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July 17, 2014

Holiday Savings 101: How to
Your cousin no doubt meant well when he gave you a $50 gift card to Outback Steakhouse—he just didn’t remember that you had become a vegan. But you can convert the card to cash. (For next year, find out why cash is always a good gift.)

Numerous card-exchange websites have emerged in recent years, offering to pay as much as 92 percent of a card’s face value from merchants of all stripes: gas stations, hotels, department stores, restaurants, supermarkets, movie theaters, and specialty chains.

Although we have warned consumers about buying cards from those retailers, companies say they verify the cards as legitimate and confirm their value. Once they do that, they send you a check, then try to resell the cards at a profit, though still at less than face value.

We checked out four sites that you can use to exchange gift cards—,,, and—eyeballing their policies and using their online calculators to determine how much we would get for 13 cards, each with a $100 face value. Here are the key lessons we learned in our experiment:

Not all cards are equally valuable. The purchase price depends on a merchant’s popularity. Resellers were generally willing to pay more for Walmart and Whole Foods cards than for those from Brooks Brothers and Bass Pro Shops. (Follow these tips for giving gift cards.)

Prices vary from site to site., for example, paid generously for Bed Bath & Beyond cards, but other sites paid a lot more for Coach cards. So it pays to comparison shop.

Personalized cards can be a problem. If your name is etched into it, you might not be able to sell it.


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