According to the Mercator Advisory Group, 1 to 3 percent of gift card dollars are never spent, so nearly $3 billion goes unused each year. For each person, the numbers are smaller – but who wants to waste perfectly spendable money?
The best way to safeguard against wasting money with gift cards is to spend them quickly. An unused gift card is the equivalent of cash, but unlike cash it can expire if you forget about it. In addition, the vendor could go out of business, or you could simply lose the card. In any case, the longer you wait to spend it, the less value you’re likely to get for the card, as prices climb over time and some gift cards lose value after they sit unused for awhile.
Follow these tips to avoid wasting the gift cards you’ve purchased or gotten as a present.
Store your cards in one place. You can’t use what you can’t find. Create a designated box or file for physical gift cards or printouts, or put them in a special wallet in your purse. If you’ve got digital gift cards in your email inbox, create a specific folder to store them. That way, you always know where to find them when you’re ready to shop. Check your gift card collection monthly to remind yourself what you haven’t spent.
Check expiration dates. After you’ve located all your gift cards, check their expiration dates. The same goes for gift certificates and vouchers from daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social. Log into your daily deal site account, see which deals you’ve purchased and their expiration dates, and then plan ahead, especially for any dining deals, visits to attractions or getaway breaks. Then you’re not left trying to use them at the last minute, when it may not be so convenient for you and your family.
Use what you paid. If you have an unused and expired daily deal site certificate, note that some keep their purchase value even after the official expiration date. For example, if it’s a half-price restaurant deal, and you’ve paid $10 for $20 worth of dining, even after the use-by date, you may be able to use the certificate for the original $10 that you paid. Check the fine print.
Regift. Finally, if you’re unlikely to use the gift card because you don’t like the restaurant, venue or retailer, think about regifting it to someone else, doing a gift card swap with friends, or selling or bartering it on a neighborhood buy/swap group. Sites like CardCard or Cardpool also help you trade in some gift cards, although you typically won’t get the full value.
Best bet? Spend your gift cards. It’s a classic case of use it or lose it.
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