What to do with gift cards with low balances?
It seems like most people just forget about them and let them go to waste (especially gift cards with less than $1). According to statistics, billions of dollars worth of gift cards go unused.
Crazy, but true!
The problem with gift cards is that we often end up with a little bit remaining on our balance.
Let’s say you have a $30 gift card for a clothing store, so you buy a sweater for $25. You’ve still got $5 left.
What do you do with a small balance like that?
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It would be nice if there were “combine gift card apps” that would let you combine balances from a few different cards into one bigger balance that you could use to shop with, but sadly that’s not an option.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to use the remainder of a gift card, even if it only has a small balance – like just a dollar or a few cents!
Below, we tell you exactly how to use the remaining balance on a gift card, even if that balance is teeny!
What will I learn?
1. Go to a Brick and Mortar Store
If you have a really small gift card balance and you want to use it all up you should definitely consider going into a physical store.
Usually, the cashier will apply the value of your gift card to your whole purchase, and therefore lower your purchase total.
All you have to do is ask.
Even if you only get $1 off your purchase, you’ve still completely used your balance.
2. Use the Remaining Balance at a Partner Store
A lot of stores and restaurants have partner locations.
So if you have a gift card balance for a store, but can’t see anything to buy, consider using it at other stores that are owned by the same company.
For example, you can use a gift card for the Olive Garden at any restaurant owned by Darden Restaurants – such as LongHorn Steakhouse and Yard House.
And, Gap gift cards can also be used at Athleta, Banana Republic, and Old Navy.
This is a great way to use that last $0.50 on the gift card and save money when eating out.
Check to see if the store or restaurant you have a balance with has any partner brands.
3. Get the Retailer to Cash Out the Balance on its Gift Card
There is actually a way that you can get the cash from a gift card with a remaining balance.
In some states, there are laws that require retailers to cash out balances on the gift cards they issue.
This means that if you have a small balance that you can’t really use in the store, that cash won’t go to waste.
The balance will need to be under a certain amount for you to redeem it for cash.
But this amount varies from state to state.
Here are a few examples of the gift card balance threshold in different states:
- California: Less than $10
- Rhode Island : Less than $1
- Connecticut: Less than $3
- Maine: Less than $5
- Oregon: Less than $5
It’s important to note that not all states have such laws.
So check with the laws in your state.
If your state doesn’t have a law about cashing out balances, then ask them anyway. They might do it for you!
This is such a good way to use gift cards with less than $1 remaining.
4. Use Your Prepaid Gift Cards Wherever PayPal is Accepted
Did you know that you can add Visa, American Express, MasterCard or Discover gift cards to your PayPal account?
Yes, you can actually use these general purpose gift cards during checkout, as you could with any other debit or credit card that you have on your PayPal account.
This means that anywhere you can use PayPal to pay you can use your gift card!
This is great because PayPal is widely accepted now as a payment method – so it can make spending the balance on a Visa, MasterCard or other prepaid gift cards much easier.
You just need to make sure that the prepaid card has enough balance to cover the total amount to pay.
5. Use Your Balance to Buy an Amazon Gift Card
Wondering how to use a Visa gift card on Amazon? Or any other prepaid card, like one issued by MasterCard or American Express?
You can use a general purpose gift card, like a gift card issued by Visa, MasterCard, or American Express to purchase an gift card for Amazon.com.
This is useful when you only have a small balance left.
Just use your prepaid card to buy an Amazon gift card. Then, apply the Amazon gift card to your Amazon purchase and pay the rest of the balance with a regular credit or debit card.
How simple is that?
Do keep in mind though that Amazon won’t let you buy gift cards that have a value of less than $1.
So if you have 50 cents on a card, then you won’t be able to buy an Amazon gift card.
You may be able to try this trick at other retailers, like Walmart or Microsoft, for example.
6. Sell the Gift Card
If the balance is enough, then you might be able to sell your gift card for cash.
It’s so easy nowadays.
Check out these sites to sell your unwanted gift cards:
These sites make selling unwanted gift cards so easy.
The only thing to keep in mind is that you won’t get the full value when you sell your card.
This is because these are discount gift card sites where customers are looking to buy gift cards at a low price.
So if you have a gift card for $20, for example, then you might only get $18 in cash for it.
Still though, it’s cash in your pocket, rather than money stuck on a gift card that you’ll never use.
7. Donate Your Gift Card
If you really don’t know how to use the remaining balance on a gift card, consider donating it.
There’s a Texas-based, non-profit organization called GiftCards4Change that lets you donate gift cards – even ones that have a small remaining balance.
It’s a great organization that’s helped tons of great causes, from disability projects to homelessness.
Also, you could see if there are any local shelters or organizations that accept unwanted gift cards.
If you have a small amount left on a gift card, don’t let it go to waste. Give our tips on how to use the remaining balance on a gift card a try.
Let us know in the comments section below if you have any tricks for using up a gift card balance too.
It also saves the embarrassment & hassle of asking someone to ring-up your card with only pennies on it!
I haven’t tried it yet but I think I should be able to go into a shop and ask yo pay the exact balance remaining on the gift card. My theory is if you go over the available balance the transaction will fail, going less than the available balance the transaction goes through. So I’ll try asking to pay the exact available balance then top up with credit or cash. Unfortunately the teller I used could not see my available balance so she just tried a lower amount, leaving me with a remaining balance. What do you reckon?
donated the remaining amount on my gift card. wonderful way to use unused funds for a great cause. thank you!