Now is the time to use up your gift cards

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Got a gift card you don’t want? Did you know there’s a way to turn it into cash you can use to buy something you really do want?!

Why you can’t sit on those gift cards

Every Christmas, people give me gift cards and then apologize. The word got out long ago out that I’m not a fan of gift cards. But I guess it’s very hard to buy a gift for me. So I either get a restaurant gift card or some kind of candy. (Hmm, what does that say about me?!)

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports has found that more than 25% of all gift cards given during prior holidays are still sitting unused in people’s home or wallets — one or more years later!

Merchants love gift cards because they make a tidy sum off the “breakage,” which is the amount of money on gift cards that’s paid for but never used. But the bigger risk to you is that a restaurant or retailer will go bust before you get a chance to use their gift card. In that case, you’re out the money.

Someone gave me a gift card for an ice cream parlor for my birthday last summer. I never made it to the parlor despite my best intentions. Then when I was driving by the location in September, the store was completely gone!

So here’s your assignment: Gather up the unused gift cards you got this past holiday season and use them. Go to the store, the restaurant, the spa, or wherever. Turn that plastic into a meal or an outfit. Or as an alternative, read about ways you can turn unwanted gift cards into cash.

And next time you’re tempted to give someone else a gift card, I suggest you give cash or my no-giftcard gift certificate instead. It has no expiration date and the store won’t go out of business — even if this suggestion makes me seem crass.

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