The Gift Card Glossary of Terms

Remember the old days, when you would get a gift card and your only option was to use it or lose it? Well times have changed, thanks to recent government legislation and more than $60 billion in unused gift cards each year.

These days you can buy, sell and even trade gift cards online. While this sort of exchange seems like it's pretty straight forward, there are a surprising number of technical terms involved. Whether you're new to the world of gift cards or just feeling a little lost, we've created this Gift Card Glossary to put you in-the-know about essential lingo.

  • ABC Gift Cards:
    A website where gift cards can be bought, sold or traded. Founded in 2006 with headquarters in East Windsor, N.J.
  • Balance Checker:
    A tool merchants use to let gift card holders check the card's remaining balance online. Most balance checkers require you enter the card number and security code or PIN to get balance information.
  • Balance Check Listings:
    A feature on GiftCardGranny.com that provides the necessarily links and phone numbers to check gift card balances for merchants featured on the site.
  • Buy Gift Cards:
    The process of purchasing a gift card. Gift cards can be bought directly from the merchant for their full face value, or they can be bought from a third-party at a price lower than or equal to the card's face value.
  • Cardpool:
    A website where users can buy and sell gift cards online. The California-based company was founded in 2009 by Anson Tsai and Timothy Wong.
  • Cashback:
    Receiving cash from the sale or use of a gift card. In some states, merchants are required to provide customers with the remaining cash value of a gift card when that value drops below a certain amount.
  • CouponTrade:
    An online marketplace where users can buy and sell gift cards and daily deal vouchers. The company was founded in 2011 and is based in Chicago, Ill.
  • Discount Gift Card:
    A gift card sold by a third-party for less than its actual value.
  • eBay:
    An online auction and shopping site that sells a huge inventory of products, including gift cards. Cards can be bought and sold at auction or purchased at a set price.
  • eBay Gift Card:
    A gift card specifically for use at eBay.com.
  • eCode:
    A unique account number tied to a balance of store credit that can be used to make online purchases. They can also be bought and sold online like eGift Cards.
  • eGift Card:
    A paperless voucher delivered via email for a set amount of credit at a specific merchant. EGift cards include an account number and PIN, and can only be used online at the merchant's website.
  • Face Value:
    The original value of a gift card. Many times this value is printed on the card itself.
  • The Frugals:
    A cartoon team of money-saving superheroes, each with its own website. Members include Coupon Sherpa, Gift Card Granny, Mr. FreeStuff and Mrs. Sweepstakes.
  • Giftah: Launched in 2009, a Canadian-based website where users can buy and sell gift cards online.
  • Gift Card:
    A card, usually plastic, preloaded with a set amount of store credit. Gift cards are merchant specific and are applied the same way to a purchase as with a credit card -- by swiping at checkout of a brick-and-mortar store or by entering the card number and PIN at an e-merchant's website.
  • GiftCards.com:
    A website featuring custom gift card creations, as well as a marketplace to buy and sell gift cards. Founded in 1999, the company is based in Pittsburgh, Penn., and owned by Wolfe LLC.
  • Gift Card Alerts:
    Email notifications regarding the availability of discount gift cards for specific merchants.
  • Gift Card Auction:
    A third-party sells a gift card online by having potential buyers bid on the card. Whoever places the highest bid receives the gift card. Usually used as a method of purchasing gift cards at a price below their face value.
  • Gift Card Balance:
    The remaining amount of store credit contained on a gift card. The card is no longer usable after the balance reaches $0.
  • GiftCardBin:
    A website dedicated to buying and selling gift cards. The company is currently based in Sacramento, Calif.
  • Gift Card Exchange:
    Most commonly refers to the process of trading an unwanted gift card for a card from a more desirable merchant. Cards are usually of similar or equivalent value. Gift card exchanges also refer to websites where gift cards are bought, sold and traded.
  • Gift Card Exchange Day:
    A one-day event held on Dec. 26 where gift cards can be sold for the best prices of the year due to resellers depleted inventories after Christmas.
  • Gift Card Granny Challenge:
    An event where mother-of-three Ashley Grimaldo made all regular purchases with discount gift cards for one month in 2011. In the end, her savings totaled more than $200.
  • Gift Card Marketplace:
    A forum for the transfer of gift cards; usually a website where users can buy, sell and trade gift cards.
  • Gift Card Reseller:
    A company or individual who buys unwanted gift cards for less than face value and sells them for a small profit.
  • Gift Card Vendor:
    A merchant who sells gift cards at either a physical location or online.
  • Gift Certificate:
    A paper voucher worth a certain dollar amount that can be exchanged for goods or services from a specific merchant.
  • Partial-value Gift Card:
    A gift card where some portion of the card's value is already used. The amount contained on the card is less than its face value.
  • PIN:
    The Personal Identification Number is located on the back of the gift card and requires you scratch-off a covering designed to keep the number secure.
  • Plastic Jungle:
    A website where users can both buy and sell gift cards. The privately-held company was founded in 2006 and is based in San Jose, Calif.
  • Register Your Gift Card:
    Done by calling the card's issuer to add your name and address to the gift card account. Should the card be lost or stolen, the issuer can credit the remaining balance on a new card.
  • Sell Gift Cards:
    The process of exchanging an unwanted gift card with a third party for cash or other credit. Typically, the payout from selling a gift card is lower than the face value of the card.

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Thanks for this list. It really clears up some of my confusion about how this whole discount gift card thing actually works.