How to donate your unwanted gift cards to charity

donate your gift card

The gift card market is hot with a number of online sites like Raise and Card Pool allowing you to “sell” your gift cards for cash. You won’t get the full value of the card, but if you’re stuck with a card you just won’t use, it can be a great way to get something out of that piece of plastic.

But another, more powerful way to put that gift card to use is to re-gift the gift card to charity. Sure, you could sell the card, then donate the money, but now more gift-card exchange companies can help you make the donation directly — and a gift card donation can be the same as a cash donation for your tax returns, provided you get a receipt. (Check with the nonprofit you’re donating to.)

Even if you’ve used some of the gift card, the balance of that gift card can always be put to good use. Also, if you received store credit in the form of a gift card, you can donate that, too. So if you just don’t think you’ll ever go back to Bass Pro Shops, for example, here’s how to turn that unwanted gift card into something good.

1. Donate the balance online using a gift card exchange. We found a number of gift-card exchange sites that would allow you to do this online, and it’s pretty easy to do. You’ll need the gift card number, the PIN, and the balance, but if you don’t know the balance, that’s okay. They’ll find it for you.
With Donate Your Card, part of CharityGiftCard, which sells gift cards for donations your recipient can make to charity, your donation can go to a one of  more than 1,000 nonprofits you choose. The online form was easy to complete, but you can also mail-in your gift card. You’ll just fill-out an online form and that will generate a packing slip to use when you send it.
We also found, a Dallas-based nonprofit that accepts merchant gift cards, gift certificates, vouchers, merchandise credits, and those Visa/Mastercard gift cards. The online process takes a minute or so but you’ll have to give them time for processing before you receive a confirmation receipt email indicating the value of your donation.
Both of these organizations may charge up to 10% of the gift card’s final value so they can pay processing fees and keep their sites up and running. So your $100 gift card might be valued at a gift exchange site at $95, but the donated value could come to $86 – a generous, bonus donation any nonprofit would be grateful for.
TIP: Do not destroy the gift card until you have received your receipt for tax purposes. Those gift card numbers can be long, and sometimes they’re entered wrong. You might be asked to verify the information again. 
2. Donate the card to a local charity. Take a look at those local nonprofit we listed in our annual “Austin’s Wish List” post about how to donate this season. Most of those – especially those that serve families – would welcome your gift cards from retailers, restaurants, and other types.
If you decide to go this route, call the nonprofit ahead of time to let make sure you’re not donating a burden. (See our list of “How to Donate Stuff” for more thoughts on that.) Then consider organizations like Lifeworks, Foundation Communities, Community First!, Caritas, Jeremiah Program, Any Baby Can, and others that serve individuals and families in need.
You should also consider donating the cards to the Austin Community Foundation, which manages the Austin American-Statesman’s Season for Caring fund. Season for Caring is the Statesman’s annual campaign to raise money and goods for 12 local families selected by 12 local nonprofits. Each of those families could use gift cards from merchants like Walmart, Target, and H-E-B, but they’re also happy to receive gift cards for clothes, electronics, and restaurants. To donate your gift card to Season for Caring, mail it to Austin Community Foundation c/o Statesman Season for Caring, 4315 Guadalupe St., Suite 300, Austin, TX 78751.
Because you’re donating the card balance directly, you should receive a receipt for the full amount, but each organization may handle the donation differently.
3. Get a receipt! Gift cards can be treated like cash donations. Not everyone itemizes their tax returns, but if you do and you tend to donate a fair amount in the year, make sure to get that receipt just as you would for a cash donation. Unlike when you donate stuff to Goodwill, you don’t have to determine the fair market value because the balance on the card is easy to determine online.
Make sure to check the card’s balance before you give, just in case it’s empty. To do that, just look on the back of the gift card for a website, card number, and PIN under a scratch-off panel. It really couldn’t be easier, and it’s definitely a gift you don’t have to feel guilty about re-gifting.


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