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Get Cash for Dud Gift Cards

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By Dayana Yochim (TMF School)
January 4, 2005

If the National Retail Federation's predictions came true, stockings were stuffed with gift cards this year. Did old St. Nick pick your plastic with care? If not, do what revelers the world o'er have been doing for years: Exchange it for something better.

In recent years websites devoted to wallet-sized white elephants have been popping up to introduce gift-card buyers, sellers, and traders to each other. With 75% of holiday shoppers plunking down $17 billion on gift cards over the holidays, according to the NRF's Gift Card Survey, a lot of envelopes were passed out on Christmas morning.

Don't let an ill-chosen gift card go to waste -- an estimated 10% of gift cards are never fully redeemed, a  boon for the retailers and a bust for the gift recipients. Instead log onto CertificateSwap.com, Cardavenue.com, or SwapAGift.com and see whether they have something that's a better fit. Recent deals on CertificateSwap include a $50 Crate & Barrel gift card for $45 or a RadioShack card loaded with $100 in cash for $85. On Swapagift.com you can swap several cards for a single one or even add cash to your castaway cards to entice buyers and traders.

The hassle factor of disposing of your unwanted gifts online is less than that of trying to do it at the mall. Still, wading through the fine print on these swap sites is an exercise in patience. Listing your certificates is usually free, but once it sells you'll get a bill for the convenience. You can list your white elephant for free on CertificateSwap. When the certificate sells, you pay a processing fee of 7.5% of the sale price (not the face value). Sellers are reimbursed 75 cents for shipping. Sellers and card traders on Cardavenue pay 6.25% of the selling price plus a one-time 50-cent closing fee. SwapAGift charges a flat fee of $3.99 for each certificate that sells. And if you need to unload an unwanted gift card in a hurry, the site will buy it from you outright for 70% of its face value.

Other fees may apply as well. If you do not wish to use your sales riches to purchase something from the site, you may be charged a processing fee for requesting a check or PayPal payment.

Like online auctions, the sites depend on the honor code. Feedback systems are in place to narc on bad seeds. To avoid getting blacklisted, confirm the amount on any card you wish to sell (call the toll-free number on the back of the card) and make sure that the gift is transferable. Note any expiration date or special circumstances under "seller comments." Beware of gift cards that lose value over time. You don't want bad gift-card karma coming back to haunt you next holiday season.

If the modern-day swap meet is too much of a hassle, there's always craigslist or the fine, old-fashioned art of regifting. Just remember to cross out your name on the card.