Plastic Jungle Lets Users Instantly Convert Gift Cards Into PayPal Funds or Facebook Credits

Plastic Jungle, a gift card exchange where consumers trade in unused gift cards for cash, e-commerce store credit, or Facebook Credits, today launches a partnership with PayPal allowing users to fund their PayPal account by selling gift cards to Plastic Jungle. The exchange is also transitioning to an all digital transaction system where users can redeem their cards online instead of physically mailing them in. This digital system will go live on the Facebook app in a few weeks, allowing users to instantly convert unused gift cards into Facebook Credits.

According to Plastic Jungle, 5% to 8% of all gift card balances are not redeemed, representing $30 billion in unused balances, with an average of $300 in unredeemed cards per American household. The company hopes to introduce efficiency and liquidity to the gift card economy, helping get cards into the hands of users who will spend them, and hopefully more, at a retailer’s sites and stores.

PayPal Apps beta users can now type in a gift card’s number and pin and instantly have the card’s value deposited into their PayPal account. Previously users had to initiate the transaction online, then print a mailing label and send the card to Plastic Jungle where it would be verified and the value deposited into their account. The new integration utilizes PayPal’s Adaptive Payments APIs, and will launch with support for gift cards from 50 different retailers.

This instant conversion capability will soon be available on the Facebook application, giving users another way acquire Facebook Credits for use in social games and elsewhere. Users aren’t taxed for converting cards to Facebook Credits, and are given the same value that they would have received in cash.

There’s currently no option to share a card redemption or purchase with friends, as Plastic Jungle has been concentrating on making the transaction flows as lightweight as possible. Plastic Jungle is considering sharing functionality, and is talking with social game developers about the potential for tie-ins. Plastic Jungle chief executive Bruce Bower tells us that customers redeeming cards for Facebook Credits have skewed more towards young males than those who redeem for cash, who skew more towards older female students and stay-at-home moms.

Initially, some retailers were worried that participation would damage perceptions of their brands. Plastic Jungle conducted studies showing that users appreciated the flexibility of being able to convert a brand’s cards, and the transactions positively influenced their perception of that brand, Retailers are now eager to join the exchange. Plastic Jungle guarantees the gift cards it sells, offering a much more reliable secondary market for gift cards than eBay and Craigslist which are rife with fraudulent cards.

While the company wishes it could receive more promotion and attention from Facebook, Bower says that Plastic Jungle is happy that Facebook is focused on establishing partnerships so their are places to spend Facebook Credits. This creates market demand, which in turn creates a need for Plastic Jungle. Bower said his company is confident that Facebook Credits will succeed, and the only question is whether the payment platform “will swallow up all transactions in the space”.