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More than $1 billion worth of gift cards went unused last year

What to do with unwanted gift cards

Gift cards are a popular present at the holidays — the National Retail Federation says more than half of consumers plan to give one this year.

But they aren’t always wanted — research organization CEB TowerGroup estimates that $1 billion of the $130 billion spent on gift cards last year went unused.

It could be that the gift card is for a retailer or other business the recipient doesn’t like. Or they simply don’t have access to the restaurant or movie theater to spend it.

So if you got a gift card that is going to sit untouched, what should you do? Here are a few options:

REGIFT IT

This may be your easiest solution.

If you can’t use the card or just don’t want it, someone else might. So why not hand it over to a loved one who wants it? Gift cards are typically good for several years and there are no rules about changing hands.

SELL IT

There are various exchanges online, such as Cardpool.com, Raise.com and Cardcash.com, where you can buy and sell gift cards. You won’t get the full value of the card but you’ll recoup some of the value.

Expect to get about 80 to 90 cents on the dollar of the value of the card at a reputable site, said Teri Llach, chief marketing officer for the Blackhawk Network, which owns Cardpool.

Llach strongly discourages consumers from going rogue and trying to sell or buy one for themselves online as there’s no way to tell if you are being conned. An established and reputable site will guarantee that you are getting the promised balance in the time frame you want.

If you are more of an in-person sort, you can visit a CoinStar Exchange kiosk to get cash for your gift cards. Target will allow you to bring in gift cards for major brands with remaining balances on them and exchange them for a Target gift card.

You still won’t get the full value, but it’s a better deal than gathering dust.

DONATE IT

A feel-good, do-good option is to donate your unwanted gift card.

You can do this by handing the card directly to a charity. Consider a church, food bank or school that might use it to buy supplies, or offer it to a needy family in your community.

Cardpool and Compassion International co-founded CardFunder which lets consumers donate gift cards with available funds on them to a number of charitable efforts.

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