Get the Most Out of All Those Holiday Gift Cards Before They Go to Waste

Gift cards and cash are similar in many ways—but gift cards can sometimes come with fees, expiration dates, and other terms and conditions

Get the Most Out of All Those Holiday Gift Cards Before They Go to Waste
Image: NCCC
March 7, 2018

If all those gift cards you got for the holidays are still burning a hole in your pocket, stop procrastinating and get to the store or get online to spend them before they lose value or expire!

According to a National Retail Federation (NRF) survey of more than 7,400 consumers, 59 percent of respondents had gift cards on their holiday shopping list in 2017—up from 56 percent in 2016. NRF says that total gift card spending in the U.S. this past holiday season soared to a staggering $27.6 billion!

If you received a gift card (or several) as holiday gifts, why not take full advantage of what the card affords you?

Gift Cards vs. Cash

Gift cards and cash are similar in many ways—but unlike cash, gift cards can sometimes come with fees, expiration dates, and other terms and conditions that could limit how much you have to spend if you wait too long.

Retail gift cards are only good for the store or restaurant that issued the card, so if the retailer closes or changes location, you could be out the value of the card. Also—the longer you hold on to a gift card, the easier it is to misplace it or forget you have it altogether.

Expiration Dates

Per North Carolina law, gift cards are good for five years from the date of purchase—but after a year of inactivity, merchants can begin deducting monthly fees from the cards. Before you know it, the card may only be worth a fraction of its original value.

Lost or Stolen Cards

Lost or stolen gift cards should be reported to the merchant, but not all will offer a replacement. Some may issue a new card for a fee and proof of the original purchase may be required.

Gift Card Buy-Back

Did you receive a gift card that you know you will never use? Many retailers, such as Target, now offer gift card buy-back programs to customers. For a nominal fee, you can trade your unwanted gift card for one that you know you will actually use.

Visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website for more information about gift cards. If you feel that you've been treated unfairly by a merchant, file a consumer complaint with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.