Don't hesitate to use those gift cards!

By Sandra Gordon on January 7, 2013 12:01:00 am

Thinkstock119806851_SSBLOG_MONEY_giftcardsIf you’re like many Americans, you received at least one gift card this past holiday season. I was lucky enough to get two—a Visa and MasterCard gift card—for a total of $120 and I’ve almost spent it all, with just $44 to go. But as you may know, that’s not the norm. According to a 2011 Consumer Reports survey, most gift cards end up gathering dust in a drawer, which is why retailers and credit-card companies love them. They get to simply pocket the cash because they’re never redeemed. If you’re like me, maybe you’ve even lost a gift card. I’m still looking for a $50 Best Buy gift card a friend gave me several years ago.

Get your due. The strategy that has worked for me is to use gift cards right away instead of saving them for a rainy day that never comes. I like to redeem gift cards on treats for myself, like a jazzy cover for my new laptop, which I snagged at the Apple store with a combo of the two gift cards I received a couple of days after Christmas. But if nothing else strikes my fancy, I’ll use the $44 remaining balance for groceries just to get rid of the card—and shoo the plastic out of my wallet. Buying gas for the car is an option too.

If you can’t find anything to use your gift cards on, redeem them for cash at sites such as, or You’ll typically get 50 percent to 90 percent of the value of the card. It’s not 100 percent, but hey, it’s better than leaving money on the table, or rather in your desk drawer. According to Gift Card Granny, Target and prepaid gas cards offer the highest yields, typically 75 percent of the value of the card or more, which is a decent amount in the world of gift-card selling. At Plastic Jungle, you can redeem a gift card for an Amazon gift card instead of cash. That card-for-card option will net you 3 percent more than the listed trade amount of the card.

How many holiday gift cards did you receive in December? What strategies do you use to get them most from them?

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Sandra Gordon

Sandra Gordon

Posted at 12:01:00 AM in
Consumer protection | Featured | Gifts | Holidays | Money & Shopping | Sandra Gordon | Shopping

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