By Kevin Biggiani
Do you have any unused gift cards you forgot about? If so, you’re in good company. Bankrate.com, an independent, advertising-supported publisher and comparison service, conducted a recent poll of 2,387 U.S. adults and found that 1,225 participants had outstanding gift cards. When put in the context of the entire adult population of the United States, the poll suggests that more than half of U.S. adults, about 51 percent, forget to use gift cards. These unused gift cards amount to approximately $15.3 billion of gift cards; that is roughly $116.00 per person in the United States.
More than half of millennials, or 56 percent, haven’t used their gift cards, compared with 52 percent of baby boomers, 47 percent of Gen Xers, and 46 percent of Gen Zers. So, when will they use them?
Ninety-five percent of those who said they had unused gift cards, vouchers, or store credits expect to eventually use them. Fifty one percent plan to use all of their gift cards; however, thirty percent expect to use most, but not all, of their gift cards.
Of the adults polled, many have waited too long to use their gift cards, which caused them to expire, and 49 percent of the U.S. adults polled have also “lost their ‘gifts’” at some point. Others stated that they were unable to use their gift cards before a permanent store closure. It is interesting to note that out of those who have lost their cards, more than half, or 64 percent, were members of higher-income households, compared with middle-income, 48 percent, and lower-income, 40 percent. The poll also revealed that higher earners used their freebies the least, some even deciding to re-gift or sell a gift card they had received.
Sometimes, you just receive a card for services or products you don’t need or want, or maybe the establishment is not convenient to reach. There are cards that are more flexible, like Mastercard or American Express gift cards, but an activation fee is required to purchase these cards, and recipients need to use them before non-use fees are charged.
How can you remember to use your gift cards? Perhaps you can create a folder on your smartphone, or put reminders on your calendar. The best way, though, would probably be to use them as soon as they are received. Though, wouldn’t it be nice if they never expired?
Some people just feel awkward about using them instead of giving payment directly. In that case, you can sell, donate or re-gift the cards to someone else. A variety of online gift card resellers will give you a cash offer for an unwanted gift card. Typically, the card’s balance must be at least 20 dollars. Giftcards.com is an online secondary market service for buying and selling used gift cards; if you have a gift card you want to sell for cash or want to buy pre-owned discount gift cards to save on upcoming expenses, this is the place to go.
The truth is that the longer you hold on to a gift card, the higher the likelihood you’ll lose it, forget to use it, or won’t be able to use it because the card expired or the store went out of business.
If you typically use debit or credit cards to pay for items, store your physical gift cards next to the card you use most often. When you reach into your wallet to complete a transaction, you’ll have a visual reminder of gift cards you need to use. Add gift cards to your online store accounts if possible. For example, at Amazon.com, you can apply a gift card to your account as soon as you receive it. Amazon will prompt you to redeem the gift card every time you check out. If you can’t add the gift cards to store accounts, keep your gift cards near the computer you use most often to shop online. Don’t leave a balance on the card. Try to zero out the card, so you will have one less thing to remember.
With the holiday season quickly approaching, what better reason to use one of those outstanding gift cards?
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