Over a Dozen Cool Ways to Reuse and Recycle Empty Gift Cards

Empty Gift Cards Have Lots of Cool Uses. Here Are a Few to Try

A few of the used gift cards I've won in sweepstakes or received as gifts. Image © Sandra Grauschopf, used with permission.

Wait! Don't Trash Those Used Gift Cards!

These days, gift cards are everywhere. You can win them (check out my gift card sweepstakes list), receive them as presents, or get them as bonuses from your job. And spending them is so much fun!

But what do you do with the gift cards when your shopping sprees are over, and they are empty?

Hopefully, you don't throw them into the trash. that the number of new gift cards manufactured annually has the potential to "add 75 to 100 million pounds of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) material to landfills" every year.

And that PVC "produces carcinogens and toxins including chlorine residue and heavy metal pollutants."

A Better Way to Deal With Empty Gift Cards:

Luckily, just because a gift card is empty, doesn't mean it's useless. Here are over a dozen cool uses for gift cards once they have been used up:

  1. Recharge Your Card and Give It as a Gift

    Many gift cards let you put more money on them after they have been used, and most have no value printed on them, so you can add as much as you like. You could turn your empty card into a fun gift for friends or loved ones.

  2. Recharge Your Gift Card and Use It for Budgeting

    Dana Anspach, Expert in Money Over 55, describes how gift cards can work as a modern take on envelope budgeting. Use your gift cards to help your finances and stretch the benefit of your prize.

  3. Use Your Gift Card to Fix Up Your Home

    If you have a wobbly table, a bathtub in need of grouting, or a loose tile to replace, gift cards can help. Read This Old House's article, for tips on how to use gift cards for home remodeling.

  1. Turn Used Gift Cards Into Greeting Cards

    Many gift cards have beautiful patterns on their faces, from flowers to birthday presents to Santa Clauses. It's a shame to let these patterns go to waste.

    Instead, cut out the patterns and use them as decorations for greeting cards. Even plain gift cards can be beautiful if you cut them into shapes - hearts from red cards, Christmas trees from green ones, and so on. 

  1. Used Gift Cards Make Beautiful Scrapbook Embellishments

    Greeting cards aren't the only way to use the beautiful motifs that many used gift cards offer. You can cut your gift cards to make inexpensive replacements for store-bought scrapbook embellishments. Or paint the cards and use them as frames or tags for your scrapbook pages. 

  2. Use Empty Gift Cards to Display Your Collectibles

    Empty gift cards can be used as props to display collectibles. For example, Lesley Shepherd, suggests inserting one into the base of soft cloth dolls (the ones with dresses) to help keep them upright.

  3. Use Old Gift Cards as Stencils

    Amy Solovay suggests using the edges of gift cards for stencils in paper crafting. She says, "they have all kinds of interesting shapes - cupcakes, tag shapes, and other intriguing designs... all of them would be useful for this." Just trace the edges, paint over them with ink, or spray them with paint to create beautiful patterns on your stationary.

  4. Use Empty Gift Cards in Pottery Crafts

    If you make your own pottery, you can use expired gift cards as scrapers and texture tools. Used gift cards can help you spend less money enjoying your hobby by replacing tools you would otherwise have to buy.

  1. Organize Yarn and Thread with Used Gift Cards

    If you enjoy cross stitch or other needle crafts, you can punch holes in used gift cards to make mini thread organizers.

    You can also cut notches into the short sides of the cards and using them to hold embroidery floss and pearl cotton thread. For yarns, cut a hole in the center of the card and loop the sorted yarn through the hole, one type of yarn per card.

  2. Turn Your Old Gift Cards Into Jewelry

    Cut the plastic into pretty shapes and paint, decoupage, or decorate with stickers. You can then string the pieces together to make funky jewelry and belts. 

Throwing out a gift card is a real shame. Instead, take advantage of their stiff plastic and bright designs and recycle them into something useful. It will help you save money and make our planet a little healthier.