4 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Gift Cards

using giftcards wisely

There’s no question that at some point during your life you’ve struggled to come up with a gift idea for someone in your life. Whether that person is a loved one or someone you barely know, the go-to gift in this case is usually a gift card. They’re quick and easy to purchase, versatile, and satisfying to most gift recipients.

Some years, you yourself may feel inundated with gift cards. If this year was one of those years and you’re buried in a heap of gift cards, we’ve got some tips for you. If your free money is burning a hole in your pocket, read through to the end of our blog post before you give in to that spending temptation.

According to the National Retail Foundation’s holiday projections, over half of all consumers surveyed reported that they expected to give at least several gift cards as Christmas presents. The average person has approximately $300 worth of gift cards in their possession immediately after the holiday season. When that’s the case, self-control and intelligence comes in handy in order to get the most bang for your buck.

Tip #1: Check the balances. Before you launch into a spending frenzy, make sure you know the exact balances on each gift card. This helps prevent overspending and surprises at the checkout counter. After the holidays, the last thing you need is an expense you weren’t expecting. There are various ways you can check your gift card balances:

  • Call the number on the back of the gift card.
  • Search the company online and visit their website. Most stores will have link to check your gift card balance, like this one at Kohls.com.

Tip #2: Wait for the sales. Just as you should when using your own money, wait for a sale when preparing to use your gift cards unless you need an item ASAP. If it’s a pleasure item you’re coveting, like that fresh pair of sneakers you’ve had your eye on or a new smart watch, wait until the price drops.

While there are some companies and certain products that rarely (if ever) go on sale, many items will go on sale regularly. The key is to muster up enough self control to wait for deals like “buy one, get one free” or a percentage off. Your patience will pay off when you’re able to get the most out of your gift card(s) and are able to avoid spending any of your own money.

Tip #3: Trade, sell, or exchange. It’s rare that you’ll receive a gift card that doesn’t suit your personal taste, but if you don’t expect to ever use a card you’ve been gifted, there is a growing market wherein you can sell or trade your unwanted gift card. You probably won’t get 100% of what the gift card is worth, but the more popular the store and gift card, the more your card will be worth in trade. On sites such as Card Kangaroo and CardCash, you can trade or exchange electronic gift cards and even partially used gift cards. Right before the holiday season begins is the prime time to unload the gift cards from your hands, but immediately after the holidays is a close second.

Tip #4: Stock up for next year. If you aren’t a planner, here is a good opportunity to get a jump start on next year’s gifts, whether for birthdays, house-warming, baby showers, Christmas and more. If you aren’t fond of the gift card that you were given, you can easily re-gift it to someone else. Just make sure it’s not back to the same person or someone in the same family.

Gift cards can easily burn a hole in your pocket until you have given in and spent them all. This is where wisdom, self-control, and patience are key. Be intelligent about when and how you spend your gift card(s). By taking your time waiting for the right sale, you’ll be able to get the biggest bang possible out of any gift card(s) you received!

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Got Gift Cards? Spend them Wisely This Year

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Gift cards truly are the gift that keeps on giving. More gift cards were purchased this year than ever before – nearly $32 billion worth! When surveyed, 80% of shoppers had plans to buy and give gift cards this holiday season.

So, chances are good that you’re going to be on the receiving end of at least one of these little beauties.

You know that giddy feeling of suddenly having a bunch of “money” to spend in your favorite store(s). Gift cards give you the freedom to basically shop for your own Christmas gifts – and they’re slightly less tacky than giving cash, so more people are reaching for them. Consumers report feeling better about gifting someone with a gift card than with something totally useless.

Believe it or not, retailers absolutely LOVE selling gift cards, for several reasons. Oftentimes, the recipient forgets about the card altogether. Some people receive cards for stores that are simply too far away from their homes. Some gift cards have “inactivity fees” that gradually lower the card’s value over time. Unfortunately, some gift cards are lost or even stolen. All of these variables add up to bigger profits for retailers.

This year, if you’re the recipient of one or more gift cards, there are some things you can do to use your it wisely. First of all, make sure you register it as soon as you can. This will protect the balance if you do happen to lose it or it becomes stolen. If your gift card is stolen, report the theft directly to the issuer right away. If you’re lucky, they may replace the card. Sometimes this requires a small replacement fee.

Always treat a gift card just like cash money. Your best bet is to use them sooner rather than later so that you don’t end up losing them or forgetting about them.

What is an e-gift card?

Many retailers are now offering electronic gift cards. These are becoming more popular because they can be purchased online, allowing consumers to do even more of their holiday shopping from the comfort of their own homes. An electronic gift card works just like the plastic kind – the only difference being that they’ll be emailed and printed rather than purchased in a brick and mortar establishment.

E-gift cards can be used online or in stores, and they are much harder to lose since they will be sitting in your email inbox rather than – wait, where did you put that thing, again?

Over a billion dollars worth of gift cards go unused every single year. That’s a lot of money that’s just going straight back into retailers’ bank accounts. Just as you wouldn’t keep a fifty dollar bill in your wallet without ever spending it, don’t let your gift cards go to waste either. Happy shopping!

Image Credit: Kool Cats Photography