Trending Topics
unused gift cards

What Should I Do With My Unused Gift Cards?

We’ve all been there: every birthday, holiday, or special occasion is met with a gift card shoved in an envelope. It’s the go-to gift for the person who simply doesn’t know what to get you, and would rather you pick it out yourself than get you something wrong. A respectable choice, but a cop-out nonetheless.

The gift card is inevitable, which is why you often stack them up in a forgotten drawer, or they’re left to rot in the depths of your wallet. It’s too much of a hassle to enter your card number on a website every time you want to check the balance, and there’s no time to call every company and see.

@alliewensk A $784.84 profit 👍 #giftcards #giftcardsforchristmas #starbuckschallenge #targethaul #targetmusthaves #dormshopping #dormroomshopping ♬ Bad Habit (Sped Up) - Steve Lacy

My roommate has this hoarding problem where her purse and wallet are filled with old gift cards, receipts, and glosses. Every so often, we go through her stacks and do a cleanout…which means we have to see how much money she still has to Ulta, Sephora, and other brands.

The task is arduous, and with National Use Your Gift Card Day coming on January 20 (seriously, there’s a holiday for everything), you may be feeling overwhelmed. I challenge you to start looking into what your gift cards hold before it’s too late.

How Many Of Us Aren’t Using Our Gift Cards?

Stephen Phillips via Unsplash

According to CBS News, “Americans are expected to spend nearly $30 billion on gift cards this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. Restaurant gift cards are the most popular, making up one-third of those sales. Most of those gift cards will be redeemed. Paytronix, which tracks restaurant gift card sales, says around 70% of gift cards are used within six months,”

But here’s where it gets tricky…a good amount of those gift cards get lost, or thrown out accidentally, or just go unnoticed. You get a gift card to that store you would never shop at, and it suddenly just becomes another piece of plastic.

I’ve had instances where I upload a Sephora gift card to my Sephora app, and the gift card disappears on my account after I have thrown it away…rendering my money to an abyss.

You have about five years to use your gift card before it expires, and even longer in some places like New York. Sometimes, however, it takes me four years for said gift card to resurface.

In the same CBS article, they report that about $23 billion in gift card funds go unspent, about $187 per US adult. And if that’s not infuriating enough, some gift cards like your average Visa Vanilla Gift Card gather interest rates over time…causing you to lose money.

And the worst part?

Some Companies Are Getting Money Back On Your Unspent Gift Cards

Pepi Stojanovski via Unsplash

Welcome to the world of breakage- where companies anticipate consumers not using their gift cards and report it. Starbucks makes $212 million per year alone on breakage reports, which is insane considering you can upload your gift card to the app and get double stars from using it.

You’re giving companies free money by buying gift cards and not using them. Not only did the person spend X amount of dollars on the card itself, but when it goes unused, the company gets even more money.

Going to school at the University of Delaware, I learned the joys of no sales tax on anything. Subsequently, I learned how people like to buy cars, go shopping, and even have their corporation’s headquarters in Delaware for non-tax purposes.

States like Delaware have a more fair approach to unclaimed gift card funds- where money that isn’t recovered by consumers goes toward public service initiatives. This is why it’s so important to register your gift card in your name, because often you can re-claim some of the money on that gift card.

Can I Resell A Gift Card? 

If you’re feeling extra bold, you actually can get cash for that useless gift card in your drawer. Think of your fave resale sites like Poshmark and DePop, but for gift cards! US News recommends these sites to sell used or new gift cards that work:

  • CardCash.
  • GiftCash.
  • Raise.
  • ClipKard.
  • Gameflip.
  • QuickcashMI.
  • GiftCardBin.
  • CardSell.

Latest Articles from Topdust