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When Should You Sell a Gift Card for Cash?

Four things to consider when trying to decide if you should sell a gift card for cash. How much will you get, will the giver find out, and more!


When a Gift Card is Not The Perfect Fit

A couple of years ago, my boys each received a Disney gift card for Christmas. At the time, we did not have plans to visit Disneyland and the boys were already a little old for character-themed toys and clothes that could be purchased from the Disney store online. Appreciative of the gift cards but a little disheartened that they could not use the cards to buy anything they wanted, I suggested they sell the gift cards for cash and put the money into their duct tape wallets instead.

Four Things to Consider Before Selling a Gift Card

To me, the decision to sell unwanted gift cards for cash is pretty easy. If you have no way or no desire to use a gift card, then the gift card has no value…to you. Keeping a gift card that will never get used is a waste of money and is not what the gift-giver hoped would happen. This is no different than receiving a sweater you do not want and either throwing it in the back of the closet (never to wear) or returning it to the store in order to buy something else. Since gift cards cannot be returned (in most cases), selling gift cards for cash is the next best thing.

But not everybody is as quick to sell their gift cards as I am. So let me walk you through the things to consider so you can make the decision for yourself.

1. Why Haven’t You Used the Card Yet?

turn gift cards sideways in wallet

When people tell me that they have unused gift cards from months or even years ago, the first thing I ask them is, “Why haven’t you used the cards?” In most cases, the person will tell me one of two things. The first is that using the gift card is inconvenient. Perhaps there is no store nearby, nothing he or she wants at the store or the dollar value is too low to buy anything without spending additional money. The second reason people often hold onto gift cards for too long is that they simply forget to use them.

Inconvenient: If you are having a hard time using a gift card, then chances are the situation will not get any easier for you simply by holding onto the card. Gift cards that are not used within the first few months are in danger of being lost or forgotten about entirely. If you have a gift card that is challenging for you to redeem as intended, then think of another way to use the value of the gift card. You can sell the card, donate it or try one of these other ways to use unwanted gift cards. Just do not let the card languish any longer or you will risk losing the value for good.

Forgotten: Another common reason that people hold onto their gift cards for a long period of time is that they forget to use them. My advice is to put gift cards in your purse or wallet, in a place that you will see the cards often and be reminded to use them. For me, this is right next to the debit card I pull out all of the time. For you, it might be a special gift card holder. Whatever you do, do not leave the gift cards at home where you are even less likely to remember them. Here are some other tips on how to remember to use your gift cards.

2. How Much Money Will You Get for the Cards?

check for selling gift card

Initially thinking they would get full value for their gift cards, my boys jumped at the chance to turn their Disney dollars into cash. The cheering subsided, however, when I explained that selling gift cards for cash is not an even exchange. Moving over to the computer, I logged into a gift card reseller to see what their cards would be worth. At the time, the site said they would give $18 cash back for a $25 Disney gift card.

Less than Full Value: In talking to my boys, I suggested they go back through the Disney website to see if they could find anything they wanted to buy for the full value of the gift card. After a fruitless search, I again asked if they would rather have $18 or an unusable $25 gift card. They wanted the cash.

I know it may be hard to think about money lost in a gift card exchange, but a gift card sitting in your wallet indefinitely provides no value at all. So it is up to you decide which you would rather have.

3. How Long Will it Take to Get the Cash?

december calendar

The second speed bump on their way to loving the gift card reseller option came as I explained the different submission and payout choices. Going old school, they could mail the gift cards to the gift card reseller and wait for a check to arrive in the mail. I estimated this turnaround time to be a week or two. To speed up the process, however, they could sell the gift codes rather than the gift cards. If they sold the codes, they could enter the gift card information online–eliminating the need and the time required to mail the plastic gift cards into the company. If they opted to receive payment electronically as well, they could avoid waiting for a check to arrive in the mail too. Each of the choices impacted the payout.

Waiting for the Money: In addition to selling gift cards online, there are in-store kiosks that you can try to get cash for gift cards faster. Just remember that cash back offers sometimes vary depending on how immediate the payout will be. So while you might get cash back from a kiosk quickly, you could get a higher payout in an Amazon egift card or a check in the mail later.

4. Will the Giver Find Out?

duct tape wallet with amazon gift card

After all of the talk of dollars and delivery, it turned out my boys were most worried that the person who gave them the gift cards would find out that they had sold them for cash. (“What if she finds out!?!”) To this, I explained that their aunt simply did not realize that they had outgrown character-licensed products. (Some people never get too old for Disney!) Further, she really did intend for them to pick out their own gifts–hence, the gift cards.

Be Honest: In my experience, people seldom ask what you bought with a gift card. They generally just want to know that you received it and that you appreciate the gift. If the question is asked, however, the best approach is honesty. Explain that you could not find anything you wanted at that store, but sold the gift card for cash and used it to buy something you are really enjoying. Most people will understand and may, in the future, think more about the best gift cards to buy.

Could the Person ACTUALLY Find Out? The only way to know if a gift card has been used is to check the balance of a gift card. To check the balance, you will need to know the gift card number and any associated CVN (card verification number) or PIN (personal identification number) that comes with it. For a giver to check the balance of a card after it has been given, he or she would have had to record that information prior to giving the gift card. Unless the concealed numbers are scratched off or uncovered in another way, that probably did not happen.

Use the Unwanted Gift Card to Get What You Want

In the end, my boys decided to sell the gift codes for cash to shorten the submission time but still wanted payment by check. They were willing to accept $18, but not a penny less and wanted the freedom to use the money anywhere, not just on one particular website. Once they made the decision and we entered everything into the system, they were happy with the choice and did not mind waiting for the checks to arrive. Now my one son is closer to earning enough money for something he has been saving for and my other son promptly spent his cash on a sweet pair of seriously-overpriced socks. Thanks to these Disney gift cards, they got exactly what they both wanted.

Have you ever sold a gift card for cash? What helped you make the decision to use the gift cards in that way? Did you worry that the giver of the cards would find out? Did you feel good about the money your received? Please share your stories in the comments below so we can all make the best decisions going forward. I’d love to hear from you on Twitter (@GCGirlfriend) too.

Happy Gift Carding!

~Shelley Hunter, Gift Card Girlfriend

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