January 03, 2006
Gift Cards
Posted by Gordon Smith

Swapagift_logo The National Retail Federation has estimated that the total sales of gift cards during the past holiday season would exceed $18 billion, but many people just want cash. While some issuers of gift cards redeem them for cash, most issuers do not pay cash for gift cards. (See for example, Amazon: "Gift certificates are not redeemable for cash and cannot be returned for a cash refund.") So what is the best way to turn your card into cash?

Take a look at the current gift card auctions at eBay, where most cards are selling at a 5-10% discount. SwapAGift.com was launched in 2003 as a forum for buying, selling, and trading unwanted and unused merchant gift cards. Although many of the listings express a willingness to swap for other cards, people are also selling at a discount, usually in the 5-10% range.

Wouldn't it make more sense if we just gave cash in the first place? Of course, you would never catch me giving cash, at least not to someone I cared about deeply. The shame would be too great. Remember Seinfeld?

Jerry and Elaine sitting on his couch. Elaine holding a present.
Jerry: Maybe you won't like it.
Elaine: Oh, how could I not like it? Of course I'll like it.
Jerry: You could not like it.
Elaine: Just the fact that you remembered means everything.
Jerry: Of course I remembered. You reminded me everyday for two months. Oh, the card. (She opens)
Elaine: Cash?
Jerry: Would do you think?
Elaine: You got me cash?
Jerry: Well this way I figure you can go out and get yourself whatever you want. No good?
Elaine: Who are you, my uncle?
Jerry: Well come on. That's $182 right there. I don't think that's anything to sneeze at.

Perhaps a $200 gift certificate would have been more appropriate.

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