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Lovable Ways to Use Gift Cards for Valentine’s Day Gifts

Lovable Ways to Use Gift Cards for Valentine’s Day Gifts 8553 6048 Tracy Tilson

February is a time of reckoning for the budgets many consumers “blew” buying holiday gifts.  Of course, it’s also when we celebrate Valentine’s Day, another big gift-giving event.  But there’s a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day without breaking your budget any further: use your gift cards!

While actually re-gifting a gift card might not be in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, you can use your gift cards in more subtle, lovable ways.  Did you get a gift card for a restaurant or experience?  You can use it for your Valentine’s Day celebration.

Consider using the gift card you got for a store to purchase something for your Valentine, instead of for yourself.  Worried that the person who gave you the gift card will ask you what you bought? Just tell them you decided to “share the love.”  After all, they gave you the gift card to make you happy, and what would make you happier than the smile on your Valentine’s face when they open the gift you purchased with your gift card.

Perhaps you received a gift card to go to the movies.  Pick a romantic film and make it part of your Valentine’s date night.  Dinner and a movie are popular celebrations, so you may want to pick up your tickets in advance.

What about the gift cards you’ve received in years past for birthdays, graduations or other special events. If you’re like many people, you have a few stuffed in your drawers or in the back of your wallet.  In fact, over $3 billion worth of gift cards go unspent every year.  Now is a great time to see if you can find an unused gift card stashed away somewhere and then use it for a Valentine’s Day gift or celebration.

If you have any gift cards left over after putting them to good use for Valentine’s Day, make sure that you don’t forget about them for the rest of the year.  As a gift to yourself, create a system to keep your gift cards handy so you remember to use them.  Putting them in a ziplock back and keeping them in your car’s glove compartment is one simple solution to always have them accessible when you’re out and about.  Or check out these other easy means to always remember to USE YOUR GIFT CARD.

Gift Cards Don’t Expire – Or Do They? A Recipe to Use it or Lose It

Gift Cards Don’t Expire – Or Do They? A Recipe to Use it or Lose It 150 150 admin

Using a gift card is easy. Waiting to use it may make it harder.  Why?  While there are a few federal  rules about gift card expiration, most vary from state to state.

Curious about what the law says about gift card expiration? If you like to read lots of legalese, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  website.  It explains in detail the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (a.k.a. Credit CARD Act).

In short, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “the CARD Act sets consumer protections for gift cards based on many state laws.” Bottom line?  The law provides that gift cards cannot expire within five years from the date they were activated.  However, the federal regulations give states a lot of wiggle room to make their rules for gift card expiration.

To be on the safe side, when you receive a gift card, do your best to use it within a year. That calls for a little advance planning.  For example, if you got a gift card for a friend or family member’s favorite restaurants, you can make a reservation to treat them on their birthday.  A gift card for a clothing brand? Check your closet and decide which seasonal outfits will need a refresh and put a future shopping date on your calendar.  If you’re planning a vacation, think about which of your gift cards would be helpful to have on your trip and store them in your suitcase.

For the electronically savvy, there are many to-do-list apps available that are perfect for keeping track of your gift cards.  Or, take a picture of each of your gift cards (front and back), and create a separate album in your smart phone Photos. Online retailers only require the card number and PIN and some retailers will accept a photo instead of the physical card.

But,  if you’ve just unearthed an old gift card that you stashed in the back of your wallet or buried in a drawer, your first step will be to google your state’s regulation.  For example, in Florida, gift cards have no expiration dates and no fees, but that does not cover promotional cards, or cards issued by financial institutions and usable at multiple unaffiliated merchants.

On the other hand, New York states that expiration dates and any fees that will be charged along with other terms and conditions must be clearly and conspicuously stated on the card, package, or accompanying printed document.

If you have a question about your state’s rules on gift card expiration, you can do a simple search online.  Even better, call the number on the back of your gift card – or contact the merchant directly – and ask whether there is a usable balance on your gift card.

Better still, remember to use your gift card BEFORE it gets lost or forgotten.  Whether your state has a “use it or lose it” law on the books, you can be sure that when it comes to gift cards, if you lose it, you’ll definitely not be able to use it.

