We’d readily admit that we spent thousands at our local Nordy’s before the kids were born. In the last decade we can count on one hand the number of times we have been in the store. And 4 out of 5 of those were just to walk through from the parking lot into the mall.
Creditcardchaser reported in 2008 there were $91 billion of gift cards purchased. Amazingly, in 2007 the highest amount of unused gift cards was reported at 10%; nearly $9 billion dollars that you, I and your neighbors spent, ultimately for no reason.
Most of us tend to think negatively about the retailers and banks when these statistics are raised. After all, we’ve all seen in the news how companies such as Home Depot profited $43 million in 2002 and Limited Brands pocketed $34 million in 2006 according to the Seattle Pi.
But you should also be aware that unused gift cards in many states eventually fall under the status of abandoned property and thereby become property of the state. Taking a look at the list of states on the National Conference of State Legislatures we find over 30 states that have specific laws for the purpose of taking these funds or leave the door open for the possibility.
Do you ever get cards from stores you don’t frequent or products you don’t particularly like? What can you do to get the most value out of these cards?
1) Donate them! – I’d hope your favorite charity would willingly accept them directly. If not, there are organizations such as GiftCardDonor.com that will accept them on behalf of your favorite charity. Beware, they will keep 25% of the value for their operating expenses.
You could also consider donating them directly to a person in need. While on a trip last year, I met a young couple and their children on their way to Disney. Their father confided in me quietly how painful it was going to be on their finances. Normally I’d be the first to counsel him on making more fiscally responsible decisions but they were already on their way. I handed him a Disney gift card I happened to receive from a business trip earlier in the year. I have no doubt his family was very pleasantly surprised when he found out it was for $100!
2) Trade them! – Check with family and friends. Do they have cards they want to swap with you?
There are also sites online that will help trade your gift card; of course for nominal fee. PlasticJungle.com will let you buy, sell or trade your gift cards. You’ll likely get 65%-85% of the value of your cards.
3) Sell them! – Swapagift.com not only has a presence on the web they also have kiosks in stores such as Western Union that allow you to turn in your gift cards for cash. You get 60%-70% of the remaining value on a long list of preferred vendor cards.
4) Use them! – If there is just nothing you want to use the cards for; use them. You could re-gift them to a friend or family member for a coming birthday or celebration. If that isn’t an option maybe you should just enjoy a day of shopping for free. Buy anything that catches your eye and store it for the next holiday season.
I’m sure you have an idea or two to share as well, please comment below and let us know what you do with your unused or unwanted gift cards.
photo by playerx