4 Steps to Avoid Lost Gift Card Money


This holiday season was big for retail gift cards–it was estimated that $28 billion would be spent, with 58% of shoppers saying they’d be happy to receive them as gifts.

Gift cards are easy to give and can be easy to spend, but apparently they can also be a tremendous waste. This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that $41 million has gone unused in gift cards since from 2005-2011. Amazing!

Are you among those letting gift cards go to waste? Take a few minutes this week to make a plan for your gift cards, so you can keep your money: Spend them before companies go out of business. Borders gift card holders were out of luck earlier this year when they closed their doors months after declaring bankruptcy. While companies have to honor your gift card while they are resolving their bankruptcy claim, you simply lose the value of the card afterward. Occasionally, other stores step in to accept unused cards, as this small Louisville, KY, bookstore did this spring.

Know your state laws. In California, for example, you can receive cash for any gift card with a balance under $10. In Maine, Massachusetts, and Montana, you can cash in cards under $5.00. Find your state on the State Gift Card Consumer Protection Laws list.

Sell cards you won’t use. If you truly won’t use a card, you can sell it through an online service like PlasticJungle, GiftCardRescue or GiftCardGranny. You’ll receive up to 95% of the card’s value in the form of Amazon gift card or PayPal cash payment.

Set a date on your calendar to spend your gift card. It can be as simple as that; make a date for a dinner out, plan a shopping day at specific stores, and remember to find coupon codes and printable coupons here at Savings.com to combine with your gift card’s value. The sooner you use the card, the less likely you are to misplace or forget it.

What gift cards did you receive this holiday season? What’s your plan to use them up?

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  1. ChuckG

    3 years ago

    A friend of mine tested the Visa card I gave her, but the cashier used it all up on her groceries. Too funny. I agree, use those cards and redeem your rebates. Rebates also go unclaimed.

  2. SickMomma

    3 years ago

    Gift cards are also great for re-gifting. I seem to collect Starbucks cards despite not being a coffee drinker, so I pass them on as teacher gifts and such. I also have created a spot in a kitchen drawer where all our giftcards are kept. (We buy grocery store gift cards each month as a school fund raiser, so we always seem to have a stack of those and miscellaneous others.) Having a specific place to keep them means I know where to look when I want to use one.

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