Just about everybody loves getting gift cards. Gift cards consistently top the list of most consumer preference surveys about gifts for special occasions such as holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations.
The flexibility and easy use of gift cards is certainly a contributing factor, as is the fact that gift cards allow recipients to choose out their own gifts – no worrying about returns or receipts.
Most people love giving gift cards, too – a survey done by InComm showed that nearly 95% of all American consumers planned on buying 2 or more gift cards during the holiday season, and 67% of all consumers planned on buying 5 or more gift cards.
The convenience of buying gift cards is certainly a big factor in their popularity of a gift, especially around the holidays. Despite the fact that most people have all year to prepare for the holidays, the same InComm survey revealed that only 10% of all shoppers had completed their shopping for gifts by the middle of December.
And gift cards continue to grow in popularity – so chances are that you’re going to be getting (or giving!) gift cards for quite a while. And we think that’s a very good thing indeed.
However, gift cards are somewhat unique. They’re not as flexible as cash, and though they can be used to make purchases in a similar manner, there are quite a few distinctions that can make using your gift cards effectively somewhat difficult.
To help you use up your gift cards smartly and effectively, we’ve put together a list of 7 simple ways that you can make sure you get the most out of your gift card – no matter what type of card it is. Read on, and see how you can squeeze the most cash out of your card.
1. Make A Note Of When You Got Your Card – And Where It Is
It’s important that you make a careful note of when you got your gift card – and when you’re storing it.
The preponderance of gift cards has made it difficult for most people to carry around all of their gift cards with them – though digital gift cards may change this – and you are unlikely to be carrying the physical form of gift cards at all times.
We recommend that you choose a single location where you can store your gift cards until you use them. A small drawer in a nightstand or a computer desk is ideal, or even a small bowl where you can pile up your gift cards.
This is important because misplacing gift cards is incredibly common – most consumers have probably misplaced at least one gift card throughout their lives. And, if you haven’t taken appropriate steps, you’re unlikely to be able to replace your gift card easily, and may lose your total remaining balance.
In addition, it’s important to make a note of when you received a gift card. The CARD Act, passed in 2009, ensures that all gift cards remain valid for 5 years, but after about a year, gift card companies are allowed to charge “service fees” that can drain your gift card balance.
A good rule of thumb is to try to spend a gift card within one or two months of purchase. If you haven’t spent your gift card before then, that may be a sign that you don’t need it and should get rid of it by regifting or reselling it – which we’ll get into a bit later in our article.
Making note of the official expiration date — and the date of purchase — ensures that you’ll always know when you got each gift card you have, and that you’ll be able to spend them in a timely manner without wasting any of your balance on inactivity fees.
2. Register Your Gift Card, If You Can – And Ask For A Receipt
Not all companies offer this service, but gift card registration is an easy way to protect yourself from the loss or theft of your gift card. By providing some information about your card, you can register it, ensuring you can still access your balance even if you lose the physical gift card.
Log onto the website of the retailer or company that has issued your card, and see if they offer gift card registration. This is less common among retailers, but very common for prepaid gift cards like VISA gift cards and MasterCard gift cards.
Another way to prevent the theft or loss of your gift card is to get a receipt. If you received the gift card from somebody else, ask for a receipt if they have it – and make it a habit to keep your own receipts from your gift card purchases. Usually, if you present a retailer with the proof of purchase for a gift card, they’ll issue you a new gift card – for a small fee.
3. Wait For A Store Sale
Gift cards work like cash – and are totally compatible with just about every store sale out there. Waiting to use a gift card until there is a store sale is a fantastic way to stretch your dollar, and ensure that you get maximum value out of your gift card.
You shouldn’t just wait on using your card until the ideal sale comes along, but it’s a great idea to keep an eye on retailers and restaurants if you have gift cards for their products – doing so lets you get the best deals, and get more for your gift card balance.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t usually apply to coupons. Most retailers disallow the usage of gift cards with their coupons, so don’t be surprised if they refuse a transaction if you’re paying exclusively with a gift card.
4. Make Sure You Spend Your Entire Balance – And Don’t Be Afraid To Go Overboard
Most consumers spend more than their entire balance of a gift card – approximately 72% of consumers do this – and that’s one reason that gift card retailers love them. Gift cards get customers who wouldn’t normally come to a store into their doors, encouraging them to spend their own money.
However, this is actually a good thing for most consumers. Think about it – having a small, leftover balance remaining on your card is extremely inconvenient – you’ll have to carry around a nearly useless card just in case you end up going to that retailer, and you’ll have to split payment on that tiny amount.
