Can you return gift cards?

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

In This Post
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    Have you received a gift card and don’t know what to do with it? If you’re wondering, “Can you return gift cards?”, it depends on the store. Unfortunately, most retail stores have strict policies regarding gift cards and store credit.

    But don’t worry! There are still some options for getting rid of unwanted gift cards without losing money in the process.

    You can use our guide below to help figure out exactly where your money should go when using a gift card. And if there isn’t anywhere for you to spend it, then we recommend selling your cards online at sites like eBay or Cardpool – they offer competitive rates for buying and selling unused gift cards. Most of these tips are for physical gift cards, and won’t apply to a digital gift card.

    Read on to learn more about how to get a refund for gift cards, and if the store’s policy won’t allow it, what your alternative options are.

    How to Request to Return a Gift Card

    woman's hand holding gift card

    Returning gift cards varies by the retailer; check their individual return policies to find out. When trying to return a gift card, you will get further into the process if you have the original receipt for proof of purchase. They may want to issue the full cash refunds via the original payment method, whether it’s credit card or debit card. However, if it was a gift, then it’ll go back to the buyer’s card.

    Check the retailer’s website to find their return policy and details on if you can return a gift card. If you can’t find the information on their website, try to find it through Google.

    You can also contact the retailer’s customer service and see what that particular company allows. Each retailer is different and has different policies when it comes to gift cards. You can also try to request a full refund by contacting the customer service phone number on the back of the card.

    What Options do Stores Allow for Gift Card Returns?

    Retailers can do one of several options: they might exchange it for cash but at a fraction of its value. They might give you 90% of the full amount on the card.

    They may refuse to accept the gift card without a receipt. If your return policy requires a receipt for store credit, don’t worry! You can always ask the other person to give you a gift receipt, allowing you to return the gift. Otherwise, there are plenty of creative ways that can replace returning it for cash.

    Lastly, they may provide an in-store credit, which is essentially the same as the gift card or a gift certificate. This really is most helpful if you’re way past the date of purchase and on a time limit because the gift card will expire soon. Then receiving an in-store credit can be useful to avoid fees. Read on to learn other options that would be a better use of your unwanted gift cards.

    One last-ditch attempt would be to try and purchase an item and return it for cash. However, some stores won’t refund a purchase made with a gift card – or worse, you’ll get a merchandise credit (or merchandise return card) and still be forced to shop there. Be aware of their policy before trying this tactic.

    States that Require Cash Refunds on Gift Cards

    At this time, there is no federal law requiring retailers to give refunds for gift cards. The only thing to do would be to request a store credit for the total amount of the card or use another option within their return policy.

    However, there are state laws that require cash refunds on gift cards, though the policies vary by state. They include:

    1. California: California law allows any amount under $10 can be exchanged for cash on single-store cards.
    2. Colorado: Any card value of $5 or less exchanged for cash.
    3. Maine: Gift or rewards cards with a value of $5 or less can be exchanged for cash.
    4. Massachusetts: Non-reloadable gift cards can be redeemed for 90% of the value for cash, and all gift cards with $5 or less value can be cashed out.
    5. Montana: If the card balance was originally more than $5, and the remaining amount is less than $5, it can be cashed out.
    6. New Jersey: If the card balance was originally more than $5, and the remaining amount is less than $5, it can be cashed out. This rule does not apply to cards that are redeemable at multiple retailers or given in exchange for returned items.
    7. Oregon: When the card’s value is less than $5 (through spending or fees) and has been used at least once for a purchase, it can be exchanged for its cash value amount.
    8. Puerto Rico: Once the card’s remaining balance is less than $1, you can exchange it for cash.
    9. Rhode Island: Once the card’s remaining balance is less than $1, you can exchange it for cash.
    10. Vermont: Once the card’s remaining balance is less than $1, you can exchange it for cash.
    11. Washington: Once the card’s remaining balance is $5 or less, you can exchange it for cash.

