I’ve experimented with a few different methods, which I’ll discuss in order of me trying them.
- Option 0: Not selling and just waiting to use them
- Option 1: Using Craigslist or another means to sell locally
- Option 2: Selling the card on Ebay
- Option 3: Sell to one of the gift card exchanges listed on GiftCardGranny.com
Option 0: Not selling and just waiting to use them
The least intrusive way to cash out a gift card is by using it. Ideally, I would wait until a time when I was planning to buy stuff from that store anyway, but what would invariably happen is that I would start to consider the gift card “free money” and buy something out of the ordinary. True, I didn’t pay anything to get the gift card, but using it for something worthless meant that I’d be forgoing the opportunity cost of whatever I could get by selling the gift card.
- Payoff: 100%
- Shortcoming: Could lead to buying something worthless
Option 1: Using Craigslist or another means to sell locally
This too was fairly easy. Craigslist.org is a classified ad website on which you can buy and sell gift cards, among lots of other stuff. Registering on Craigslist takes just a few minutes and posting is just as quick. Back when I sold gift cards on Craigslist, I would take a camera phone picture of the card just to prove its existence without showing off the number and I would give a short description, wherein I would say the value and how I obtained the card (Because people like stories).
After settling on a price online, I would pick between one of two different places to meet. I’ve found that the store itself and a computer lab both work fine. The advantage of meeting at the store is that you could have a clerk check the balance for you while the buyer watched, but the obvious disadvantage is that you have to go to a store that might be out of your way (perhaps contributing to this being an unwanted gift card). The advantage of meeting at a computer lab is that they were everywhere when I was a student and it’s easy enough to look at a balance online. With both methods, I would ask for cash, which meant there was far less chance of being scammed.
So what was the problem with this method? Because of the limited audience of people willing to meet locally, I got a pretty small percentage of the card value back in cash — 70% at most and sometimes as low as 50%. Obviously, do your negotiating by email before agreeing to meet. Annoyingly, buyers would sometimes try to get me down a couple more dollars down from an agreed upon price when we met in person, but I’m pretty good about walking away, to which the buyer would give up trying to bargain.
- Payoff: 50-70%
- Shortcomings: Limited audience makes for low price, human contact
Option 2: Selling the card on Ebay
You know what Ebay is, right? Ebay.com is a peer-to-peer auction website. On its surface, a gift card is the ideal sort of thing to sell on Ebay. It costs a postage stamp to ship, and a gift card is basically a commodity — i.e. your $50 Staples gift card is no better than my $50 Staples gift card and you don’t have to guess on the condition of it. On Ebay, I would rarely get less than 80% of the face value of the card, sometimes creeping past 90% and on rare occasions, excitingly close to 100%! Of course, I would lose about 9% of the total bid to Ebay and the Ebay subsidiary PayPal in fees, but even after these, I would never come close to making as little as I would have on Craigslist.
It lived up to this ideal until the first chargeback happened. A chargeback — for those lucky enough to never have to deal with this annoyance — occurs when a buyer asks their credit card issuer to reverse a charge. Buyers can do this by claiming that a good never arrived, but if they really want to get their credit card issuer’s attention, they can claim that they never made the purchase at all because the credit card was stolen. When this happened to me — after sending the gift card already, of course — Ebay immediately sent my money back to the issuer. After a brief investigation, Ebay determined that I was correct in my actions, but wouldn’t take money from the buyer anyway because it couldn’t be sure that the bid was made by someone other than who I had sent the gift card to.
The happy ending was that I have a personal policy of asking politely and PayPal credited me the amount of the chargeback.
There are ways to make Ebay a little safer like always sending the physical card instead of just emailing the gift card code and using certified mail, but it’s just not worth it. The event was enough to make me look for another avenue to sell gift cards.
- Payoff: 75%-90% after fees, minus amounts lost due to Ebay fraudsters
- Shortcoming: Those fraudsters
Option 3: Sell to one of the gift card exchanges listed on GiftCardGranny.com
This is what I actually do now. GiftCardGranny.com is an aggregator of several gift card middleman websites, which lists current selling prices at each site and links to each site.
Each site has its own interface, but generally, once you get to one of the gift card middleman sites, you click on the store you want to sell for, enter the value of your gift card, get an offer, and add it to your cart until you’ve entered all your gift cards. Most have three options for getting paid:
- Get the least money by getting transferred the money immediately by PayPal by digitally sending the gift card numbers
- Get paid by PayPal or check upon receipt of the mailed physical gift cards
- Get paid the most by accepting Amazon gift card codes in exchange for the mailed physical gift cards
Because my student loan servicers don’t yet accept Amazon gift cards as a form of payment, I chose payment option #2 🙂
Last month, I used Cardpool, ABC Gift Cards, and Gift Card Zen — because each offered the highest prices for different cards — and had a smooth transaction with each. Alternatively, I could have used Shopify to sell depending on how many cards I had.
- Payoff: 70%-80%
- Shortcoming: Don’t get as much as Ebay and payment happens after sending the goods; not before
And that’s where I’ve ended up. Anyone know of a better way to get rid of gift cards that I might have missed?