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Personal finance | Candice Choi

Websites allow consumers to purchase and sell their unwanted gift cards

By Candice Choi
June 24, 2010

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NEW YORK — When is a $50 gift card only worth $40? When you want to get rid of it.

Several sites now let consumers buy and sell unwanted gift cards, including cards that are partially used. How much cash you’re offered by a site will depend largely on the retailer you’re hocking. For a popular store — think Target or Walmart — you can get up to 90 percent of its value.

The sites then resell the cards for a profit. But prices are still less than the cards’ face value to make the offer attractive for buyers.

The idea of selling any unwanted gift cards may have crossed your mind recently, as new regulations on gift card fees and expiration dates are set to go into effect Aug. 22.

Three sites — Cardpool.com, GiftCardRescue.com, PlasticJungle.com — act as middlemen so you never deal with other consumers. You always buy and sell directly from the sites.

They have a lot in common and even offer similar rates. But it’s a good idea to browse each site to compare deals on a particular card, whether you’re looking to buy or sell.

Here’s how they work:

For sellers — The sites make it easy to get price quotes for unwanted gift cards. You type in the retailer and card value, then click for an instant offer.

So which cards sell closest to face their value? The ones that have a broad appeal and high utility, perhaps to buy groceries or gas, said Kristin Donelson of Plastic Jungle.

For example, Plastic Jungle offers 92 percent cash back for a Target gift card and 90 percent for a Walmart card. The cards are then resold for 97 percent and 96 percent of their face value, respectively.

To sell your card, you must open an account with the site. You’re then responsible for safely mailing the gift card to the company, so you might want to insure the package or get a tracking number.

For buyers — The sites can also be good places to get gift cards at a discount.

Cards are listed so you can quickly see their value and sale price. For example, you might see that a $100 Starbucks card is going for $88. There are no taxes, fees, or shipping costs, so buyers only pay the sale price.

Cardpool and Plastic Jungle only buy and sell cards that have no fees or expiration dates. GiftCardRescue requires that expiration dates be at least six months away. Inactivity fees will only be permitted if the card hasn’t been used for at least a year.

Of course, fraud is always a concern, too. You might worry that the original seller wrote down the card number to sap its value later. This was more of a problem when GiftCardRescue first launched in 2008, said Kwame Kuadey, the site’s founder. Since then, however, he said fraud prevention measures have dramatically reduced incidents.

Candice Choi is a personal finance writer for Associated Press.