Alula kiosks turn your gift cards into cash - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Money

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Alula kiosks turn your gift cards into cash

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Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014 1:45 pm

Typed on the back of almost all gift cards it says, “No cash value.” Not true anymore.

A new company with two locations in Ahwatukee and 13 others in the Southeast Valley will turn unused gift cards into cash — though how much depends on multiple factors.

Alula, which is part of Coinstar, Inc., placed its bright yellow gift card-exchange kiosks in two Safeway stores in Ahwatukee, 4747 E. Elliot Road and 4005 E. Chandler Blvd.

The kiosks pay customers cash for their unused gift cards.

The company launched in late 2012, said Jeff Dirks, vice president and general manager. The Phoenix market was on of the first Alula delved into. Alula is now in nine states from coast to coast.

The kiosks, which in a few weeks will be rebranded from Alula to Coinstar Exchange, do not give a set percentage for all gift cards. Instead, they reply on near-instant market data from a third party to determine how much to offer.

“It all depends on the real-time demand of a particular gift card,” Dirks said. “We’ll know in a couple seconds what we’re willing to offer.”

Sometimes that could be 75 cents on the dollar for a popular gift card, or 25 cents on the dollar for a less-sought-after gift card. There are no maximum or minimum percentages set.

The company works with another that operates gift card islands at grocery stores around the country and tracks which cards are valuable and which aren’t.

“It’s all about striking that happy balance between making an offer the customer will accept and one for a card that will be difficult to resell,” Dirks said. “It all depends on the demand for the gift card.

“There is a big secondary market for these used gift cards.”

Not unlike the market for new gift cards.

National Retail Federation data showed shoppers spent almost $30 billion on gift cards during the most recent holiday season. Each shopper spent on average $163.16 on gift cards, up 4 percent from the previous year.

“Shoppers today recognize gift cards as the perfect fool-proof option for friends and family,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement last year. “And traditional gift cards aren’t the only winners this holiday season, as more and more Americans are tied to their mobile devices, we expect digital gift cards to be especially popular with consumers.”

Those who accept Alula’s offer will receive a voucher from the kiosk they can cash in at the grocery store’s customer service desk.

Alula only accepts plastic gift cards at this time, Dirks said, but the company hopes to be able to accept digital gift cards in the future.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or cgabel@ahwatukee.com.

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