It’s estimated that $5 billion worth of gift cards will be lost to fees and expiration dates or misplaced, shoved in a drawer or otherwise neglected this year. That’s a whole lot of profit that sits with retailers and card companies. Follow these tips and don't contribute to the madness.
1. Keep them handy. Put your gift cards where you’ll use them. If possible carry them in your wallet. Don’t file them away somewhere where you’ll never see them. If you have too many to carry keep them on your desk or dresser, but don’t let them sit around loose where they could fall behind furniture or get lost among other things. Place them in a see through container that will keep them tidy, handy and on your mind.
2. Keep track of them online. You can register card numbers and PINs online at LeverageCard or PlasticJungle, where you can track your balances and check expiration dates.
3. Alert yourself. Many gift cards impose fees past a certain date if not used. These fees will whittle away the card’s value. Alert yourself by setting up notices in your personal electronic calendar or email program that reminds you to use your cards.
4. Re-gift it. If you are not likely to use the card it’s an easy re-gift item. Next time a birthday pops up or you just want to thank someone, dig into your gift card stash.
5. Trade it. You can swap or sell unwanted gift cards at several online sites like: PlasticJungle SwapaGift, GiftCardRescue, MonsterGiftCard, and GiftCardBuyBack.
6. Donate it. If you’ve got just a few dollars left on a card and don’t want it to languish you can donate the remaining value to charity. Gift Card Giver collects and distributes gift cards to appropriate non-profit organizations that can use those cards to help others. This grass roots campaign can pass on your cards that don’t have much value to you to organizations that will value the card. Even just a few leftover dollars can translate into socks or coats for someone in need.