It Feels Good to Give When You Receive – Chatting with the Gift Card Girlfriend, Shelley Hunter

It Feels Good to Give When You Receive – Chatting with the Gift Card Girlfriend, Shelley Hunter 6000 4636 Tracy Tilson

From gift card tips and practical advice, to inspiring ideas and insights into the gift card industry, Shelley Hunter (a.k.a. Gift Card Girlfriend) is the one-and-only consumer guide to gift cards. In addition to sharing creative ideas, she is always on the lookout for gift card trends that impact the public. A former IT Professional in the financial services industry, Shelley is a work-at-home mom who loves to give (and receive!) gift cards.
Here’s her expert advice on what to do with an unwanted gift card:

Q. After receiving gift cards for holidays and birthdays, how should people prioritize using them?

I think the most important thing to do when you receive several gift cards at one time is to gather them all together, put them in one place and take an accounting of what you have. I keep my list top-of-mind so I don’t forget to use them.

Part of the reason for making this inventory is to know which gift cards you won’t use at all. Oftentimes when people get a lukewarm feeling about a gift card, they’ll put it in the back of their wallet “just in case” they change their mind about it. Then the gift card goes unused indefinitely. But realistically, your first instinct is probably correct.

Q. Why would a gift card recipient choose not to use it?
Common reasons people are unlikely to use a gift card include not having a location nearby, not liking the brand, or thinking they don’t need anything from that particular store. Or perhaps the gift card is for $40 and you’d need to spend $100 to purchase something you’d like. Once you know which gift card you won’t spend, make a plan to donate or regift it, instead of holding onto it for months and months.

Q. Why should consumers consider donating their gift cards to charity instead of selling them online for cash?

There are many reasons you may want to donate your gift card to charity, rather than sell it. Maybe it’s a local brand not a national one that can be sold online. Or, the online offer you’d get for selling it is way less than its value. Non-profits can maximize the value of gift cards, and when you help others it feels good.

Q. How can you donate a gift card to a charity?
Non-profit organizations, schools and groups in your local area are always looking to raise money. Many are actively trying to get cash or products donated to them. Say you have a restaurant gift card you aren’t going to use, and the high school football team is having an event where they can auction it to raise money – you can put your unwanted gift card to good use by donating it to the team’s booster club.

In addition to donating the card directly to an organization, you can use it to purchase items that fill an actual need for a specific charity. For instance, if you have a gift card to a department or clothing store you can go in and buy products that the local shelter could use like socks or hygiene products.

Q. What about regifting a gift card to a friend? Are there any gift cards that I shouldn’t give to someone else?
The only thing I wouldn’t do is regift a card that doesn’t have the full amount you’d expect – like an odd balance like $43.50. Always check the balance on a gift card before regifting it – you can go to the merchant, or often find out online. If the balance is an odd amount, I suggest you use the gift card to buy something from that store that the gift recipient would like.
Q. Any other expert tips you’d like to share?
The one other thing I would say is to be aware of retailers that are struggling. By having your personal gift card inventory and making an honest assessment of those gift cards, you’re less likely to get stuck with one that may eventually be unusable. If a store is going out of business, go buy things you can gift or donate to anyone for anything. When Gymboree was closing, I suggested buying several onesies that could be used in the future for new baby gifts or donated to charity. It’s better to buy something than have a gift card that may lose all its value.

For more advice from the Gift Card Girlfriend, check out her blog what to do with unwanted gift cards.

Today’s the day! It’s the official first annual National Use Your Gift Card Day!

Today’s the day! It’s the official first annual National Use Your Gift Card Day! 6000 4636 Tracy Tilson

It’s not too late to make a plan to use your gift cards and take advantage of the deals and reminders at UseYourGiftCard.com.  Gather up all your gift cards – make sure they’re not hiding in a drawer or stuffed into the back of your wallet.  Call your friends and meet up to shop together or swap gift cards. Whatever you decide to do today, make sure you Celebrate the Present™ of gift cards you received last month for the holidays by getting out and using them.

