Giving it Forward: Ways to Put Unwanted Gift Cards to Use – Chatting with the Gift Card Girlfriend, Shelley Hunter

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From gift card tips and practical advice, to inspiring ideas and insights into the gift card industry, Shelley Hunter (a.k.a. Gift Card Girlfriend) is the one-and-only consumer guide to gift cards. In addition to sharing creative ideas, she is always on the lookout for gift card trends that impact the public. A former IT Professional in the financial services industry, Shelley is a work-at-home mom who loves to give (and receive!) gift cards.

Here’s more of her expert advice on what to do with an unwanted gift card:

1.What is the etiquette for regifting a gift card?

Gift cards can easily be regifted to others for birthdays, graduations, weddings and the holidays. Consider who would be able to use it and appreciate it. Or, use it to purchase a gift for someone; just make sure to get a receipt in case they want to return the item. Or just give it to a friend, family member or co-worker and make their day.

I’m hoping people will recognize that regifting is a way to free up money in your wallet, which is also a gift to yourself. For example, say I have a gift card to Barnes and Noble, and I need to buy my book-loving friend a birthday gift. I can give her that gift card, and then use the money I would have spent on her gift to go somewhere else and buy myself a “gift” with the money I saved.

2.What do I say when the gift-giver asks me how I used my gift card?

Many people also feel guilty not using the gift cards they receive as presents. I tell people that a gift card is given to you, so you can buy something that makes you happy. There’s zero value in just holding onto it. Selling or donating a gift card is better than not using it at all. Kids are especially tricky. Mine ask, “What if grandma asks us what we got with the gift card?” I say, “You’re going to be honest and tell her that I got cash for the gift card you gave me and used it for the socks that I wanted.” Always remember the gift giver’s intent was to give you something you want.

3.Are there any concerns for giving a personalized gift card to a friend or to charity?

If I had a gift card with my name on it, I wouldn’t give it directly to another person or organization because if the recipient tries to use it online, it might not be accepted. If I had a VISA gift card with my name on it, I’d use it to buy a store gift card that my gift recipient can use. You’re also less likely to donate a VISA gift card because you can use it so easily, for so many things. I’d be more likely to donate a gift card from a restaurant where the food doesn’t fit into my diet or I just don’t like it.

4.Are certain gift cards more (or less) appreciated by charities?

The more versatile the better. Gift cards from merchants like Target, Walmart and Amazon are more usable for a charity or individual. A gift card to a restaurant requires the recipient to make a trip to the restaurant to eat there. A charity would have to raffle off a restaurant gift card or use it to bring in food for volunteers, and there may be rules against using a donated item in that way. When you have a question regarding what you can or can’t give a specific non-profit organization, you can always just give them a quick call and ask them directly. Or you can just give it to somebody you know who is going through a hard time and would appreciate a free meal.

For more advice from the Gift Card Girlfriend, check out her blog what to do with unwanted gift cards.