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Is Using An Online Gift Card Exchange a Scam?

Published August 17, 2021

6 minute read

Devon Taylor

By Devon Taylor

Gift cards can be a great gift when you’re just not sure what to buy for someone. However, they often get set aside and forgotten about. You may have gift cards sitting in a drawer for months (or even years) before you remember they exist. Consumer studies show that as many as 20% of gift card balances remain unredeemed. That’s great for businesses, who already collected the money ages ago. But it’s not great for you, the consumer. That’s basically free money just laying around, doing nothing. The good news is that you can actually use a gift card exchange to get something out of those cards you were never going to use. However, you may be wondering if these sites are legitimate and safe. Some are definitely more reliable than others. In this article, we’ll review some of the most popular gift card exchanges.

How Gift Card Exchanges Work

Simply put, you can both buy or sell gift cards on these exchange websites. The sites themselves act as brokers between buyers and sellers. You simply post what unused gift card you have and what store it’s from (Walmart, Toys R Us, Starbucks, etc). You’ll also have to submit the card number and PIN, which the site will use to verify that the card still has the balance you claim it does.

The exchanges are mostly automated and digital. However, sometimes they can include the mailing of physical cards, with the reseller acting as a middleman. Be forewarned, though, that gift cards on these exchanges never sell for 100% of their value. The sites themselves take a small fee for facilitating the trade. On top of that, many sellers offer some sort of discount an an incentive to buy their unused cards. After all, why pay $100 for a $100 gift card when you could just go to the store and spend $100 in cash? However, if you can consistently get $100 cards for, say, $90 total, you save 10% every time. That’s worth it for many budget-conscious folk.

Why Use One?

There are two obvious reasons to use a gift card exchange, depending on whether you’re buying or selling. If you’re selling, it’s probably because you ended up with a card you can’t (or won’t) use. Maybe you don’t have that restaurant anywhere near where you live or you simply hate shopping at a particular local retailer. Whatever the reason, you have a gift card that you want to convert to cash. Even getting 80% of its value in cash is better than throwing it away or letting it expire.

On the other side of things, maybe you’re looking for every discount you can. Whether you’re looking for gift ideas or simply shopping for yourself, you can save anywhere from 5 to 50% by buying other people’s gift cards. So if you always shop at Whole Foods anyway, for example, why not just buy a couple $100 gift cards for $90 each (if you can find that deal). It’s a bit of extra effort, but it’s easy savings.

Pros

The most obvious pro, as mentioned, is that you’ll be able to buy gift cards for less than face value. You’ll also be able to offload any cards that you’ll never use and get a bit of cash value for them. Even taking a big discount of 25% to 50% on the cards you sell if better than letting the card go unused forever.

Exchanging gift cards can also be a good way to generate some quick cash. If you need money more than a latte from Starbucks or a book from Barnes and Noble, then it could be advantageous for you to sell those types of gift cards through an exchange. It will at least put some cash in your wallet.

Cons

There are many traps you need to avoid when buying or selling gift cards online. As a general rule, you shouldn’t try to sell your cards on your own through a site like eBay or Craigslist. Gift cards are commonly used in online scams, and people will be naturally skeptical of your postings.

Instead, use established and reputable gift card exchange sites that offer customer support. Exchanges such as CardCash, GiftCash, and Raise are reliable exchanges that can be trusted. You can start with GiftCardGranny.com, which is an aggregator that compares offers from legitimate reseller websites.

Scam Warnings

Be advised that even some of the larger gift card exchange sites should be approached with some caution. They often receive Better Business Bureau (BBB) complaints about card rejections at retailers. There have also been complaints about delays in receiving purchased cards or payment.

Last December, the BBB issued an alert about the popular reseller Cardpool. It currently has an “F” rating due to the volume of complaints it has received. That doesn’t mean that all exchanges are the same, though. Some have very generous guarantees and excellent customer service if you encounter a problem. It just means you should be cautious when selling or buying gift cards online. It’s also worth noting that the BBB can’t always be trusted either.

Helpful Tips

Here are some common tips that you should follow when considering using an online gift card exchange.

Remember too that if a company goes out of business (which has happened a lot during the pandemic), their gift cards are no longer valid. So be sure to check the status of any companies whose gift cards you might be considering buying (or selling) before visiting an online exchange.

Types of Exchanges

CardCash

In business since 2009, CardCash is headquartered in Brick, New Jersey. It operates one of the largest online gift card marketplaces in the U.S. where consumers can buy and sell discounted gift cards. It has a strong history of reliable service and satisfied customers. They boast of a 100% risk-free guarantee within 45 days of any purchase. So as long as you use your purchased card within six weeks, CardCash guarantees it will work or you get your money back.

The site appears to be quite legitimate. It has been included on Forbes‘ list of “America’s Most Promising Companies.” The company currently has a “B+” rating from the Better Business Bureau. They have gift cards from almost every place imaginable, making them a great place to start.

GiftCash

GiftCash is based in Las Vegas, Nevada but operates separate gift card exchanges for the U.S. and Canada. On their website, GiftCash promises that gift card sellers can earn up to 93% of their gift cards value by using its exchange.

GiftCash holds a “A+” rating from the Better Business Bureau. However, there are several complaints listed on the BBB website, notably about people who never received payment for a gift card they sold through the exchange. GiftCash does offer both phone and email support though, should you encounter any issues..

Raise

Raise Marketplace is one of the biggest gift card exchanges on the internet. The company boasts that it buys and sells gift cards from more than 4,000 retailers and stores around the world. Their website showcases and impressive array of available gift cards.

Raise Marketplace has a “B” rating from the Better Business Bureau. There are more than 160 published complaints about the company listed on the BBB website. The complaints range from people not receiving payment to purchasing gift cards that had “error” messages on them.

Cardpool

This gift card exchange appears to have gone out of business. It’s website consists only of a statement that says “Cardpool Is No Longer Buying or Selling Gift Cards.” As mentioned previously, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning about CardPool last year (2020).

You can be sure that other gift card exchange services will inevitably pop up. You should be at least a little cautious about any newcomers in this space, doing a bit of research to make sure they are legit before you use them. They may offer better deals in an effort to grow their userbase — or they may be hoping to make a quick buck off unsuspecting deal hunters and then vanish into the night. Your safest bet is probably to use the exchanges already established as reliable..

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking to buy or sell gift cards online, the sites listed above are hardly the only options. There are plenty of others. These exchanges can be a great way to offload unwanted cards for cash, or score a discount on cards you need. However, not all exchanges are equal. While many of them are honest and efficient, others can be frequented by scammers. It is possible to get ripped off when buying (or selling) gift cards online.

The safest way to approach gift card exchanges is to do your homework ahead of time. Read reviews of the site you are considering. Check into their refund or guarantee policies. Finally, double check that they have some customer service contact information displayed prominently on their site. You can also check the BBB, but you should take their opinions with a grain of salt too.

Devon Taylor

Managing Editor

Devon is an experienced writer and a father of three young children. He's simultaneously trying to build college funds and plan for an eventual retirement. He's been in online publishing since 2013 and has a degree from the University of Guelph. In his free time, he loves fanatically following the Blue Jays and Toronto FC, camping with his family, and playing video games.

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