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What to do with unwanted gift cards

The company went out of business. Is there a way to use their old gift cards? @Davidlaz has the answer

Parel, like a lot of people at this time of year, has some gift cards on his hands. In his case, though, the cards are for Blockbuster, the former video-rental giant that's now mostly a thing of the past.

Parel asks: "Is there any way to cash out gift cards issued for stores that went out of business?"

ASK LAZ: Smart answers to consumer questions

Blockbuster was purchased in 2011 by Dish Network, the second-largest U.S. satellite TV company, for $320 million. Dish had initially planned to keep about 1,500 stores open.

That didn't work out as streaming video reconfigured the home-entertainment landscape. Dish said in 2013 that it would close all its Blockbuster stores, although some franchised outlets might remain open.

It also said that all Blockbuster gift cards must be redeemed by Jan. 5, 2014. After that time, the cards would be worthless.

So the answer to Parel's question is that once a company goes out of business, its gift cards are similarly defunct. That assumes consumers were given sufficient notice to redeem their cards, which Blockbuster provided.

However, consumers do have options if a gift card is simply unwanted. There are a number of websites that will allow you to buy, sell or trade gift cards. A search will turn them up.

Retail behemoth Wal-Mart jumped into the game a few days ago with a Gift Card Exchange Program that accepts cards from more than 200 other stores and restaurants. You can swap your card for, of course, a Wal-Mart gift card.

The company says it will offer up to 97% of the face value of the undesired gift card.

Here's the most important thing: Don't let gift cards go to waste. The website Card Hub estimates that more than $44 billion in gift cards have gone unused over the last five years.

That's just money down the drain.

If you have a consumer question, email me at asklaz@latimes.com or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz

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