How to Avoid Gift Cards and What to Do with Them if You Can’t!

by Marie on January 17, 2013 · 18 comments

Gift cards are a pain, an expense and an irritation, yet we still get them and others seem to love giving them. I hate gift cards! The only reason I would ever give a gift card is if I am re-gifting one I received or if I want to teach someone else a money lesson (such as why stores LOVE to sell gift cards).

Giving a gift card forces your recipient to do something you want them to do. Everyone knows they are redeemable for goods or services, yet in order to do so, the recipient has to shop for the goods or services specified or at the store specified.  When I get a gift card, I feel like someone is trying to tell me what to do!

Maybe it makes the giver feel like they have actually given your gift a lot of thought and have gotten something for you that is just perfect!. However, a gift card is not a substitute for a thoughtful gift, no matter how well you think you know the person you are gifting! Give cash instead and be honest about the fact that you really have no clue what the person wants or needs!

Also, gift cards can cost more than the amount on the card due to overhead (fees, shipping and handling and etc) and the gift card balance can be affected by monthly fees if the card is held too long (or it can even expire).

People seem to think my spouse and I should go out more, or shop more. We get cards for restaurants we never frequent, for stores that are miles and miles from us and for things we never do.

Hubby is far too polite to ever say anything, or to sell or exchange the card. He just doesn’t use them when he gets one!

How to avoid receiving gift cards next holiday season.

Here are my tongue in cheek suggestions on avoiding gift cards!

Tell everyone you know that you hate receiving gift cards. Go ahead and rant on about how the seller of the gift card is getting money for nothing – as 10 – 15 percent of the money on cards is never redeemed. Show off at every opportunity, the unwanted, dusty unused gift cards you have collected. Bemoan the fact that you have 10 cards each with a balance of 1.98 which you will never collect.

If someone persists in giving you gift cards, get one for them – for a place they will NEVER go or for something they will NEVER buy.

Proudly announce that you gave away all your gift cards to the homeless guy on the corner (or other favorite charity).

Brag about how you got 90% of the cards value in cash back from an online card buying site.

How to use gift cards you didn’t want.

Save them until next year and give them back to the person who gave them to you. They must love to go to the store they are for – right? Better yet, buy something with the card for the giver and send it along for their next gift!

Buy something you might get anyway – like underwear, or toilet paper – if you can.

Give them to your kids as allowance. You might score a double lesson here – the allowance lesson and the lesson about not giving gift cards (what 10 year old kid wants a card to Olive Garden? What are they going to do, buy Mom lunch!).

Sell them on eBay or Card Pool or Plastic Jungle if you trust those sites and want to take the time. Personally, I have neither the trust nor the time!

Have a gift card exchange party at work (kind of like a cookie exchange). This might work for you, but I’m retired – no office, no co-workers!

Put them in the offering basket at church instead of your usual offering. Easy, smeezy solution – you feel good about giving and the card becomes someone elses problem and you save the $10 bucks (or whatever you give per week) for something else.

Kidding (sort of).

Readers, I hope you realize that I am being a bit tongue in cheekish here. I really do appreciate receiving a gift, but mainly because it means someone was thinking of me. But lets face it, some gifts are just more trouble than others! Once in a while however, someone does find a card I will actually use (Amazon is one of them) – so thanks to all my family members who gave gift cards this year (ahem)!

Do you like gift cards? If not, what do you do with them?

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Canadian Doomer January 17, 2013 at 12:39 pm

This year we were given a $100 Walmart gift card and $100 grocery store gift card. I think it was one of the best gifts we were given. In two months, we’re moving cross-country, and everything we have to pack and transport is an extra expense. In addition, we’re not quite sure what we’re going to need in our new place.

So that’s one occasion when a gift card is thoughtful and useful.

With that said, we are still holding on to $30 on a movie gift card. With three small kids, just when do we get time to go to a movie??


2 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues January 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Candian Doomer – glad you were able to use yours.


3 krantcents January 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm

I don’t particularly like gift cards either, because it is for stores do not necessarily shop. This year we only got a few, but one was rather big. Good thing it was American Express.


4 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues January 17, 2013 at 1:42 pm

We seem to get ones that are convenient for the giver, not for us.


5 The Happy Homeowner January 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Hahaha….as funny as this was, I love the idea of giving them away to someone who needs them more!

I make a point to use up as much as possible in January so I don’t forget about them.


6 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues January 19, 2013 at 10:10 pm

That is what we are doing too.


7 Ryan O'Malley January 17, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I don’t not understand this post. Would you rather get a pair of boring socks or another flashlight? At least the gifter is giving you the ability to get what you want.


8 Marie at Family Money Values January 24, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Yes, maybe, if I can use the socks or flashlight. Giving me a card to a restaurant (which are usually what I get) doesn’t do much for me at all.


9 Diana January 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Sorry this article makes you sound like a spoiled & whining brat. I’m sure lots of peeps in this world would love to receive a gift or have a gift card in their wallet. They can be very useful! Sell them online or trade them or gift them to someone in need. If you are so smart there are wide variety of things you can do with a gift card to re-gift a card maybe your child’s teacher or a friend with manners would like a date night out. This article is a depressing deviation from what I expected from your blog. Maybe you should consider why you are the recipient of gift cards…have you been an unreasonable pain for others to buy gifts for? Do you often complain to these people and act ungrateful? Where is your spirit of the act of giving and receiving? It’s just honesty…


10 Marie at Family Money Values January 24, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Thanks for weighing in. Although we can be grateful that folks think enough of us to give a gift, I just think it would be better for the recipient to get the cash – usable anywhere. Also, you might skip on to the last paragraph and re-read it.


11 AverageJoe January 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Absolutely hilarious. Giving them to your kids might not be great with a Victoria Secret card….ha!


12 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues January 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Hmmmmm they give gift certs!


13 Anne @ Unique Gifter January 18, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I love most gift cards. I’m curious as to what you suggest as an alternative? Virtually all of the gift cards that I receive are for things that people know I will use anyway, though.


14 Marie at Family Money Values January 24, 2013 at 6:46 pm

You are lucky. Personally if someone wants to not shop for me, I’d rather just get a card. If they feel like they have to give something, I think cash would be better.


15 KK @ Student Debt Survivor January 19, 2013 at 10:02 pm

I don’t typically buy a lot of gift cards because they typically go unused, but we bought my grandparents a Walmart gift card for Christmas (They’re from a small town and there’s really nowhere else to shop). They thought it was a great gift. I haven’t sold a gift card yet (typically just give away the ones we don’t/won’t use) but I think it’s a good idea to at least make back a little of the giftee’s money.


16 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues January 19, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Why a card instead of cash?


17 CeCe@Frugalista Married January 26, 2013 at 11:11 pm

I LOVE gift cards. I thought everyone did! What’s not to like especially if it’s for something the giver knows that you need and/or are already using? Perhaps a silly question considering I just read a whole post about what’s not to like. Anyways, as far as I’m concerned keep the gift cards coming! It’s fun free money to me.


18 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues February 11, 2013 at 11:57 am

That makes you a lot easier to shop for than me. What if you got a gift card to someplace you would never go?


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