Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT) Gift Card Exchange: Reasonable or Ripoff?

Why I'm a fan of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.'s gift card trade-in program

by Alex Eppstein

Published on Dec 30, 2014 at 1:09 PM
Updated on Apr 20, 2015 at 5:32 PM

For those of you who got lousy gift cards this holiday season, you're in luck: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) just announced a gift card trade-in program. Basically, just head to WMT's CardCash website with that $50 gift card you have no idea how you'd spend, plug in the card number, and receive a WMT gift card worth …

Well, it depends. The world's largest retailer isn't providing a dollar-for-dollar exchange, and the amount you'll receive depends on the gift card you're trading. So, for example, a $100 Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) gift card may net you only $75 in "WMT bucks" (actually, when I ran the numbers through CardCash, the actual amount was $72.45). According to the site, customers can get up to 97% of a gift card's face value.

This sounds like a less-than-compelling deal, but put it in perspective: If you get a gift card you don't want, you can either 1) not use it and get nothing in return, 2) regift it to someone who might appreciate it (or might resent you for it), or 3) buy something you don't need. I'll take the exchange, any day of the week.

Also, I don't blame WMT for not offering a dollar-for-dollar exchange. Some gift cards are inherently more valuable than others, depending on the owner. So why not provide the terms of the transaction and let the consumer decide for himself? I'm all about empowering the individual.

Moving along, I was curious to see how generous this program is. Or, more specifically, how well WMT knows me as a customer, and how much it would take to pry a gift card for retailers X, Y, and Z out of my hands. So here are a number of stores and restaurants, the number at which I'd be willing to exchange a $100 gift card, my rationale, and most importantly, what WMT was actually offering at the time of publication.

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE:ANF):

  • Minimum Exchange Price: $50
  • Reason: I'm no longer 15 years old. (That said, perhaps my colleague Josh Selway would appreciate it more.)
  • Actual Exchange Price: $92.40

American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO):

  • Minimum Exchange Price: $50
  • Reason: See above
  • Actual Exchange Price: $74.55

Gap Inc (NYSE:GPS):

  • Minimum Exchange Price: $100
  • Reason: There's no way my wife would let me do this for anything less than face value. We shop at the Gap … and Banana Republic … and Old Navy … a lot.
  • Actual Exchange Price: $84

GameStop Corp. (NYSE:GME):

  • Minimum Exchange Price: $25
  • Reason: As I've mentioned before, I only play one game, and it's free.
  • Actual Exchange Price: $87.15

Best Buy Co Inc (NYSE:BBY):

  • Minimum Exchange Price: $75
  • Reason: A little more versatile than GME. Maybe I could pick up some CDs. Yes, I still buy CDs.
  • Actual Exchange Price: $92.40

Applebee's [DineEquity Inc (NYSE:DIN)]:

  • Minimum Exchange Price: $50
  • Reason: I've never had a good meal here, so -- in a vacuum -- I'd probably part with a $100 gift card for $25. But Americans (including my brother-in-law) generally love Applebee's, so the whole regifting thing adds value.
  • Actual Exchange Price: $79.80

Texas Roadhouse Inc (NASDAQ:TXRH):

  • Minimum Exchange Price: $100
  • Reason: No way I'm accepting anything less than face value. Have you had their bread?
  • Actual Exchange Price: $75.60

RadioShack Corporation (NYSE:RSH):

  • Minimum Exchange Price: $1
  • Reason: Does this place still exist? (The answer, seemingly, is not for much longer.)
  • Actual Exchange Price: $78.75

Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT):

  • Minimum Exchange Price: $100
  • Reason: It's basically the same place as WMT, right?
  • Actual Exchange Price: $96.60

All things considered, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.'s (NYSE:WMT) gift card exchange program delivers pretty good value, especially if you have strong opinions on various shopping establishments. Meanwhile, the retailer's shares continue to climb, and at $86.77, are sitting just south of their record high of $88.09 -- touched late last month.

Daily Chart of WMT since June 2014

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