    So, can you return gift cards? The answer can vary depending on each retailer, the state law, and what option you use to return the card. If the store doesn’t refund it for cash, other options can be available, such as in-store credit or giving you an amount equal to the money on the card.

    For more information about gift card laws for various states, visit:

    State Gift Card Consumer Protection Laws 2013 Update

    Other Options if You Can’t Return a Gift Card

    Now that we know you can return gift cards (though not for very much), here are some great alternatives.

    Buy another gift card.

    Since retailers generally won’t return a gift card for cash, you can exchange it for another gift card for a store you love instead of shopping at a retailer that doesn’t interest you. For example, your local Target store carries tons of gift cards and they’re guaranteed to have cards you will like. Just bring your physical Target giftcards and purchase different cards.

    Regift it to someone you know.

    If you can’t return a gift card and can’t use it, then what can you do? You can always pass it on to new gift recipients like friends or family members. Chances are they will be able to make better use of it than you can, especially if it’s a store that they love and shop at often.

    Exchange gift cards with people you know.

    Have a friend that loves the store that your gift card is from? You can make a deal to exchange your gift cards with others, or you can give yours to someone you know will use them. It can even be an alternative option for exchanging money if you can’t find anything else to do with the card.

    Sell the cards on social media, to people you know, or gift card exchange websites.

    There are many websites where you can sell your card for most of its value. Most popular are Walmart gift cards, Target gift card, and American Express gift card. Some sites include :

    You can also try selling your gift card on social media or through person-to-person transactions (remember to watch out for scams, and use precautions like meeting in a public place). Selling on social media works best if the card is to a popular store and you generally know the person purchasing it.

    Do something nice for someone else.

    Finally, one of the best options you can do with a useless gift card is to give it away to someone who can use it. If you can’t sell it, can’t use it yourself, can’t regift it (or don’t know anyone who can), and can’t return the card to the store for cash or exchange or credit, then what can you do? You can give it away! 

    Use the gift card to purchase items you can resell.

    Another idea is to make store purchases of items with the gift card that you can flip (or resell) for the same price. An example would be to buy something you know you can sell for at least the purchase price with the gift card. Then, resell that item on places like Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or NextDoor through a porch pick up.

    Purchase necessities.

    Use your unwanted gift card to buy things like toilet paper, shampoo/conditioner, aluminum foil, soap, toothpaste/toothbrush, shampoo/conditioner, canned foods, or other essentials. Since you need those items anyway, you might as well pick them up without paying a cent out of pocket.

    Another great idea is to do your shopping for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, or other celebrations. It works out perfectly if you know you can find something that your loved one will enjoy at that particular store.

    Donate it to a favorite charity.

    Another great option can be donating the card to a charity. Most charities can make good use of the cash and can even sell or exchange your card for one of their own. Donating your card can also come with tax advantages – if you meet specific requirements. Check with the charity or your accountant for more information. 

    Finally, try to think of a creative way you can use the card. Some people have been able to regift cards as prizes at parties or as door prizes during fundraisers. You can also give it away as a thoughtful gift if you can find an organization or person that can use it!

    Now that you know the answer to can you return gift cards, there are some different options to try. Which ones have you tried, and what worked out best for you? I’d love to hear what works and what didn’t – leave a comment below to let us know!

    Text that reads welcome to Debt Free Forties

    A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More

    Recent Posts

    Posted in ,


    Leave a Comment

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    woman handing a man a key card at a desk

    11+ Hotel Brands that Take Cash (Updated 2023)

    Fewer hotels take cash payments today than before, but don’t fear – there are still plenty of options. You can travel without using a credit ...

    10 Surprising Lessons from our First Year of Budgeting

    We've officially been budgeting for an entire year, which’s our one year budget-versary! I wonder what you give each other for a gift? If ...
    Image of windmills and factory

    Arcadia Power Review: 2023 Guide to Clean Energy

    I started using Arcadia Power over a year ago, and wanted to share my Arcadia review on how it's working out - if I've been ...