Californians Waste Billions in Unused Gift Cards

Five billion dollars in gift cards get wasted annually by Californians, says a consumer advocate


Bay City News Service--That gift card might have seemed like a great last-minute gift idea, but it may not ever get used, according to consumer advocates.

Every year around 2 to 5 percent of all gift cards end up going unused, said Jon Fox, a consumer advocate with the California Public Interest Group Education Fund.

"In California that money stays with retailers and is essentially a $5 billion gift from consumers every year," Fox said.

Fortunately, in California most gift cards are not allowed to have expiration dates or service fees. In addition, merchants are required to reimburse you in cash for any gift card balances of less than $10.

"Consumers often don't know that the $2 balance left on their Starbucks card is as good as cash, and let it go to waste," said Fox.

Fox recommends that consumers carry gift cards with them in their wallet, so that they have them whenever an opportunity to use them comes up.

If you received a gift card you know you will never use, there are websites where you can sell them, like Card AvenueSwapagift.com or Plastic Jungle. You can also donate unwanted cards to some charities.

Irene Morgan January 02, 2012 at 03:47 PM
My husband used to buy me gift cards which I found hard to use up. I would misplace them or end up with the odd small balance. I finally told him to just either buy something or give me a piece of paper on which he wrote "good for a gift of $xxxx at any store."
Dorothy January 02, 2012 at 06:33 PM
I am one of those Californians who does not always use up the gift cards I receive. For one thing, I misplace them And then when I have small amounts of money left over, I do not always remember to bring them into the store.
Albert David January 02, 2012 at 07:12 PM
I also don't like gift cards. I never remember to use them.
Suzanne Barbara January 02, 2012 at 08:55 PM
My technique is to use the gift card immediately, before I misplace it.
Rena B January 02, 2012 at 10:04 PM
I for one like receiving gift cards. It allows to me select something I want. But it is true--you have to be sure to use them.


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