Shortcut: Convert unwanted retail store gift cards into iTunes credits

Gift cards always make me a little uncomfortable. I worry that I am going to stick them in a drawer somewhere and forget about them, effectively wasting the money on them. So when I get one, I find myself rushing to spend it as quickly as possible.

I used to have similar problems with prepaid credit cards, which are hard to spend down completely, until I learned you could convert them into credits on Amazon and then buy whatever you wanted or save towards a future purchase. But gift cards left me stumped. You have to need something at a specific store and then remember to bring the card with you.

I recently found myself in this situation with a BestBuy gift certificate. We upgraded my wife’s phone, and as part of some incentive deal, BestBuy gave us a $50 gift card. I couldn’t apply it to the current purchase, only to a future visit.

The problem is that I didn’t actually need anything at BestBuy. As a technologist, this surprises even me, but somehow I just didn’t. The closest I came was needing to replace the remote control for the TV, but at the time I was far from a BestBuy and found it much more convenient to pop in at the MicroCenter around the corner from my house. So the gift card went unused for months.

Then, I found my opportunity. I decided it would be useful when traveling to have a 12 watt iPad charger to use with my phone. The idea was that when I was on the go, I might need to top up my battery, but timing can be tight. I would perhaps have only 20-30 minutes to recharge, and I wanted to be able to pump as many electrons into my phone as possible. Apple’s lightweight phone chargers have a lower wattage and so charging is limited in a short window. However, the higher wattage of the larger and heavier iPad charger would be much more effective for a short burst – worth the weight trade-off.

This was more of a “nice to have” than a necessity, but I had the $50 gift card, so it would effectively be free. I stopped in at a BestBuy and quickly found the charger. Oddly, to my disappointment, the charger was only $20. I would still have $30 left over. I started casting around for something else to buy to use up the remaining $30, but nothing leaped out. I had plenty of lightning cables, my phone case was fine, I was coming up empty…

I was about to give up and just be left with another $30 on the card when I saw my opportunity. Up at the registers, they were selling more types of gift cards, including ones for iTunes.  We are cord-cutters, so between buying shows on the Apple TV and purchasing phone apps for the family, we always have charges from iTunes showing up on the credit card.

I realized I could just buy iTunes gift cards and apply them as a credit to my account. I would naturally spend the remaining $30 over the next several months without having to remember to use the gift card. Conveniently, they had a three-pack of $10 gift cards, so when combined with the charger, it came to $50.18. I gave the clerk the BestBuy card and then paid the $0.18 extra.

So, have a gift card you aren’t sure how to spend? Check near the front of the store and see if they sell other types of gift cards. You might find a way to transfer the credits somewhere else that would be more useful.

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