People who give gift cards have the best intentions. They know they probably won't be able to pick out anything you want, but they still want to show some thought by choosing the store where your future gift will come from.
But what if you don't like that store? What if you, quite understandably, want cash instead? These days, the gift card market is more liquid than ever thanks to a growing online secondary market. A number of web sites allow you to buy, sell and trade unwanted gift cards so you can really get what you want.
The first stop for most gift card sellers is eBay (Stock Quote: EBAY). At any given time, this ubiquitous online auctioneer carries thousands of gift cards from all types of retailers and restaurants. Sellers have the opportunity to unload unwanted gift cards, and most offer the cards at a lower price than they're worth. So, if you're buying, there are some decent deals out there. For example, at the time of this posting, there's a $400 gift card to Dell (Stock Quote: DELL) with a top bid of $330 and just 45 minutes left on the auction.
Beyond eBay, there are some sites dedicated exclusively to the secondary gift card market. Here are some of the main ones:
PlasticJungle.com: A marketplace where registered users can buy, sell and trade gift cards. Listing gift cards is free, but the site takes a commission once a sale or trade is made. Buyers only pay for the card. The site verifies the amounts on the cards so buyers can shop confidently. For cards from certain retailers, sellers can opt for the “QuikCash” option to sell directly to Plastic Jungle. This option does not pay as high as selling to another user, however.
CardAvenue.com: This site allows you to set up a wish list for gift cards you would like to trade your unwanted gift card for. Trading allows you to get the most value for your card. You can, however, also opt to sell your gift card in an auction. Registered users can bid on cards. The site charges a commission and closing fee for sellers.