Gift cards are among the most popular gifts over the holidays.
"I have a sister who is impossible to please," said shopper Mary Dunn. "So I've found that gift cards seem to work better for her."
But even though gift cards are a hit with most people many of the cards never get redeemed at the store. In fact, one Web site, Swapagift.com, reports nearly $10 billion in gift cards go unused every year. That's where Web sites like Swapagift, Leverage, Plastic Jungle, and Cardavenue come into play.
Say you got a gift card to Lowe's but you don't have any home improvements to make. Instead, you'd rather have a gift card to Pier One. With a few simple keystrokes and mouse clicks you can turn your unwanted gift into treasure.
Many Web sites allow you to swap your card with another user, or you can sell it -- at a discount of course. Or you can buy one, also at a discount.
Finally, you can even trade them in for cash. But expect to lose 30 to 40 percent of the value of the card when you do that.
If you received a gift card, here are some important tips:
- Register it. Some cards must be registered with the issuer in case they are lost or stolen.
- Spend it quickly. That way you don't forget about it.
- Report problems. Let the issuer know right away if it's lost or stolen.
- Hold on to it. Don't throw it out when the balance is zero. Some merchants require it if you want to return the merchandise you bought with it.
Also, be aware that in the state of California it is illegal to have an expiration date for a gift card. But some retailers can charge you a fee for a dormant card.