How to make money from gift cards

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@NAO/Twenty20

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Have you ever cleaned out an old drawer and found a pile of unused gift cards? How about having that initial excitement fade to disappointment as you remember the reason you shoved them all in a drawer in the first place?

Most of them were probably for stores or restaurants you didn’t really have any interest in visiting.

Rather than leave undesirable gift cards languishing in hiding, you can actually exchange them for cash. And it turns out getting money from old gift cards is relatively easy.

However, not everybody knows that you can make money from gift cards. According to a recent Bankrate survey, half of U.S. adults have unredeemed gift cards and store credits—but only 8 percent of surveyed adults have ever resold a gift card. Since the average value of these unused gift cards and credits is $167 per person, this is a lot of money we’re leaving on the table—or, in this case, inside our desk drawers.

Want to turn your old gift cards into cash? Here are a few ways you can make money off of unwanted gift cards:

Sell your gift cards for cash

Once you’ve officially made the decision to part ways with your gift card, there are plenty of official websites that can help you sell your gift cards to people who might actually want to use them.

Companies like Raise and CardCash let you sell gift cards for as much as 92 percent cash back. While you won’t walk away with 100 percent of the value of the card, you can use these sites to turn old gift cards into cash—which you can then use to buy whatever you’d like.

Reputable gift card resale sites also ensure that your gift card transactions stay safe with money-back guarantees and fraud protection. Why is this important? Well, when you’re weighing the pros and cons of selling a gift card via a resale site vs. selling directly to someone on social media, you need to consider all potential security issues. If you sell gift cards person-to-person, you could run into online scammers or people who take your gift cards without giving you your promised payment.

Trade your gift cards for cards you like better

If you like having gift cards but just don’t like any of the gift cards you have, there’s always the option to swap your gift cards for cards to other stores.

CardCash, for instance, lets you trade in your gift cards for gift cards of the same value—or, in some cases, cards worth up to 7 percent more. When you use a site like CardCash to trade gift cards, not only are you making money on a gift card you otherwise wouldn’t use, but you might get a couple of extra dollars to spend at a store or restaurant where you’d actually like to treat yourself.

Avoid redeeming credit card rewards for gift cards

There’s one more thing you need to know about making money from gift cards—in most cases, redeeming credit card points, miles or cash back for gift cards isn’t the best use of your hard-earned rewards. While you can redeem credit card rewards for gift cards, you’ll often get a lower value than you could have earned if you’d redeemed your rewards for statement credits, travel bookings or online shopping.

If you want to maximize your credit card rewards, it’s best to avoid turning your points, miles or cash into gift cards. Instead, take some time to learn which rewards redemption methods offer the biggest bang for your buck. If you have a Chase travel credit card, for example, your points are often worth more when you redeem them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards—which means you’re leaving money on the table if you redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for gift cards.

The bottom line

Chances are, if you don’t use a gift card within the first few months of receiving the gift, you simply won’t use it all. That’s why it’s a good idea to know how to turn gift cards into cash, how to trade gift cards for cards you might actually use and how to get the most value out of a gift card that might otherwise sit unused in a desk drawer or an online account.

Rather than collect a stash of gift cards that are unwanted, find the method that works for you and turn the card into cash you will actually use.