Did you know that $3 billion goes unspent on gift cards every year? You won’t want to be one of the many people who forget about their gift cards.  Even if you can’t or aren’t ready to use your gift cards today, you can take just a few minutes to celebrate National Use Your Gift Card Day by organizing your gift cards and creating a calendar of when and where you want to use them in the future.

Check our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for the last chance to win a $50 gift card!

National Use Your Gift Card Day TOMORROW!

National Use Your Gift Card Day TOMORROW! 2560 2214 Tracy Tilson

National Use Your Gift Card Day is TOMORROW!

Saturday, January 18th is a shopping holiday to get up, get out and use your gift cards in stores or online. That means right now is the time to look through your drawers, wallets and desks to find all the gift cards you may have squirreled away. Make an action plan for when you want to go, where you want to shop or eat, and how you’ll use your gift cards.

According to the National Retail Federation, a total of $27.5 billion during the holiday season was spent on gift cards, so chances are you’re among the millions of recipients of at least one gift card last month. Surprisingly though, $3 billion goes unspent on gift cards every year- ouch!

National Use Your Gift Card Day helps you remember to spend every gift card dollar and reminds you to Celebrate the Present™ you got from friends and family for the holidays. You can find deals and reminders from your favorite retailers and restaurants at www.UseYourGiftCard.com.

No gift cards? No problem! You can enter to win a $50 gift card on our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!

Gift Card Organization Tips from Lauren Mang of Let Me Organize It

Gift Card Organization Tips from Lauren Mang of Let Me Organize It 2560 1707 Lauren Mang

Lauren is passionate about people and was born to help others get organized! After a decade in the Fine Arts industry, living in New York, London, and Los Angeles, she relocated to San Francisco and started Let Me Organize It, LLC, in June 2014.

As a compassionate, kind, and mindful organizer with a focus on holistic organization, Lauren helps clients discover the FUN in the fundamentals of organizing. Lauren volunteers through NAPO as the POINT Committee Chair for 2019-2020 and is the Holistic SIG co-leader for 2018-2020. In addition to an active public speaking schedule and regular pro-bono work for various local charities, Lauren is currently writing a kid’s book series on getting organized.

When she’s not working — who are we kidding, she’s always working — she can be found napping with her cat-like beagle Abby, on a travel adventure, or distracting herself with Instagram.

 

1.Keep Track of the Balance

Write the amount or balance on the gift card with a sharpie. Update it as needed, crossing out the previous amount.

 

2.Check State Laws for Gift Card Expiration

Check your state’s law regarding gift card expiration. In some states, the gift cards do expire; in other states (like California), they never expire, so they are good to use as long as the company is in business.

 

3.Use Your Gift Card By Re-Gifting

If you receive a gift card to a place you don’t like, use your gift card by re-gifting it or check out some of the sites to sell your gift cards for cash or as a trade. Another option is to give your gift card to a charity that can use it – this is often preferred over donation of physical items.

 

4.Get a Tool to Organize Your Gift Card

Organize your gift cards in a small accordion file like this one from The Container Store, or a variety of budget-friendly options can be found at Target, The Dollar Store and Staples/Office Depot. Use the sections to create umbrella categories (date night, food/drink, shopping, misc., for the kids, rainy day, auto, etc.). You may even want to consider keeping coupons in the same organizer.

 

5.Remind Yourself to Use Your Gift Card

If you never remember to bring your gift cards with you, consider taking photos of the gift cards (front and back; make sure you scratched off the pin number where applicable) and put them in an “album” titled gift cards. Many stores can scan or manually enter the number from the photos.

 

6.Safety of Gift Cards

Do NOT store your gift cards in your car unless you can lock them in the glove box. These cards are the same as cash, so if someone breaks into your vehicle, they can take them and use them.

 

7.Forgot Your Gift Card Balance?

Forgot to write your balance on the card? Most places allow you to check the balance via the website or by phone.

 

8.National Use Your Gift Card Day

Plan ahead to use your gift cards on National Use Your Gift Card Day on the 3rd Saturday of January each year when many retailers may offer deals for using your gift card. This year it falls on January 18, 2020!

