CLEVELAND - Gift cards have ballooned into a $32 billion per year business, with about half of shoppers saying they plan to buy one for someone, according to a Consumer Reports survey. But what if you get a gift card you don’t want?
You can give them away or you can trade them for cash at one of the many gift-card exchange websites. Consumer Reports checked four of them—Giftcards.com, CardPool.com, GiftCardRescue.com, and MonsterGiftCard.com. Those websites buy your cards at less than face value, then resell them. That means you’ll get less, sometimes a lot less than they are worth at a store. For example, a $100 Toys R Us gift card gets $80.50 at Giftcards.com, and that shrinks to $50 at Monstergiftcard.com.
Consumer Reports looked at 13 different store gift cards. Giftcards.com gave the most money overall. But you can’t count on any one site to give you top dollar for each and every card, so it pays to shop around. You’ll generally get more cash back for gift cards from popular retailers. A Walmart gift card for $100 gets you about $90 at all of 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 gift-card exchange websites. A $100 Walmart card got only $71 when Consumer Reports tried.
Giving a bank gift card makes it easier for the person who gets it. If the card carries the logo of Master Card, Visa, American Express, or Discover, it can be redeemed at any merchant that accepts those cards. But keep in mind that bank gift cards usually cost $4 to $6 to purchase. So that’s a cost to keep in mind if you’re thinking about giving gift cards this holiday season.