Financial Resource Center

Money Management


Be Smart and Use Those Gift Cards

by Michelle M. Haas-Dosher, CCUFC / January 3rd, 2017


More than 60% of people surveyed by the National Retail Federation requested a gift card for the 2016 holiday season, equaling an estimated $24.78 billion. An estimated $45.7 billion is estimated to be floating around on unused gift cards since 2005. If you were a gift card recipient, don’t let your cards become part of this obnoxious statistic:

  • Put all your gift cards in a single envelope or load them onto your phone. Note the dollar value so you know how much you have to spend.

  • Consider picking out something that costs a bit more than the value of the card. That's so you don't leave a tiny balance on the card that goes unspent, especially if you're the kind of consumer who's going to tuck that card away and never look back at it. The trick here is to get something you need or want and to not go overboard by buying something you can't afford in the first place.

  • Sell your card if it's from a store you'll never frequent. Of course, you have to anticipate an opportunity cost here. Check out sites like Cardpool, Raise, and Card Hub to get money for your unused cards.

  • See if you can redeem the card at a retailer's online store. Most cards allow you to enter the unique card code to redeem a gift card. You can get more mileage this way at post-holiday online sales, especially if there's a free shipping offer.