Guest Post: 6 Things to Consider When Donating Gift Cards to Charity


Andrea Woroch

The season of giving isn't quite over, as Americans make last-minute deductible donations to a wide variety of non-profits. Unwanted gift cards received during the holidays have happily emerged as a popular contribution, and for good reason.

According to the National Federation of Retailers, eight in 10 consumers bought at least one gift card this year, for what BigResearchestimates is a total of $27.8 billion in sales during the holiday season. Naturally, not all those cards aren't exactly well matched to the recipients, which means a lot of plastic goes unused; thus the trend towards donating unwanted gift cards.
Before you contribute your card, however, here are six caveats to consider.

1. How Much Are You Actually Donating?
What percentage of your gift card will be directed towards the charity's stated purpose and how much towards overhead? Ascertaining this fact may require reading the fine print or contacting the non-profit directly.

2. What is the Minimum Balance You Can Donate?
Some charities will accept any balance, but others don't want the hassle of processing a card that's worth less than $10 or $20.

3. How Will the Charity Use Your Donation?
Gift cards sometimes end up being given directly to the charities clientele, while other non-profits resell the card for a percentage of the face value and use the cash.

4. Should You Simply Resell the Card Yourself?
Not many non-profits accept gift cards, but there's a way you can still make hay out of this sunshine. You can exchange your gift card for cash on such websites as, then donate the proceeds directly to your preferred recipient.

5. Would the Charity Prefer You Donate Purchased Items?
Check with the non-profit to see if they would rather you purchase groceries, clothing, etc. and donate these items, instead of the cards or cash. If your gift card comes from a merchant selling products the charity doesn't need, some stores allow you to exchange gift cards for those from another store. Look for a kiosk near the cash registers that contains a variety of cards from different merchants.

6. Can You Donate the Gift Card to a Silent Auction?
One way to make sure cash goes directly to a non-profit is to contribute your card as a biddable item for a silent auction. If the buyers are feeling charitable, the non-profit might end up with more than the value of the card.

Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert and has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more

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