 

Leave additional tips and suggestions below, we’d like to know how you keep track of your gift cards!

 

Have questions?

Connect with Lauren Mang | Let Me Organize It for all of your organization needs.

Giving it Forward: Ways to Put Unwanted Gift Cards to Use – Chatting with the Gift Card Girlfriend, Shelley Hunter

Giving it Forward: Ways to Put Unwanted Gift Cards to Use – Chatting with the Gift Card Girlfriend, Shelley Hunter 2000 1545 Tracy Tilson

From gift card tips and practical advice, to inspiring ideas and insights into the gift card industry, Shelley Hunter (a.k.a. Gift Card Girlfriend) is the one-and-only consumer guide to gift cards. In addition to sharing creative ideas, she is always on the lookout for gift card trends that impact the public. A former IT Professional in the financial services industry, Shelley is a work-at-home mom who loves to give (and receive!) gift cards.

Here’s more of her expert advice on what to do with an unwanted gift card:

1.What is the etiquette for regifting a gift card?

Gift cards can easily be regifted to others for birthdays, graduations, weddings and the holidays. Consider who would be able to use it and appreciate it. Or, use it to purchase a gift for someone; just make sure to get a receipt in case they want to return the item. Or just give it to a friend, family member or co-worker and make their day.

I’m hoping people will recognize that regifting is a way to free up money in your wallet, which is also a gift to yourself. For example, say I have a gift card to Barnes and Noble, and I need to buy my book-loving friend a birthday gift. I can give her that gift card, and then use the money I would have spent on her gift to go somewhere else and buy myself a “gift” with the money I saved.

2.What do I say when the gift-giver asks me how I used my gift card?

Many people also feel guilty not using the gift cards they receive as presents. I tell people that a gift card is given to you, so you can buy something that makes you happy. There’s zero value in just holding onto it. Selling or donating a gift card is better than not using it at all. Kids are especially tricky. Mine ask, “What if grandma asks us what we got with the gift card?” I say, “You’re going to be honest and tell her that I got cash for the gift card you gave me and used it for the socks that I wanted.” Always remember the gift giver’s intent was to give you something you want.

3.Are there any concerns for giving a personalized gift card to a friend or to charity?

If I had a gift card with my name on it, I wouldn’t give it directly to another person or organization because if the recipient tries to use it online, it might not be accepted. If I had a VISA gift card with my name on it, I’d use it to buy a store gift card that my gift recipient can use. You’re also less likely to donate a VISA gift card because you can use it so easily, for so many things. I’d be more likely to donate a gift card from a restaurant where the food doesn’t fit into my diet or I just don’t like it.

4.Are certain gift cards more (or less) appreciated by charities?

The more versatile the better. Gift cards from merchants like Target, Walmart and Amazon are more usable for a charity or individual. A gift card to a restaurant requires the recipient to make a trip to the restaurant to eat there. A charity would have to raffle off a restaurant gift card or use it to bring in food for volunteers, and there may be rules against using a donated item in that way. When you have a question regarding what you can or can’t give a specific non-profit organization, you can always just give them a quick call and ask them directly. Or you can just give it to somebody you know who is going through a hard time and would appreciate a free meal.

For more advice from the Gift Card Girlfriend, check out her blog what to do with unwanted gift cards.

 

 

Getting a Grip on Gift Cards: Tips from Professional Organizer Amy Tokos

Getting a Grip on Gift Cards: Tips from Professional Organizer Amy Tokos 540 539 Amy Tokos

A member of The Freshly Organized team, Amy Tokos helps consumers learn the secret to easier, stress-free days. Active in the National Association of Professional Organizers
(NAPO), the team’s mission is to create a personal organization plan for clients that is simple and easy to maintain.  Amy transforms lives by helping with time management, paper, closets, kitchens, and much more. 

 

Q.How do you personally keep your gift cards organized and handy?

A.  You can’t just let remembering your gift card organically happen because that’s when we forget about them. You need a strategy.  National Use Your Gift Card Day brings attention to not letting gift your gift cards go to waste.

