I receive at least one gift card each Christmas. Fortunately, the givers are savvy selectors, picking gift cards for stores or services that I can't wait to use.
Not every gift card recipient is so lucky. Still, every little piece of plastic currency has value if you think creatively. Here are five ideas for how to use that unwanted gift card.
Regift it. If you don't drink coffee, there has to be someone in your life who would be thrilled to have your $20 gift card to the neighborhood coffee shop. Regifting full value gift cards (not the $1.11 you have left after you make your purchase) is acceptable in my book, so long as the gift card is appropriate for the recipient. In other words, don't send your three-year-old to a birthday party with a Starbucks gift card as the present.
Trade it. Several websites have cropped up in recent years for the sole purpose of matching unwanted gift cards with new owners. Giftcardgranny.com and plasticjungle.com and are two that come to mind. You won't receive the full value of your card, but you can swap them for other discounted gift cards so it's not a bad deal.
Donate it. If you have a gift card for a drugstore or retailer, odds are there is a social services nonprofit that would be more than happy to take your unwanted gift card to purchase supplies for clients or to give to a family in need.
Save it. There was a time when gift cards came with penalties such as dormancy fees and fast-approaching expiration dates. These days, with stricter consumer protections in place, there's no harm in holding onto your gift card until next December, assuming you won't lose it. Then you can use the gift card to make purchases for those on your 2012 holiday gift list.
Use it. Bookstores selling toys and candy. Drugstores selling kitchen appliances. Most stores have diversified their merchandise to the point that it's hard to believe there isn't anything you wouldn't mind having within the walls of a chain store.