The Home Depot

Offbeat and overlooked ways to save money for college

When families start saving money for college, gift cards are not typically the first place to look for funds.

But now there may be good reason to do so.

Two online businesses -- Gift of College and Card Cash -- launched a program in late May that allows users to convert unused gift cards that may have been buried in sock drawers into funds that can be deposited directly into a 529 college savings plan or a student's loan account to pay down debt.

While tapping gift cards to build the college fund may be offbeat, consider that more than 93 percent of Americans received gift cards over...