Unused gift cards, retailer credits and vouchers sitting in the wallets, junk drawers and accounts of Americans amount to around $15 billion, according to a July 2021 report from BankRate.com. A majority of U.S. adults (51%) have held onto the gift cards and vouchers for at least a year, the finance site reports.
In these volatile economic times, money expert Clark Howard says people who just sit on their gift cards run the risk of losing them because the company associated with the card might just go out of business.
What To Do With Your Gift Cards Right Now
“A lot of businesses flat-out aren’t going to make it,” Clark says.
If you don’t use your gift cards from these companies now, you may lose the money stored on them forever. So your two options are either to spend your gift cards as soon as possible or sell them.
If you choose the latter, here are three steps you need to take.
3 Steps To Turn Your Gift Cards Into Money
- Check the expiration date to make sure it hasn’t passed. If it has, that card usually won’t be honored.
- If it’s a gift card you’ve used before but it still has some money on it, check the balance.
- Sell it online at a site like CardCash.
An Exception to Clark’s Gift Card Rule
As you may be aware, Clark is not a fan of gift cards in general. He’d much rather people use cash and avoid all the expiration dates and terms attached to the cards.
But there’s one exception he’s willing to make during the current economic situation: buying gift cards to make a difference.
“There are people buying gift cards to try to help businesses stay open, not intending to use the cards for now, but to just push cash toward companies,” Clark says. “I think that’s fine.”
If you choose to buy gift cards to help local businesses, Clark says you should understand the risk to your wallet.
“If you have money that you can spare,” he says, “and if you’re doing it because you want to try to help those companies and you do it with your eyes wide open — knowing that you may well lose the money — I think that’s fine.”