9 Smart Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Gift Cards

Gift cards are to gift-giving what dinner rolls are to holiday dinners. Unimaginative. Easy to obtain. Likely to get overshadowed by the pecan pies and Turduckens on the table.

But in the days after the big celebrations, while the leftovers lurk in the fridge, the rolls take center stage as the unsung workhorses of the season. They can make breakfast sandwiches! Stuffing! Snacks! And just like the plain old roll, the gift card is versatile, unsung, and pretty damn useful — especially when you can hack it so you can get maximum bang for (someone else’s) buck.

Ahead, how to make your gift cards work for you, so you can get exactly what you want.

Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Exchange Online For Cash
At GiftCardGranny, you can enter the value of your gift cards and get cash in return. The sites takes a hefty fee (for example, a $25 Starbucks gift card will only net you $18.75), but if you want cash fast, this is the most hassle free way to do it.
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Trade Or Barter Your Gift Card
While you can get trade offers on sites like Gift Card Granny, you can also barter directly on the gift card thread on Reddit. Of course, you should do so at your own risk, but the benefit is not having to deal with fees, plus you get to name your price.

Another way to trade or barter IRL: Join a local buy/trade/sell group on Facebook.
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Bring It To Work
Have a food or drink gift card? Use it to pay the tab for a team coffee run or lunch and have everyone Venmo you their share for an easy, low-touch way to turn your card into cash.
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Sell On eBay
Amazingly, on eBay you can actually get more than face value of your gift card. Why? Some think that shoppers overseas are buying them to take advantage of the exchange rate. Either way, if you can actually cash in and get more money, that's pretty awesome!
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Be Sale Savvy
The reason to hit the stores in the days after the holidays? Because you can score serious markdowns. Of course, there are ways to shop smartly and make a profit. One way: Buy name-brand products at a discounted price, then sell on a site like eBay or Poshmark. Of course, just because you have a gift card doesn’t mean you should ignore coupons. Use apps like RetailMeNot or Ibotta in conjunction with your purchase.

Not into apps? Look up discount codes online. Unless the offer specifies online only, a brick-and-mortar store will honor it as well.
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Register Your Gift Card
Yes, it’s an annoying step but making sure to have some sort of record of it ensures you can cancel and replace it if it's lost or stolen. Also smart: Getting into the habit of writing the remaining balance of the card in marker every time you use it. In other words — treat it like cash, since that's (kinda) what it is.
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Donate Your Card
Feel like you have absolutely everything you need? Do good and donate your card. You can physically pass cards to nonprofit organizations (make sure to get a receipt and you can claim it as a tax deduction) or you can donate them online at CharityChoice Gift Cards for a charity of your choice. Again, this is tax deductible.
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Trade At Target
If you’ve gotten a few random gift cards, you can consolidate them by trading them in-store at a Target mobile kiosk. Find participating stores here.
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Get Your Leftover Cash
Different states have different rules regarding when a store has to pay you the remainder of the card’s value in cash; in California, for example, you can get cash back if the balance is under $10, while New Jersey and Maine have a $5 limit. You can find the laws in your state here.

The clerk may not automatically give you cash unless you ask, so if you’re sure you’re done using the card, make sure to specify you want the remaining balance paid out.