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.