You likely have at least one unused gift card hidden somewhere. And if you’re being honest—or if you search long and hard enough—you most certainly do.
According to a poll conducted last summer, 51 percent of U.S. citizens have unused gift cards, coupons, or store credits in their possession. The average value is $116 per person, with a total value of more than $15 billion. Most gift cards do not expire after long periods of non-use; however, they may begin charging maintenance fees that eat into the card’s value over time.
The best thing you can do is use your cards soon after receiving them. If that’s not possible, consider selling or donating the card instead of letting it languish in a dresser drawer for months on end. Below are four other ways to put those unused and unwanted gift and store cards to good use:
1. Spend it sooner rather than later
The first thing you might want to consider doing with your gift card is spending it as soon as possible before any maintenance fees kick in. If you think you might be tempted to forget about the card, leave it at home when you go out shopping so that it’s not an option for impulse purchases.
That’s especially true as consumer buying habits continue to shift and brick-and-mortar businesses shut their doors. In 2017, retail giants including J.C. Penney and Macy’s announced the closing of hundreds of stores across the country.
The less time you wait to use a gift card, the less likely you will forget about it. According to CEB Tower research, nearly $1 billion in gift cards went unused in 2015. That’s a lot of money that could be saved.
2. Re-gift, resell or donate
You can always re-gift them. Maybe you will receive another gift card in the future; you’ll already know the joys of spending someone else’s money!
You can also try to sell your gift cards on a site like Plastic Jungle, Cardpool, or Card Cash. These are popular places to buy and sell gift cards. Although you won’t get the entire amount of your card refunded — the money you receive may range from 60% to more than 90% of the original amount.
You could also donate the cards to charity—it’s a win-win situation, you don’t have to spend money on yourself, AND you can feel good about doing it.
3. Avoid overspending — and underspending
Sometimes a little too much money spent on a card is better than not enough. If you have a $50 gift card to a local clothing shop but only want to spend $25, max out the card and use the remaining few bucks as cash back at the register.
What if you’ve almost reached your gift card limit and have a slight amount still on your card? If the value of a card falls below a certain threshold in certain states, it must be exchanged for cash. Though many states follow this practice, the limit ranges from $1 in Vermont and Rhode Island to $10 in California. Some businesses may also choose to honor cards with less than $5 on them.
Be wary of “gift card creep,” which is when you spend way too much on something you didn’t want simply because the card makes it so cheap. Plan ahead of time to see whether the item is worth what you’re paying for it. Look for coupons and shop during a sale to get the most excellent price.
It is always better to underspend rather than overspend.
4. Try new things
One of the best things about gift cards is that you can try a restaurant you’ve never been to or a store you might not usually go into. You may even find a hidden gem in your local neighborhood, and who knows—you might end up with a few more unused gift cards from your latest discovery!
You can also try new things like classes or services that you usually wouldn’t feel comfortable spending your own money on.
It is essential to use an old gift card. It is crucial not to let a friend’s unused gift card sit around for too long. There are times when you might need to use someone else’s gift card. In these cases, it is best to ask the card’s original owner if they mind your using it.
The number favors using gift cards yourself or giving them as presents when it comes to gift cards. On the other hand, getting some value is far better than having your gift cards gather dust.
We’ve sold unwanted gift cards on a few occasions, and we’ve always received payments that amounted to essentially free money, even if they weren’t quite as much as I would have earned by using the cards to buy stuff.
If you have any other suggestions on how to put unused gift cards to work, feel free to leave a comment below!