Being in the organizing profession, I approach gift cards more strategically than most people.  When I get gift cards, I put a monthly reminder on my calendar to use them. Sometimes I’ll have a gift card for a place where I just don’t need it for anything when I receive it, so I’ll mark on my calendar when I foresee being able to use it. On a calendar it’s helpful to keep a rhythm for using gift cards – such as once a month – so you’re constantly thinking of it.  And I also consider when will I be in the geographical area of the gift card location.  I go a step further and set an alarm to use my gift card the day before I’ll be near that location.

Q. If someone who is not particularly organized receives a gift card and wants to save it for a rainy day in the future, what would you recommend they do with it?

A. Mobile devices are helpful, but not everyone is comfortable relying on them. So, there has to be a visual cue if you can’t let electronics do it. At home, you can have little clipboard of gift cards, organized by month and keep it near where you walk out the door, so you have the visual of them, and have them in order that you want to use them.  What you put at the top should be something that triggers your memory. Keep it current though, because if you put your clipboard up in January, by July you might be so used to it that you walk right by.

It may be better for some people to list gift cards on a paper calendar because it gets out of your head and onto your calendar. No matter how you organize them, be strategic about using gift cards. Of course, sometimes the opposite happens and people use all their gift cards right away so they don’t forget about them and purchase things that they don’t need or really want.

Everyone is completely different.  Some people may have an old-fashioned kind of coupon organizer or Rolodex –but you still have to remember to pull them out or keep handy at home to use as needed. No one solution fits everyone – except for keeping it out of your head and onto your calendar.

Q. Any simple “do’s and don’ts” for organizing gift cards?

A. Whatever system you have keep it simple. Don’t create a complicated system – like an excel spreadsheet in alphabetical order. It may work once or twice, but sometimes you get busy, you’ll fall behind and the system is not updated, because it’s just too hard to maintain.

Q. Do you have any special suggestions for gift cards your children receive, when they are too young to manage using gift cards by themselves?

A. When it comes to kids and gift cards, you can’t just let remembering your gift care organically happen because that’s when they go unused. You need a special strategy for kids.  I was working with one client and her kids get gift cards for Christmas and found that they weren’t being used.  They received quite a few gift cards to the local book store, so they started scheduling going to the bookstore as a monthly event. Having those dates on the calendar got the family into the routine of using their gift cards.

 Q. We know from your website that you love gift cards, especially for an experience.  Why?

A. Because people have enough stuff and they are more likely to remember experiences. If you think back to your childhood and think back to the stuff you’ve receive over your life, there are probably very few things you remember getting excited about. But we remember experiences because they build relationships.  Gift cards for activities such as family zoo passes, movie passes, ice skating passes and the like create a culture of experiences.

Q. Do you recommend booking your experience as soon as you receive the gift card and why?

A. Don’t keep it in your head – think about when you’re going to use it and get on the calendar. For example, if you receive a gift card for a restaurant that has a great patio with music every Friday over the summer, and just think, “I’ll save it for July,” there’s a good chance you’ll forget about it. You need to put on your calendar approximately when you want to you use the gift card or need to make a reservation. For that July patio experience, set an alarm for May 1stto remind you to get it on your schedule for July.

 Q. Is using a gift card itself an experience that could be memorable? 

A. Yes, absolutely.  One of my friends’ husbands bought her gift cards to ten different restaurants and scheduled ten date nights – that was a great gift because it combined experiences with gift-giving.

Q. Have you ever forgotten about a gift card?

A. Yes, I have. I just recently came across a $5 gift card for a yoghurt place – it was stuck in a drawer because I’m almost never in the area where it’s located.

That’s why I love the idea of National Use Your Gift Card Day. It prompts people to be intentional about using their gift cards. Sometimes people have so many gift cards that they don’t have time to use them. There’s also opportunity to give those extra gift cards away. High schools will use them for needy students, or they can be given to a women’s center or to people trying to get back on their feet.  Other people can use the gift cards you can’t.

