do you consider a Chuck E. Cheese gift card pointless since you have no kids? Consider giving these cards to those with kids and… secrets.

  3. Give It Away – Find someone else who frequents the store that issued your gift card and give it to them. Better yet, go to the store and give it to a random stranger or use it to pay their bill at the checkout counter. Experience the joyous feeling of making someone else's day with a unique way to "pay it forward." (Although a man offering a stranger a Victoria's Secret gift card may be misconstrued.) 

    If you know of someone experiencing hard times, give it to him or her – anonymously, if you have to in order to maintain his or her pride. Consider giving it to a charity, food bank or shelter if it is a type of card they can use.

  4. Incentives – Use it as a reward for good behavior for your kids, or as a simple performance reward for an employee. Of course, be sure the card is appropriate for the recipient.

  5. Prizes – Do you have regular meeting for a club, service group or host social gatherings with door prizes? Now you have one more prize for the list.

  6. Make a Game – If you have several people who could use the card, make a game out of it. Set up a competition with a series of clues to find the hidden card first, or make it the prize for a scavenger hunt. This is great to keep kids busy, if you can interest them in the first place.

  7. School – Schools can always use extra resources, especially teachers who buy their own supplies. If it is appropriate, you may be able to help a teacher out, or at least reward him or her for the efforts to educate your children. (Again, mind the Victoria's Secret warning.)

  8. Graduations – A little extra gift card in the money folder can go a long way to helping your college student or graduate, especially restaurant cards. Ramen noodles get old quickly.

  9. Shop Yourself – Unless the card has absolutely no value to you – for example, a card for a gourmet nut shop when you have a nut allergy – try looking over the merchandise. You may be pleasantly surprised to find something you can use.

  10. Purchase and Resale – Even if the vendor carries nothing that you like, can you purchase something for a low price with the combined sale and gift card redemption, and then re-sell it for a profit? That is the ultimate capitalist solution.

Now that you have dealt with your unwanted gift card, it is time for the next challenge – dropping not-so-subtle hints on your preferred gift cards for next year's holiday season!

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