As featured in


Dec 262012
 December 26, 2012  Posted by  Hot Deals, Shopping

Gift cards and certificates are a favorite holiday or birthday gift for many people who want their loved ones to choose exactly the gift they want. We certainly know that gift card and bonus card deals are popular when we post them at Living on the Cheap. But as we’re halfway through 2012 already, here’s a reminder to make sure that you use your gift cards, gift certificates, bonus cards and your daily deal site certificates, too.

According to The Consumerist, an estimated $2 billion worth of gift cards will be left unredeemed in 2012. In December 2011, a poll by Consumer Reports discovered that 25% of gift card recipients from the 2010 holidays still had a gift card they hadn’t used.

An unused gift card is the equivalent of cash, but unlike cash it can expire if you forget about it. Other ways to waste the gift card? In today’s economy the vendor could go out of business, or you could simply lose the card. In any case, the longer you wait to spend it, the less value you’re likely to get for the card, as prices tend to climb over time and some gift cards lose value after they sit unused for awhile.

So first check the expiration date of any gift cards you have kicking around, and then make sure you use it. The same goes for gift certificates and vouchers from daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social. Log into your daily deal site account, see which deals you’ve purchased and their expiration dates, and then plan ahead, especially for any dining deals, visits to attractions or getaway breaks. Then you’re not left trying to use them at the last minute, when it may not be so convenient for you and your family.

If you have an unused and expired daily deal site certificate, note that some keep their purchase value even after the official expiration date. For example, if it’s a half-price restaurant deal, and you’ve paid $10 for $20 worth of dining, even after the use-by date, you may be able to spend it for the original $10 that you paid, so check the fine print.

Finally, if you’re unlikely to use the gift card because you don’t like the restaurant, venue or retailer, think about regifting it to someone else, doing a gift card swap with friends, or selling or bartering it on your local Craigslist. Sites like Plastic Jungle and Gift Card Rescue also help you trade in some gift cards, although you probably won’t get the full value.

Best bet? Spend your gift cards. It’s a classic case of use it or lose it.

Tania Casselle

Tania Casselle is the author of Insiders’ Guide to Albuquerque. Formerly an editor on international fashion industry magazines, she’s freelanced for media including AOL Travel,, Latitudes inflight magazine, New Mexico magazine, Albuquerque The Magazine, Urban Farm, New Mexico Business Weekly, High Country News, Indian Country Today, and Writer’s Digest Books. She enjoys living the high life for less, with the motto High Maintenance – Cheap Date.

  One Response to “Don’t throw away money: Use your gift cards”

  1. Thanks for posting this reminder Tania! I wanted to add a couple of tips for your readers as well.

    1 – Sign up for a gift card app like – you can enter the cards as you receive them. Then you’ll get reminders if you haven’t used the card at pre-determined times. Plus you can check the balance of most of your cards. I find this the most helpful.

    2 – Put gift cards in your wallet WHERE you check often. For example, I keep gift cards next to my debit card and cash. Stashing them in a hidden pocket of your wallet or in a sock drawer at home is likely to result in you forgetting to use them entirely.

    3 – If you have a gift card to a store that sells other gift cards, you might be able to exchange it for a card you want. It’s not a true exchange, but this is how it works. I had a gift card to Babies R Us. I knew I wouldn’t be needing diapers anytime soon since my kids are in school. But Babies R Us has a kiosk of other gift cards. So I took my BRU $20 gift card and bought a $20 Subway gift card with it. And unlike a discount gift card exchange, I got the full $20 value.

    I have other tips on my site:

    Thanks again!


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.