William G. Lako Jr.: Making the most of your gift cards
by William G. Lako Jr.
Business Columnist
January 05, 2012 12:00 AM | 2189 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
William G. Lako Jr.<br>Business Columnist
William G. Lako Jr.
Business Columnist
Chances are, you received at least one gift card this year — part of the $27.8 billion the National Retail Federation estimates consumers spent on gift cards this holiday season. Regardless if it was to your favorite store or you deem it a thoughtless gift, there are ways to make the most out of your present.

1. Spend It.

Even though a gift card is “free money,” shop January clearance sales, pair them with coupons or combine them with returns to spend smart and stretch your gift further. Be aware that next season’s goods likely won’t be discounted and may be advertised with additional products in hopes that you will spend more than your gift card amount. Most gift cards can also be spent online, so if you shop on the Internet, continue to look for coupons and clearance items. Retailers you frequent may send you special email offers.

2. Sell It.

You may only receive $75 for a $100 gift card for some merchants, but $75 in cash is much easier to spend than finding something you want at the store where your grandma buys her clothes. PlasticJungle.com will exchange your gift cards for cash, an Amazon.com gift card or a PayPal payment. CardPool.com also offers you the choice of a check by mail or an Amazon.com gift card with an additional 5 percent value over the cash offer. MonsterGiftCard.com offers you the option of cash or points to be used toward another gift card on their site. If you do not want to send your gift cards in, GiftCards.com also partners with local check cashing stores that will buy your unwanted gift cards. While there are other websites that buy gift cards, these are deemed reliable by the Better Business Bureau.

3. Donate It.

If you have gift cards you do not want, consider donating them for a good cause. Both Make-A-Wish Foundation and Kidney and Urology Foundation of America will accept gift cards as donations. If you have spent less than the amount on your gift card, consider spending the remaining balance on items to donate. Why try to remember the $2.14 on your gift card when you can buy a toothbrush to donate to charities that collect household items for needy families in your community? If there are just pennies left, the website GiftCardGiver.com even accepts gift cards with balances less than $1.

William G. Lako Jr., CFP, is an executive in residence at Kennesaw State University’s Coles College of Business and a principal at Henssler Financial. Lako is a certified financial planner.The MDJ will periodically publish columns from KSU business faculty.
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