CEB TowerGroup forecast that approximately 85 percent of the U.S. population exchanged gift cards in 2012. Of the $3 billion loaded on those gift cards, the group says that approximately $1.7 billion will be "spillage": the amount of money left on a gift card that never gets spent, either because the gift card is never redeemed or because it's only partially used.
If you find any discarded plastic -- either wholly or partially unused -- there are a number of websites to help you make use of them.
1. If You Want to Convert Gift Cards Into Cash:
The Website: GiftCardGranny.com: At Gift Card Granny you can sell your gift card and get cash sent to you for a percentage of the face value. The amount you'll get depends on the popularity of the card and varies between 30 and 90 percent. For example, if you want to sell an American Express gift card, you may be able to get 80 percent of the face value, while a Sally Beauty Supply gift card will only garner 56 percent of the face value.
Pros: You get your cash sent quickly rather than waiting for the card to sell. No fees are charged to sellers. You choose between multiple sites that offer to purchase your card, so you can pick the one that pays the most.
Cons: Your money comes from the website vendor you choose, often by check, which could take a week or longer. Some sites have a minimum gift card amount of $25 or more.
The Website: PlasticJungle.com: At PlasticJungle.com you can sell gift cards for multiple approved merchants for a percentage of the face value. You have a choice of receiving your funds through PayPal, by check, or in the form of an Amazon.com gift card.
Pros: Not only do you have a choice of how to receive your money, but this site allows you to exchange a partially used gift card. No fees are charged to sellers. If you need to mail a gift card, the site will provide free shipping.
Cons: You can't sell any gift cards with an expiration date, a rewards gift card with your name on it, paper gift certificates, or an unreadable/damaged gift card. You can only sell gift cards for Plastic Jungle's approved merchants. Gift cards must have at least $25 in available credit.
The Website: Raise.com: At Raise.com, you can choose your own price rather than relying on the website to tell you what percent of the face value you can earn. You can adjust the price to sell your card faster and review the marketplace to see prices for similar cards. You can be paid by check or PayPal.
Pros: You can list any card you like, regardless of the merchant or whether it has an expiration date. You can set your own price.
Cons: You won't be paid until your card actually sells and you confirm that you have shipped it.
2. If You Want to Trade Gift Cards You Don't Want for Gift Cards You Do:
The Website: CardCash.com: If you received a gift card from the Sports Authority and prefer to spend your money at Victoria's Secret, you can exchange your gift cards at CardCash.com. The catch is that you need to purchase gift cards first for the same amount or an amount greater than the face value of the cards you want to trade. You purchase the cards through PayPal or via a credit card and then enter your trade-in cards for a credit on PayPal or that same credit card.
Cons: Card Cash charges a transaction fee of 3 percent to 30 percent of the gift cards you trade in, so you won't get the full face value of the card.
3. If You Want to Donate Your Unused Gift Cards:
The Website: GiftCardGiver.com: If you prefer to give away your gift cards, consider the option of regifting them to someone who will appreciate them. Not only can you give to friends and family, but some charities also accept gift cards. Check with your favorite charity to see if they will accept a gift card in lieu of cash. Or GiftCardGiver.com will find a recipient for you.
Pros: It's simple to mail your card to GiftCardGiver. They will accept any card in any denomination, even partially used gift cards.
Cons: You won't necessarily know what charity is receiving your gift card. You'll just have to trust that the card will be given to a person or group who needs it more than you do.