Friday, February 29, 2008

Don’t Lose Out on Gift Cards

So, I got some gift cards for Christmas. Not a lot of cards, just a couple. But I haven’t used them yet. I do this all the time. I stick them in my wallet or in the drawer by my bed. There they sit waiting for that special day when I finally decide on that special purchase. I haven’t forgotten them, I just don’t want to use them without care. Yep, I’m the kid who savored Halloween candy until Easter.

Photo by Harris Graber

But gift cards aren’t candy. And maybe they don’t get hard and stale, but there are advantages to using them soon after received. Like the time I got stuck when the local sporting goods store was sold to some big chain. Stuck! My 20 bucks worth of free stuff now gone (or so I assumed).

Shopping year 2007 left many retailers in a bad way when the holiday season didn’t give them the lift they hoped. Some big names are closing their doors such as CompUSA, Bombay Company and can you believe it the Sharper Image. So what do you do if your gifter was trying to help the struggling retailers and got you a card from a now Chapter 11 shop? Have no fear. All hope is not lost.

Here’s what you do if you’ve got a gift card from a retailer who is closing up:

  1. Check the website. Dig around they may have info about gift cards.
  2. Are they closing all stores? Or can you use your gift card online. Visit CompUSA’s website and you’d never know there was trouble in the balance sheets.
  3. File a claim. Personally, I probably wouldn’t pursue $20, but if you’ve got a large amount in a gift card you can file a claim. You usually have 90 days from the bankruptcy filing date to file. It's best to file your claim as soon as you've confirmed that claims are being accepted. You’ll need to contact the clerk of the bankruptcy court to get the name and number of the bankruptcy case.

Better yet, don’t let those cards sit unused. Use them as the giver intended and go out and get some stuff.

Now, I guess I outta use all those free coupons I stuffed in my wallet and posted on the fridge.

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