Q. Do you have a simple tip for young people starting out in the “real world” to stay organized in general – and why should they make it a priority?

A. My daughter recently moved out on her own and is now having to maintain real-world paperwork like title for car, passport etc., which are things we were maintaining previously on her behalf.  The biggest thing I helped her do was create a file box with just a few files for important things. Millennials are electronically savvy so they use alerts on their devices for gift cards, or they use them right away.

Q. What would you tell a college student about how to manage their gift cards when setting up their dorm room?

A. They typically spend it right away, so they should just have them in their own wallet and keep them with them.

Q. Lots of people give gift cards for all kinds of holidays: Christmas, Hanukah, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and graduation – not to mention birthdays. What’s your best strategy for keeping them at hand when shopping in a store or online?

A. If you’re and online shopper, the gift cards should be where you do your shopping – for example on the nightstand if you shop on your iPad while in bed. Similarly, if you’re usually shopping online at your office desk, they should be on your desk.

How Gift Cards Can Help You Get Your Holiday Shopping Done

How Gift Cards Can Help You Get Your Holiday Shopping Done 2560 1707 Tracy Tilson

When it comes to holiday shopping, it can be a challenge to satisfy everyone on your list. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2019 November Holiday Consumer Study, 54 percent of those surveyed planned to give gift cards this year,  and 46 percent of those who bought gift cards said they chose to do so to give the recipient the flexibility of choosing their own gift.
But sometimes even the most well-intended gifts can miss the mark, and you may find yourself on the receiving end of a gift card that doesn’t suit your tastes. Here are some ideas to make your unwanted gift card into a helping hand for your own gift-giving.

Regift it
If your gift card is in good physical shape, it’s perfectly fine to give it as a present to someone who will enjoy using it and save yourself money at the same time.

Spend it on someone else
Even if the gift card isn’t to a place that aligns with your personal preferences, it might be the right fit to buy a gift for someone else.

Think outside the box
If you received a gift card to a store that you wouldn’t typically shop at, you might be surprised at what you can find at the end of the year. Many retailers offer stocking stuffer-sized merchandise that they don’t normally carry in other months, like puzzles, books and other small items just right for gift-giving.

Use it for a gift exchange
Maybe your workplace or book club has a Secret Santa or White Elephant gift swap. You could either give the gift card itself or buy something to wrap up and contribute.

Donate it
Maybe you got a gift card to a pet store, but you don’t have any pets, or a well-meaning acquaintance gave you a gift card to a steakhouse but you’re a vegetarian. If you just can’t see yourself finding a good use for a gift card you were given, consider donating it to a charity you feel good about.

Five Ways To Treat Yourself Using Your Gift Cards

Five Ways To Treat Yourself Using Your Gift Cards 800 533 Tracy Tilson
Don’t let unused gift cards go to waste—that’s like throwing money in the trash. If you aren’t quite sure with to do with a well-intentioned gift card that missed the mark or a balance that’s leftover after a purchase, here are a few ideas to make the most it and feel good in the process.
  1. Splurge on something yummy. Gift cards are meant to be used and it doesn’t always have to be a practical item. Go ahead and get dessert or treat yourself to a fancy latte. Whoever gave you the gift card, wanted you to indulge.
  2. Aggregate with other gift cards. They say it’s better to give then receive.Put that to the test.Put a pile of unused gift cards to work by using them to buy multiple items or even to make a gift basket for someone else.
  3. Buy something for your child’s school. Check with your child’s teacher or administrator to see if they have a wish list of items they could use. Chances are, you’ll be able to find something you can fulfill with your gift card.
  4. Sell it online. If the gift card is to a place that’s geographically undesirable or just doesn’t mesh with your tastes, sell the gift card online through a reseller and pocket the cash to use anyway you’d like. There are several sites that let you post your card and the amount you’d like to sell it for.
  5. Donate the balance.Sometimes it just feels better to give then to get. Pay it forward and either gift the card directly to the worthy organization of your choosing, use it to buy items on a charity’s wish list. You can also see if you can get the gift card amount matched through your company’s corporate gift matching program.
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