Gift card trick (AKA Operation: Keep your money!) 1

Gift cards are great. They are easy to give and seem a little nicer than cash. You can give them from afar instantly! And stores like CVS are giving out gift cards with certain purchases in recent promotions. Just like cash, right?

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Just not to you.

The problem: many people don’t actually use their gift cards. They might lose them, or just use a little and then never get around to checking the balance and using the rest, or just forget about their cards. There are estimates of $41 BILLION in unused gift cards since 2005! That’s a lot of free money for the stores.

It’s likely that you gave a few gift cards last year. It’s likely that you got a few, too. How can you keep your money?

First, get out your wallet and search your house to find all of the gift cards. I had four–some completely forgotten. I did remember one, but as I pulled out the others, I was surprised. That got me started on figuring out how to keep my money and organize those cards.

Next, go through each one and find the balance–most will have a website and/or a telephone number to call. Enter in the gift card number and you’ll get your balance! Doing it all in one fell swoop is easier than waiting until you need one and then trying to figure out how much you have available. And why go spend your own money when you can use a gift card at a similar store (one of mine was even an American Express gift card, so can be used anywhere!)

Third, put that balance right on each of your cards so you won’t forget. You could write it with a sharpie or do what I did (see photo above): I cut a small note into pieces and wrote each balance on it. Then I used a piece of clear tape to cover the balance and attach it to the card–away from the numbers and magnetic stripe, please! It’s still functional and easy to use that way. I briefly considered making a list to keep track of the balances, but if those gift cards got lost in the first place, how can I keep track of the cards and a list?

Last, put these cards somewhere you will see them. For me, it’s my wallet next to my cash. Any time I’m paying for something, I will see them, and my memory will be jogged. And those cards should be getting some exercise soon, too.

Now, I know which stores will be getting my business when something comes up that I am looking for. I get my full money out of the card. In less than 15 minutes, I netted nearly $60 of credit – free money! That’s a great hourly rate for my work. 😉

Do you have gift cards sitting around? Or another way to organize them?

About Amital

A die-hard listmaker and observant Jewish mommy of 5, managing the challenges of life bit by bit with the help of a Shalom Bayit book and lists. And chocolate, of course. Lots of chocolate.

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