Consumer Reports: Cashing in unwanted gift cards

Chances are you'll get a gift card this holiday season. Gift cards have ballooned into a $32 billion a year business, with about half of shoppers saying they plan to buy one this year, according to a Consumer Reports survey. But what if you get a gift card you don't want?

You can buy store gift cards almost anywhere, but not everyone likes to get them.

"Once I got a gift card to this clothing store I had no interest in. I gave it to my little sister," one person said.

Another way to get rid of gift cards is to trade them for cash at one of the many gift-card exchange websites out there. Consumer Reports' Tod Marks checked four of them.

"These websites buy your cards at less than face value and then resell them. That means you'll get less, sometimes a lot less than they're worth at the store," said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports.

For example, a $100 Toys R Us gift card gets $80.50 at but shrinks to $50 at

"We looked at 13 different store gift cards in our experiment, and gave us the most money overall. However, you cannot count on any one site to give you top dollar for each and every card, so it pays to shop around," Marks said.

You'll generally get more cash back for gift cards from popular retailers. With Walmart, a $100 gift card gets you around $90 at all the sites Consumer Reports checked.

Another option is to get cash right away at Coinstar kiosks found in stores throughout the country. But you may not get as much money back as you would have on the websites. This $100 Walmart card gets only $71 here.

Giving a bank gift card makes it easier for the person who gets it.

"If they carry the logo of Master Card, Visa, American Express or Discover, they can be redeemed at any merchant that acc epts those cards," Marks said.

Keep in mind that those bank gift cards usually cost $4-6 to purchase. So that's a cost to keep in mind if you're thinking about giving gift cards this holiday season.

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