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Did Santa bring you gift cards this holiday season? If they're for stores you actually like, then shop away! But what if your gift cards are for places you consider more ho hum than ho, ho, ho -- and you know you'll never use them? Letting them sit in your wallet unused is just a big waste of money. The retailer gets paid, and doesn't even have to sell any merchandise.

It's estimated that 5 billion dollars from last year's gift card sales will go unspent. Yes, 5 billion! Don't become a statistic; instead, make the most of unwanted gift cards with these 5 smart strategies:

1. Sell/swap. Thanks to sites like Ebay, Plastic Jungle, Swapagift, Gift Card Buy Back and GiftCardRescue you can now buy, sell or swap gift cards online. MSN Money has a great article explaining some of the ins and outs of using gift card swap/sell/buy sites.

2. Shop for others. Use your card's balance to buy stuff for this year's birthday gifts or even next year's holiday season. Who says the balance has to be spent on something for you, anyway? Free from Broke has a bunch of ideas for maximizing your gift card's spending power.

3. Be charitable. Donate unwanted cards to the needy. Or ask a local charity or non-profit to name something they really need that's in your price range, then use the card to buy that item.

4. Re-gift it. Don't like the gift card? Go ahead and make someone else's day. Just make extra-sure the card is not old and expired before you do so!

5. Cash out. According to this Wise Bread post, you might be able to retrieve small amounts of cash from your gift card's balance at some stores. Hey, it doesn't hurt to ask.

Before you consider using old gift cards for any purpose, be aware of the fine print: Some cards come with expiration dates, as mentioned above, and others may devalue over time with cunning little fees imposed by the card issuer that eat away at the balance.

  • Mik

    Tell me why ANYONE really benefits from the use of a gift card?
    when you can
    1) Send a check in an occasion card with a personal message.
    2) Stop a check and not always get the lost gift card back.
    3) Send a check the recipients can use as they want to.
    4) Send a check that doesn't get devoured with 'cunning' fees.

  • Diane Rixon

    I guess many feel gift cards are a little more tasteful than just cash/check. You're right: it's all money!

  • mrs.

    In Connecticut Our Attn'y general Richard Blumenthall enacted a law that they cannot eat away at your balance on gift cards or in store credit only. In this state. . State Law supercedes store policy. you keep whats yours. Also if it under 1.oo the stores will usually give you the coins as change.

  • Diane Rixon

    That's great to know about!

  • Joe

    Some see a giftcard as a cop-out, but... if you're the kind of person who knows what they want, but don't necessarily broadcast it to the world... and your friends know where you shop... why not? Here's some terrific suggestions on what to do with those giftcards from three of the top stores that sell em':

  • 5 Comments / 1 Pages

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