You may even forget that you have a remaining balance, which means that you’re basically throwing away money.
So it’s best to spend your entire gift card balance at once. Augmenting your own purchase with cash is a great way to make sure of this – find some items to purchase that will put you about $10 or $15 above your total balance, and you can be totally sure that you’ve drained your gift card balance, and made the most out of your gift card.
5. Don’t Buy Something Just Because You Have A Gift Card
This may sound silly – but you shouldn’t buy something that you don’t need or want just because you have a gift card. You’ll regret it later.
Remember, spending a gift card is essentially buying something for yourself by spending money given to you by somebody else. Why would you buy something you don’t need or don’t want for yourself? If you would be disappointed in an item as a gift, that may be a sign that you shouldn’t buy that item.
You don’t have to rush to spend your gift card. Take your time, find something you want, and buy it. If you can’t find anything you want with a specific gift card, that may be a sign that you should sell it – which we’ll talk about soon.
6. Avoid Theft By Checking Your Balance Often – Or Using Your Card ASAP
Gift card scammers are becoming more common. Thieves can steal money from legitimate gift cards in a variety of ways – often, before consumers even realize what’s happening. This is why, if you’re worried about gift card scammers, it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your gift card balance – or use it as soon as you can.
Now, this scam isn’t common – we don’t mean to scare you – but it’s important that you know about it, so that you can spend your gift card balance if you’re concerned that it might be compromised.
The most common scam is done by thieves who steal the information off of gift cards, duplicate them or take note of their numbers, and then replace them on store displays. After that, they simply wait until the cards are activated, and then spend the balance before the recipient of the gift card realizes what’s happening.
By doing so, they quickly drain the balance of a legitimate gift card – leaving the recipient out in the cold, so to speak. But there are several ways that this can be avoided.
- Spend gift cards quickly – if you are concerned about your gift card being vulnerable, do your best to use it quickly. If you spend your money before a scammer can, they’re out of luck.
- Check your balance often – If you don’t want to spend your gift card balance right away, you should at least check the balance of your card. Seeing suspicious activity could be a sign that it’s compromised.
- Buy gift cards that are secure – If you’re giving a card, you can make sure that it’s not compromised by buying smartly. Buy gift cards that are located behind registers and in locked boxes – not sitting out in open kiosks or displays. These cards are harder for thieves to compromise, as they’re not easily reachable.
Following these steps can help you protect yourself from thieves – and prevent the loss of your gift card balance.
7. Sell Gift Cards If You Don’t Need Them
In the past, it was hard to get rid of gift cards that you didn’t want. You could regift them to someone else, or try to sell them to family and friends, but doing so wasn’t a consistent method of getting rid of your cards – and you ran the risk of offending the original person who gave you the card.
However, modern innovation has made it easier than ever to sell unwanted gift cards.
Nowadays, there are several ways you can get rid of your gift cards.
- Auction websites like eBay are popular for some consumers, but they are often hard to use and aren’t purpose-built for selling gift cards.
- Physical kiosks are common in some areas – CoinStar has recently introduced a kiosk that will buy unwanted gift cards – but are still relatively rare, and don’t always offer great rates.
- Gift card exchanges are specialized, eBay-like auction marketplaces where gift cards can be sold and traded. These exchanges offer good rates, but the value of your card depends mainly on its popularity, and it can take a while to sell a card.
- Direct gift card buyers are the most popular ways to sell gift cards online. They provide instant payments for gift cards – no matter the brand, or remaining balance. While you may get a slightly lower rate than you would by selling to another individual, the immediate, instant payments offered by direct gift card buyers are well worth it.
Looking For The Best Direct Gift Card Buyer Out There? Choose EJ Gift Cards!
Selling your gift cards has never been easier than it is at EJ Gift Cards. Our comprehensive online platform offers a totally seamless gift card selling experience, and we offer competitive rates and instant payments via PayPal.
The process is simple. Visit our list of accepted cards – we take hundreds of them – and then begin the selling process by getting a totally reversible quote. If you decide you don’t want to sell your card, there’s no commitment, so don’t worry about getting stuck or being unable to change your mind.
Then, if you like your offer, continue through our step-by-step process by entering the information on your card. After you confirm the details of the card, and we’ve verified them, payment is sent to your PayPal account. If your card must be verified physically, we’ll render payment once we receive the gift card and have validated it’s legitimacy.
Finally, if you have any questions or issues with our process, you can contact our customer support team – they’ll help you out.
That’s it! Your unwanted gift card has been turned into cash, giving you increased flexibility – and helping you get the most out of even your unwanted gift cards.