Advice for turning gift cards into cash

If you have any holiday gift cards gathering dust, you are not alone. The Connecticut Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends finding and trading these holiday gift cards or turning them into cash.

The National Retail Federation says gift cards accounted for $30 billion in holiday spending at the end of 2013. Historically, more than $1 billion of those gift cards will go unredeemed.

Rules for mall and bank cards

Since August 2003, Connecticut law has prohibited retailers from imposing an expiration date or charging inactivity fees. However, cards issued or backed by banks or sold by malls fall under federal statutes, and in such cases, cardholders may be charged fees after a period specified by law.

Though gift cards are convenient, retail cards and gift certificates are not flexible, which is why some consumers trade or convert them into cash.

Another consideration is that you won’t be able to redeem a gift card from any company — particularly a small, local retailer — that closes its doors.

Expect to lose part of the value

There are a number of websites where you can sell gift cards. Expect to lose anywhere from 10% to 50% of their value in a transaction.

In other cases, you might want to sell or exchange a gift card with friends or colleagues or on an online auction site.

What you should know

Before selling or exchanging a gift card online, the BBB recommends:

Know which are the most valuable cards — Cards with the highest trade-in value are from gas stations, retail chains and grocery stores.

Shop around — Like any other commodity, you will find some people are willing to give you more money for your gift cards than others.

Look for a reputable site — While there are a number of well-known sites, always check out other consumers’ experiences at before engaging in a transaction.

Understand how the sites work — While some gift card sites allow you to enter the card’s number online, others may offer a better deal if you mail the card to them.

Be careful on classified ad sites — These sites do not offer sellers or buyers the same protection as reputable websites.

Find out more about the Wallingford-based Connecticut Better Business Bureau at or 203-269-2700.