Gift cards are perennially popular presents during the holidays, and it’s not hard to see why ― they offer flexibility to the recipient, are easy to purchase and require basically no thoughtfulness on the part of the gift-giver.
However, many gift cards go either totally or partially unused. Approximately $1 billion in gift card balances went unused last year, Barron’s reported in January.
If you’ve got a few gift cards crowding your wallet and you’re not sure what to do with them, consider donating them to charity.
There are several organizations that make this process fairly painless. CharityChoice lets you donate gift cards from a wide variety of retailers (including Starbucks, Fandango and Walmart) to more than 1,000 vetted charities and nonprofit organizations. (Note that the group deducts a small percentage of your donation for administrative fees, but is not a for-profit enterprise like other gift card redemption sites.) Changefindr offers a similar service, with about 75 to 80 percent of your gift card going to the charity of your choice.
If you’d prefer to send money directly to the source, charities like Goodwill and Salvation Army also accept unused gift cards. You can also call specific nonprofits to see if they’ll do the same.
If you’re looking to make an impact close to home, check in with a nearby homeless shelter to see if it can use the cards to buy supplies for their residents. Your local public schools may also be able to use gift cards to buy books and other classroom necessities.