It’s hard to believe, but nearly $1 billion in gift cards go unused every year. If you received gift cards during the holidays, don’t let them become part of that statistic. Make the most of gift cards by using them to stretch your entertainment budget throughout the year. Check out these ideas for how to get the most bang for your buck from gift cards:
Consider them Cash- Remember, gift cards are essentially cash. If you lose them, it’s like throwing money away. Keep track of your cards and their available balances. Keep them together in one place so you always know where they are.
Read the Fine Print- Some gift cards have restrictions or fees associated with them. For example, some retailers will begin to charge a monthly surcharge if the card isn’t used within a year from date of issue. Those fees can quickly eat up the card balance. If you find you have any of those cards, make sure to use them first.
Plan Ahead- Take inventory of your gift cards, then plan ahead how you are going to use them. Map out birthdays, holidays and other special occasions, then designate the gift cards you will use to celebrate. Restaurant gift cards are perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day, date nights or a girl’s night out. Or plan a get together and use general use gift cards, such as those from Target or Amazon, to pay for party supplies, food and drinks.
Stretch the Value: Because gift cards are used like cash, they can be combined with coupons, special pricing and other offers. If you have movie gift cards, for example, use them for matinee pricing, rather than full price evening tickets. With restaurant gift cards, check the menu online before you go and decide what you are going to order so you don’t make decisions on impulse.
Trade, Sell or Regift- If you find yourself with gift cards you know you’ll never use (you’re a vegan but you are clueless brother gave you a gift card to a steakhouse), don’t let them go to waste. Ask friends or coworkers if they’d like to trade gift cards, sell them on CardCash, Raise or Gift Card Granny, or consider regifting them to someone who will use them. If you go the regifting route be sure to confirm the card still has the total amount on it before passing it along.