Hidden Assets: Unload unused gift cards
You may hate the store, but that was real money in your stocking last Christmas. Why let it go to waste?
(MONEY Magazine) -- This year billions of dollars' worth of gift cards - estimates range from $1.75 billion to $3.5 billion - won't be cashed in within 12 months of being purchased. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth.
Even if you received a Starbucks card for Christmas and gave up java for your New Year's resolution, or your aunt sent you a Victoria's Secret card and your taste runs more to Talbots or L.L. Bean, you can do better than stashing it away.
A recent check of eBay turned up more than 3,000 gift cards being auctioned; many sell for 90 percent or more of their face value.
The free Web site Cardavenue.com offers an additional twist: card trading. Yep, there is now a rotisserie league for gift cards. "If you prefer a Sears card to the Gap card you have, we help you find someone with the Sears card," says chief executive officer Robert Butler.
If you have a gift card that's more than a year old, it may be shrinking: Some stores subtract maintenance fees of $2.50 a month after a year or so of inactivity. If a card has an expiration date that has come and gone, it's still worth contacting the issuer; you may be able to reactivate the card for a $10 to $15 fee - worthwhile if you can then unload it on the Web for more.
7 Steps to Uncover Hidden Assets: