Americans will spend an estimated $200 billion in gift cards this year, according to Coresight Research. But a big chunk of that money goes to waste.
Valerie Guerrero likes receiving them, but she admits it’s not always a memorable experience and she sometimes forgets to use them “It’s awful. I tuck them away and then it’s like out of sight, out of mind,” Guerrero says.
It’s a common problem. A new survey from Bankrate finds 51% of U.S. adults have unused gift cards, vouchers, or store credits. The average person is sitting on $116, and many times the money is never spent. Bankrate.com says 73% of those with unused gift cards, vouchers, or credits have been holding on to them for a year or more.
“Half of us have lost value at some point, either because we lost the card, or it expired, or maybe the business went out of business before we had a chance to use it,” says Ted Rossman with Bankrate.com.
Experts say there’s no reason to let the value on a gift card go to waste. There are plenty of websites that will offer cash for them. Raise, CardCash, and GiftCash allow you to sell the card and receive around 80-90% of the value. Another option: Give the card to someone else, even if there’s a small remainder left. “You can often add additional value to it. You know, you might not give your brother let’s say the $4.17 Home Depot card that you have lying around, but if you can round it up to 25 bucks or 50 bucks,” Rossman says.
Rossman says it’s a good idea to use the cards and other credits quickly. It’s important to remember the cards only become a gift when you use them.