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How to sell or swap gift cards

Turn your unwanted gift cards into cash (or better cards).

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Forget socks; did Santa bring unwanted gift cards?

If you're now the proud owner of some gift cards you're just never going to use, have no fear. Instead of dumping those unwanted gift cards in your junk drawer for future regifting, why not try your hand at selling or swapping them online?

Where to buy, sell or swap

Gift cards are just one step away from cash. For that reason, I don't recommend swapping them via eBay or Craigslist. A gift card's balance can be used up in seconds -- even without the physical card in hand -- so eBay and Craigslist can be dangerous venues for both selling and buying gift cards.

Sellers risk scammy buyers purchasing cards, using up the balance and then claiming that the item was "not as described" (eBay is notorious for siding with buyers in purchase disputes).

And buyers can get scammed in many ways. One not-uncommon scam is a seller using up the gift card's balance after it's been sold and delivered to the buyer.

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So take a look at one of the many gift-card marketplaces dedicated to swapping cards. Unlike eBay, these exchanges offer a balance guarantee on any card purchased through them -- so scammers can't use the card's balance after it's been sold. Many of these exchanges also act as the middleman between sellers and buyers, so you only have to deal with the company (not fickle gift card junkies).

Here are three worthwhile gift-card markets:

Cardpool

cardpool

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Cardpool is an online gift card marketplace where you can sell or purchase gift cards. It buys gift cards directly from sellers and then sells them directly to buyers, so there's no user-to-user interaction. For sellers, Cardpool offers up to 92 percent of your card's value; for buyers, it offers discounts of up to 35 percent.

Buyers: Cardpool sells both physical and electronic gift cards. You can search for cards via category and refine your search by type, value and percent off. It offers a 180-day balance guarantee from the date of purchase, which means you'll be able to use the full value of any gift card you buy within 180 days.

Sellers: Cardpool buys both physical and electronic gift cards. The service will pay for you to ship your cards to it and pays out via mailed check or Amazon gift card. If you choose the latter,  you'll get a slightly better rate.

CardCash

cardcash

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

CardCash is an online gift card marketplace where you can buy, sell or swap gift cards. The service buys gift cards directly from sellers and sells them directly to buyers; you can also choose to trade your cards (at a slightly better rate) instead of taking cash. For sellers, CardCash offers up to 92 percent of a card's value; for buyers, discounts of up to 35 percent.

Buyers: CardCash sells both physical and electronic gift cards. You can browse cards by type (physical or electronic) or by category. There's a 45-day balance guarantee from the date of purchase.

Sellers: CardCash buys both physical and electronic gift cards, and also allows sellers to trade cards for other gift cards instead of accepting cash. CardCash will pay for you to ship your physical cards to it. The company pays out via PayPal, ACH deposit or mailed check. If you want to trade your card for a different card, you'll need to mail it in (electronic cards aren't accepted).

Raise

raise

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Unlike Cardpool and CardCash, Raise is a user-driven gift card marketplace -- sort of like eBay, but with less risk. On Raise, sellers list gift cards at the price of their choosing and buyers purchase cards directly from the sellers. Raise doesn't take possession of any of the cards that are sold on its site, but sellers are required to "verify" their cards with the company (by entering in serial numbers and PINs and checking the card's balance) before they can be listed.

Buyers: Because Raise is user-driven, you may find better -- or worse -- deals than you'd find on Cardpool or CardCash. Raise does offer a 1-year money-back guarantee on all cards sold through its platform. The guarantee covers inactive cards, cards with an inaccurate balance and cards not received within 30 days of purchase.

Sellers: You can list your gift card for any price on Raise, so you may be able to sell it for more than the "up to 92 percent of the card's value" that other sites offer. Raise does take a 15 percent cut of any cards sold, though, so you'll need to factor that into your selling price. Once your card sells, you're responsible for shipping it to the buyer within three days.

Editors' note: This article was originally published on Dec. 26, 2016, and has since been updated with additional information.