How to turn a prepaid rebate or gift card into cash (almost)

At least he got something he could use.

Remember when we used to get good old-fashioned cash for Christmas? Now that uncle who can’t remember your name drops a dreaded American Express gift card in the envelope. Ugh.

What’s wrong with gift cards?

A gift card is a wonderful present — for someone you hate. It’s the gift that says:

Oh Hi! Christmas already? Sorry. Next year I’ll get you a jart.

You can then hide in a curtain and watch with glee as they try to access their balance using the online tool that always seems to be mysteriously broken. Fortunately, there’s a phone number on the back, so they can spend Christmas navigating a phone tree. And then they can go out and buy something up to that amount and hope the card isn’t declined. More likely, they’ll toss it in the underwear drawer and remember it after it expires. It’s no wonder that $500M in gift card money goes unclaimed every year. You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

How to defeat the system

If you have a paypal account and a friend, you can add the card to paypal, set the gift card as your primary card, and send them the money. But this is hard, requires math (because you have to subtract out the 3% transfer fee), and doesn’t necessarily put the cash back in your pocket.

Fortunately, Amazon allows you to turn it into something that is almost as good as cash by adding the card to your Amazon wallet and using it to buy an Amazon gift card, which never expires. First, check the back of the card. If it says “Merchant Must Authorize,” subtract $1 from the available balance. Otherwise, you can buy yourself a gift card for the full balance and email it to yourself. Then go back to Amazon and add the Amazon gift reward number from the email to your account. With future gift cards, you can just top off your balance directly from that card.

Using an Amazon gift card is easy. Amazon automatically subtracts the remaining balance from every purchase and puts the remainder on your primary card.

You’re welcome.

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