Tight Holiday Budget? Use Those Old Gift Cards to Knock Out This Year’s Gift List!


Gift cards are quickly becoming THE go-to gift for holiday shoppers. With seemingly infinite stores offering cards in your designated amount, the gift of gift cards no longer holds the ‘thoughtless’ stigma they once did (hey, it takes time to browse rack after rack of options, right?). While we hope that these cards get redeemed right away, the staggering truth is that more than a $1Billion worth of cards are not redeemed each year. And odds are, you have a stack of cards in a drawer somewhere that is contributing to that total.

What we don’t realize is those little cards, mixed in with the paper clips and chewing gum, are as good as REAL dollars – you just need to know how to spend them on the things you (or those on your gift list) actually want. And a little know-how, plus a few expert tips, can make a real dent in your holiday budget. Not too shabby, eh?

Here are a few gun facts and tips, according to Leigh Boyer, an accomplished professional with experience in the financial services domain:

Experts cite numerous reasons why people don’t use their gift cards including:

  • Lost cards,
  • Partially redeemed cards,
  • Cards that expire before they are redeemed, and, of course,
  • The gift card is for a store that the recipient doesn’t like.

Use your remaining balances on pre-paid debit/credit cards to buy an Amazon Gift Card. Amazon has nearly everything and anything you could want…

Use your Credit Card Rewards points to buy Gift Cards (It’s like doubling your money!)

According to LifeHacker, you can get cash back on gift cards you buy from certain places with these cards:

  • American Express Blue Cash Preferred (6% back at supermarkets), Everyday (3% back at supermarket), or the grandfathered Everyday (5% back at supermarkets and pharmacies) card
  • Chase Ink (5% office supplies stores)
  • Amex SimplyCash card and other Amex OPEN cards (5% on office supplies stores).

Use your Store card points to buy Gift Cards – for example, I have a Walgreen’s Balance Rewards card.  Once I hit a certain spending limit, I can apply my points for “dollars” off my current bill. Once I am eligible, it would behoove me to use those Balance Reward points toward the purchase of a gift card.  It *almost* makes it free!

A few more tips on how to turn those dusty plastic cards into gold: 

Sell unused gift cards on Raise.com for extra cash. We’ve all been given gift cards to stores we simply don’t shop. This time try getting cash when you sell it on Raise.com and then you can spend the money on things you’ll actually use. For example, I have a The Body Shop gift card that I won’t use because I prefer Bath & Body Works. It’s a $50 card, and I can sell it for $46.05 on Raise.com.

Buy other people’s unused (reduced priced) gift cards.
Use Raise.com to buy gift cards at discounted prices–an average of 12-15% off (or more this time of year!). Look:

  • TJMaxx and Marshalls, 11%
  • Michaels, 17%
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods, 14%
  • Hollister, 17%
  • H&M, 25%
  • Justice, 25%
  • Claire’s, 32%
  • PacSun, 29%
  • Charming Charlies, 25%
  • francescas, 34%

Websites to Bookmark:

Sell Your Unused Gift Cards/Buy Gift Cards at a Reduced Cost

Check Your Balance

Gift Card Exchange

Customize a Gift Card

Other Gift Card Tools

Do you have any tips for shopping with or upcycling gift cards? Our OneFront Porch members would love to hear them! Share your best tips in the comments below.

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Jamie M.
An awesome way of getting rid of old cards and getting new way to keep using leftovers.
Ashley B.
This is awesome!
Barb l.
Great ideas and reminders. Now to go round up all those partially used cards
Luanna H.
Thank you for writing this wonderful article! It reminded me that I have several gift cards that I had forgotten about and they will really help out with my Christmas shopping list! I also have new found knowledge as to what to do with any gift cards I may receive in the future...so many great ideas!! Thank you very much and I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!!!
enizete l.
good article am familiar with all of the information, good you shared the information for others.
Kathyjo T.
Awesome article something I never even thought about most times I probably just let the remaining balance go to waste
Patricia B.
I knew of some of those websites, but not all, thanks for the valuable tips & info!
Gail S.
there is a website you can trade gift card in for ones you can use. They take a small percent from the value of the gift card to do it but worth it to get one you can use.
Luann M.
I have found that cleaning out dresser drawers is a great way to find list gift cards. I look in my old wallets and old purses. I have a secret place and I always head there first. I have found quite a few
Belinda C.
Great ideas. Thank you for sharing