Liz Weston: This year, resolve to leave no gift card unused

Two gift card experts offer suggestions on how to keep track of cards and use them to the best advantage.

Associated Press

Jan 10, 2022, 2:42 PM

Updated 888 days ago

Share:

Liz Weston: This year, resolve to leave no gift card unused
By LIZ WESTON of NerdWallet
Years ago, a friend who needed cash sold me a $100 Nordstrom gift card. I wish I knew where the heck I put it.
Gift cards are a popular holiday solution, especially recently, as supply chain disruptions and shipping delays have made gift buying more challenging. Most gift cards are spent within a year, but billions of dollars remain unspent and about 1% to 2% of gift card dollars typically go unused, according to Amy Dunckelmann, vice president of research operations for Mercator Advisory Group, a global payments consultant.
This year, my New Year’s resolution is to find and deploy every single gift card lurking in our household by Jan. 15, which is this year’s National Use Your Gift Card Day . For help, I turned to two gift card experts who offered suggestions on how to keep track of cards and use them to the best advantage.

MAKE A PLAN FOR THE CARDS YOU WON’T USE

Gift cards come in two flavors: those you’ll use and those you won’t. If a gift card isn’t right for you, ask yourself who might be a better fit, says Tracy Tilson , founder of UseYourGiftCard.com and the creator of National Use Your Gift Card Day.
You could regift it to a friend or neighbor, donate to a charity or hand it to a first responder as a thank you for their hard work during the pandemic, Tilson suggests.
“It’s a good way to create some goodwill if you’re not going to use them,” Tilson says.
You might sell the card to someone you know or trade it for one of their unwanted cards. Gift cards can be sold or swapped online but scams abound. Buyers may ask you to read off the card numbers to “ensure the card is legit” and disappear with the card’s value once you do. Or the card you get in a swap may be phony or already used. Avoid private-party sales to strangers, such as those on Craigslist or Facebook. If you want to use an online site, make sure it has a post-transaction money-back guarantee.

SET REMINDERS FOR THE CARDS YOU WANT TO USE

If you’re planning to use a card, employ your phone and a calendar to help keep track, says Shelley Hunter, spokeswoman for GiftCards.com, an online provider of gift cards. Hunter keeps a running list of her cards on her phone and makes a note on her calendar when she plans to use one.
“On Saturday, I’m probably going to go out to lunch with my boys, so I will put on the calendar, ‘Lunch with boys. Use Panera gift card,’” Hunter says.
Even if you don’t have a specific plan for a card, consider putting a “use by” date on your calendar so you don’t forget it, Tilson says.
Hunter also recommends treating cards like cash. If you got a $20 bill as a gift, you’d probably put it into your wallet right away, Hunter notes. Consider doing the same with gift cards you plan to use.
“I put them next to the debit or credit card that I use most often,” she says.
Tilson agrees. If she puts gift cards elsewhere in her wallet or purse, “I forget about them.”

KEEP EXPIRATION RULES IN MIND

How much time you have to use your gift cards may depend on where you live and the type of card.
Under the federal Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, gift cards can’t expire for five years although issuers can charge inactivity fees if the card hasn’t been used within 12 months.
Some states have additional rules. Where I live in California, store gift certificates and gift cards can’t expire. Inactivity fees are mostly forbidden and balances below $10 can be redeemed for cash. The law doesn’t apply to general-use gift cards, however, if the expiration date is printed on the card. (General-use cards include gift cards issued by Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express that can be used wherever those brands are accepted.)
You can find other states’ rules by searching the National Conference of State Legislatures ’ site for “gift card.”
In general, though, the quicker you use your cards, the better. You’re less likely to forget about them and more likely to enjoy the value the giver wanted you to have.
______________________________
Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: lwestonnerdwallet.com. Twitter: lizweston.


More from News 12
0:28
​Poughkeepsie police: Man who pointed replica gun at officers disarmed, hospitalized

​Poughkeepsie police: Man who pointed replica gun at officers disarmed, hospitalized

2:11
Sunny, hot Monday kicks off scorching week in the Hudson Valley

Sunny, hot Monday kicks off scorching week in the Hudson Valley

2:09
Sleepy Hollow Sprint Triathlon raises money for youth summer program

Sleepy Hollow Sprint Triathlon raises money for youth summer program

0:21
Red Cross provides emergency assistance to 33 residents displaced by Yonkers fire

Red Cross provides emergency assistance to 33 residents displaced by Yonkers fire

1:50
Students sing their hearts out for the 2024 'Yonkers Idol' competition

Students sing their hearts out for the 2024 'Yonkers Idol' competition

Is your dad awesome? Hudson Valley tell us why your dad rocks!

Is your dad awesome? Hudson Valley tell us why your dad rocks!

2:02
 A potential heat wave is coming. These sunscreen tips can save your skin

A potential heat wave is coming. These sunscreen tips can save your skin

1:59
Revelers enjoy Juneteenth festival and parade in Yonkers

Revelers enjoy Juneteenth festival and parade in Yonkers

1:57
Rep. Bowman, Latimer encourage voters to cast ballots early

Rep. Bowman, Latimer encourage voters to cast ballots early

0:29
Police: 2 arrested for stabbing man in New Windsor

Police: 2 arrested for stabbing man in New Windsor

0:29
Saugerties man convicted of manslaughter for fatally beating man in 2022

Saugerties man convicted of manslaughter for fatally beating man in 2022

2:04
Village of Sleepy Hollow raises Pride flag for first time despite opposition from some residents

Village of Sleepy Hollow raises Pride flag for first time despite opposition from some residents

2:04
Kevin Jonas undergoes surgery to remove common skin cancer; urges fans to get checked

Kevin Jonas undergoes surgery to remove common skin cancer; urges fans to get checked

1:39
Showing support for Ukraine in the Hudson Valley during Yonkers Ukrainian Heritage Festival

Showing support for Ukraine in the Hudson Valley during Yonkers Ukrainian Heritage Festival

0:47
Westchester Medical Center pioneers robotic procedure to help those with severe hearing loss

Westchester Medical Center pioneers robotic procedure to help those with severe hearing loss

0:29
Carmel police warn people about recent car burglaries

Carmel police warn people about recent car burglaries

0:35
Prosecutors: Former Wallkill firefighter sentenced to prison for 2021 arson incident

Prosecutors: Former Wallkill firefighter sentenced to prison for 2021 arson incident

1:47
EXCLUSIVE: News 12 uncovers police data that shows 19 children struck by vehicles in Ramapo in 6 months

EXCLUSIVE: News 12 uncovers police data that shows 19 children struck by vehicles in Ramapo in 6 months

1:28
Officials: 7 people injured, 13 families displaced in Yonkers fire

Officials: 7 people injured, 13 families displaced in Yonkers fire

1:03
PARENTS: Dutchess County children lost for 2 hours on nightmare bus ride home

PARENTS: Dutchess County children lost for 2 hours on nightmare bus ride home