How to exchange gift cards for cash

Exchanging a gift card for cash is easier than you might think. Geri Lavrov

A gift card is an easy and thoughtful holiday present — and especially great for the person who seemingly has everything — but sometimes the card doesn’t line up with your interests or tastes. And let’s be honest, sometimes you just want the cash.

You don’t have to be stuck with a gift card that will sit in your wallet for a year, however, taunting you with its attractive dollar amount (and unattractive corresponding retail outlet). We’ve broken down the steps you can follow to redeem your unwanted gift cards for cash, and how to avoid potentially getting scammed in the process.

Find a reputable resale site

Yes, these do exist, and while you won’t get an equal dollar amount trade, you will get pretty close.

“You always want to use a trusted site, so read the reviews before going in,” says Frances Ho, president of CardSwap. “We grant anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the value of the card.”

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The gift cards that will garner you the best exchange are those applicable to everyday essentials, like gas, groceries or home renovations because these are typically the most in-demand. Specialty places, like sports-specific stores or anything pertaining to niche interests like photography, will not get you a very high return.

“Anything that isn’t generic, like a gift card for The Keg or the Ultimate Dining Card, which can be used at a variety of restaurants, is easy to trade in,” she says.

How to use a resale site

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As mentioned, the resale site will buy a gift card from you for a percentage that reflects the popularity of the card. That’s because the resale site buys the card from you and sells it to someone else — if people aren’t too hungry for Sephora gift cards, you likely won’t get offered much.

The process starts with you inputting the dollar amount and provenance of the card, at which point, you’ll receive a notice telling you what your card is worth, and depending on the site, you might also be offered a better deal for another gift card. For example, a $50 Home Depot gift card will earn you $42.50 in cash on CardSwap, or you could opt for a $45 Esso gift card instead of the money.

If you choose to accept the offer, you will be required to fill in all the information of the gift card, like the serial number and PIN, mail it in and wait a couple of days to receive a cheque (or card) in the mail.

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Bear in mind, however, that if your gift card is worth less than $25, you won’t be able to use most of these sites.

“People are not interested in buying a $5 or $10 gift card,” Ho says.

How to protect against getting scammed

Usually, it’s the people looking to buy a gift card at a discount who run the most risk of getting a bum deal, especially if they’re buying off community-based sites like Craigslist or Kijiji.

“A lot of times, a person will go into a store to check the balance of a card they’re about to buy off someone else and it’ll all check out. But if the card was purchased illegitimately with a stolen credit card, for instance, once the person whose card was stolen realizes they have unauthorized charges, they’ll instruct the credit card company and any gift cards will be cancelled,” Ho says.

That gift card may have had a certain dollar amount on it just before you bought it, but it could be null when you go to use it.

“As a seller, you can also safeguard yourself from mailing your card to a non-reputable place by copying down the serial number and the PIN,” says Justin Fritz, director of search marketing at Gift Card Granny. “If you see the company is slow in responding or they claim they never received the card, you can report it lost or stolen using the information of the card and get a new one.”

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If you’re buying a gift card at a store, always make sure it hasn’t been tampered with and the PIN hasn’t been scratched. Most importantly, keep the receipt.

“It’s always wise to keep the receipt as proof of purchase, even if you’re gifting the card to someone else,” Ho says. “This way, you have proof in case the card is cloned or otherwise tampered with.”

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