If the plastic that you were given for Christmases past is buried in your wallet or the junk drawer, realize this: You’re leaving money on the table. Each year, $2 billion in gift-card balances goes unused, according to estimates by the Boston-based financial-research firm TowerGroup. No wonder that third-party sites, like Cardpool.com, GiftCardRescue.com, and PlasticJungle.com, have popped up. These brokers buy unused cards at a discount on the stated value, then resell them, often at reduced prices. So should you swap your cards for cash?
The pros: The cards of hundreds of retailers are accepted by these exchange sites, meaning it’s probable that yours can be sold. Each site has different payment rates, though, so it’s important to begin by finding the best offers at GiftCardGranny.com, a comparison site. The swapping sites usually cover the costs of shipping the card to them, and you’ll receive a check in the mail three to seven days later; or if you’re using PlasticJungle.com, the money can be credited to your PayPal account. And, yes, you get paid whether or not your card is resold.
The cons: Generally, you need at least a $25 balance on the card for the sites to consider it. And you won’t receive the card’s full value. Typically, you’ll get 65 to 90 percent of its original worth. The popularity of the retailer determines how much you net. For example, right now Walmart and Target are in demand. If you’re selling one of these cards, you may get more than 90 percent of the face value.
The bottom line: Worth it, since cash is more valuable than a piece of plastic that you’ll never use.