Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

Get advice on money matters from The Bee's Claudia Buck and a panel of local experts

May 20, 2013
College/high school grads: Too many gift cards? Swap 'em

It's high school and college graduation season and we know what that means: gift cards. Lots of 'em. (For other graduation gift ideas, see my Sunday column.)
An ever-popular graduation gift, billions of plastic gift certificates are purchased every year - but an estimated $1.7 billion a year sits on gift cards and never gets spent.

For graduates who get too many gift cards to retailers they don't like or want, Nerd Wallet personal finance expert Joseph Audette suggests swapping them.

Sites like CardPool.com, CardCash.com and GiftCardGranny.com let you unload those unwanted cards for cash. The sites cover hundreds of retailers, everyone from Sports Authority and Macy's to Burger King and Starbucks. You can also buy gift cards at a discount off the card's remaining balance.

For instance, CardPool.com will buy your card for up to 92 percent of its value; it sells cards at discounts up to 35 percent off face value. Currently, among dozens of American Eagle gift cards for varying amounts on CardPool.com, a $100 card is listed for $80, a 20 percent discount.

In California, gift cards cannot expire, except in very specific situations. If the gift card's value is less than $10, it can be redeemed at the retailer for cash. But if the company goes out of business, you're basically out of luck.

So if those gift cards are gonna gather dust in a drawer or sit unused in your wallet, exchanging them through an online swapping site could be an answer. Some card-swapping sites have fees; do a comparison before you decide.

And note: One longtime card-swapping service, PlasticJungle.com, announced this month that it is no longer in the business.

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Meet Our Financial Experts

Claudia Buck

Claudia Buck is The Sacramento Bee's personal finance columnist. Read all her columns here. Contact her at cbuck@sacbee.com

Terri Carpenter

Terri Carpenter offers advice on job hunting, retraining and career counseling. Carpenter works at Sacramento Works Inc., the career and job training arm of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA). With 15 years in the field, she has hands-on experience with everyone from first-time job seekers to career professionals seeking advice after a layoff or looking for a mid-career change. Ask her a question.

Carlena Tapella

Carlena Tapella is a partner in the law firm of Webb & Tapella Law Corp. in Sacramento. The firm specializes in estate planning and probate, such as estates, trusts, conservatorships and litigation. She is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association's Estate Planning & Probate Section. Ask her a question.

Kimberly Foss

Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner, is the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville. With nearly 30 years in the financial industry, her clients include women in transition, small business owners, retirees and "pre-retirees." Ask her a question.

Jesse Weller

Gregory Burke, a CPA and tax expert with John Waddell & Co. in Sacramento since 1984, worked as an IRS tax auditor for six years. He’s a past chairman of the California Society of CPAs. Ask him a question.

Daniel Tahara

Daniel Tahara takes your questions about California taxes. Tahara, a spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board, has 10 years of experience as a tax auditor. Ask him a question.



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