Unspent Gift Cards

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Many people use gift cards but don’t spend all the money on them, or they don’t spend at all and forget about them. According to AP News, the unspent amount, which is worth tens of billions of dollars, is forgotten or remain unused for any reason.

Referring to the National Retail Federation, the AP News writes that during the recent holidays, the American people were “expected to spend nearly $30 billion on gift cards“, of which one third coming from restaurant gift cards. “Most of those gift cards will be redeemed and around 70% of gift cards are used within six months,” Paytronix, which tracks restaurant gift card sales, told AP News.

  • Gift cards get lost or forgotten, or recipients hang on to them for a special occasion. In a July survey, the consumer finance company Bankrate found that 47% of U.S. adults had at least one unspent gift card or voucher. The average value of unused gift cards is $187 per person, a total of $23 billion.
  • While it may take gift cards years to expire, experts say it’s still wise to spend them quickly. Some cards — especially generic cash cards from Visa or MasterCard — will start accruing inactivity fees if they’re not used for a year, which eats away at their value. Inflation also makes cards less valuable over time. And if a retail store closes or goes bankrupt, a gift card could be worthless.
– AP News

Misha Werschkul, the executive director of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, told the AP News “All 50 states and the District of Columbia have unclaimed property programs. Combined, they return around $3 billion to consumers annually. It can be tricky to find the holders of unspent gift cards, but the growing number of digital cards that name the recipient helps. State unclaimed property offices jointly run the website MissingMoney.com, where consumers can search by name for any unclaimed property they’re owed, including cash from gift cards.”