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CVS rounds out mobile strategy with QR-code enabled gift card exchange

Customers can scan QR codes appearing on prepaid card displays in stores or that appear in the retailer’s weekly print circular to launch the service. Giving customers a way to sell unwanted gift cards via mobile while they are in a store enables them to get more value and choice from the gift cards they receive without having to wait.

“Whether a consumer is exchanging a restaurant gift card, a competing retailer’s gift card or a gas station gift card, they are taking the unused portion of a gift card in a consumer’s wallet and we are giving them a CVS gift card,” said Dan Rogers, chief financial officer at Plastic Jungle, San Mateo, CA.  

“If a consumer is at a CVS, they have an interest in shopping there so there is an opportunity to CVS to build a relationship with those consumers,” he said.

“For consumers, they may have five different cards in their wallet that may not add up to much, but when you aggregate them all together, it can add up to a significant amount of money that they can spend at CVS.”

The program is being launched with Plastic Jungle, which is providing the platform and acts as a clearinghouse for card sales based on the cards’ value in Plastic Jungle’s marketplace.

CVS did not respond to press inquiries.

Real-time exchange
CVS customers will be able to sell more than 150 gift cards that have a minimum balance of $10 through the exchange. Gift cards can be sold and exchanged for a CVS gift card that can be used at any location.

Once users scan the QR code in store or from the circular, they will be able to input the information for the gift card they are selling.

Plastic Jungle then makes an offer for the card that is a certain percentage off the value. If the customer accepts the offer, they instantly receive a CVS gift card.

As a result, the process is much faster than what gift card exchanges have entailed to date, with required users to mail in a card and wait for a check to be mailed back to them.

Mobile is the future
At this point, the CVS gift cards customers purchase via the exchange cannot be redeemed from a phone. Users have to print them out first to redeem them.

“That is not the  mobile experience we are all after but the reality is that the world of putting all of the gift cards on the phone is still young and there are different stages of evolution,” Mr. Rogers said.

In addition to mobile access to the platform, customers can also access the gift card exchange online at

Plastic Jungle claims to be the largest secured gift card exchange on the Web.

“For a consumer to walk through a shopping mall and exchange their gift cards and buy discounted gift cards all happening in real time on their phone – that is the future of our business,” Mr. Roger said.

“In 2012, this is  still in its infancy because redemption on a phone of a gift card is not universally available yet,” he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York