How to turn gift cards into cash

Filed under: spending, savings, giving, The Dough Roller, shopping, retail
This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.

Did you ever receive a gift card for a store where you never shop? Or have you ever had a gift card for a store that filed for bankruptcy? When a retailer files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, gift cardholders get in line with every other unsecured creditor.

What does that mean? It means you can kiss the value of your gift card goodbye. One solution is to run out and spend the gift card if you hear the retailer is in financial turmoil. But there is another solution.

Buy and sell gift cards

There is an active secondary market for gift cards. And one place to buy, sell or trade gift cards is called Plastic Jungle. Registration, which is free, is required to buy, sell or trade gift cards. You can save money -- and lots of it -- by buying gift cards, but let's first look at generating cash from selling cards.

Sell gift cards. There are two options for selling a gift card on Plastic Jungle. First, you can sell the card directly to PJ for what they call "QuikCash." PJ's QuikCash page has a nifty tool that will tell you how much it will pay for your card. A $50 AMC Theatres gift card, for example, will net you $32.50. A $50 Best Buy card gets you $35. From what I can tell, the highest paying gift cards sold through PJ's QuikCash pay out at 70% of the face value of the card.

Second, you can put your card up for sale to third parties on PJ's site. You set your own price, and can accept cash or trade. You can also enable a feature to allow bidders to make a counteroffer.

Buy discounted gift cards. You can also buy gift cards at Plastic Jungle, and at a great discount. I noticed, for example, that Home Depot gift cards are selling at an 8% discount off the card's face value. So why would one ever shop at Home Depot without one of these discounted cards? I guess to avoid the hassle of buying the card online. But if you plan ahead, you can save a lot of money by buying these cards and using them at the retailers you shop at regularly. Now, that's smart money management at its best.

Trade gift cards. If you have a gift card for a store where you don't shop, another option is to trade the card. A trade can avoid the loss of 30% or more when you sell the card, and you can nab a gift card for a store where you enjoy shopping. Plastic Jungle has a section for trading gift cards. When card owners list their cards for sale, they can also list gift cards they would consider for a trade.

All in all, Plastic Jungle looks like a great online tool to manage your money. I expect to start buying discounted cards for those retailers where we shop every month. If you've used Plastic Jungle, please let us know what you think.