How to get the most from gift cards

Posted at 8:07 AM, Dec 26, 2012
and last updated 2013-10-24 12:31:05-04

Today is “Gift Card Exchange Day”and financial expert Andrea Woroch was here to share information on how we can get the most from the gift cards we got for Christmas.

The National Retail Federation anticipated spending on the most requested present would reach over $28 billion this year. In fact, 81.1 percent of shoppers intended to purchase at least one gift card this holiday season.

With holiday shopping behind us, it’s time to start thinking about gift returns and exchanges, as well as the best way to spend those gift cards. Before you blow your gift card’s balance on unnecessary items, consider these seven tips for savvy shopping.

Register it.

Gift cards are like cash in that if they get lost or stolen, there’s no way to get your money back. Unlike cash, however, registering you gift card provides you with protection. Take a few moments to register you card with the retailer or restaurant via their website. This way, you can cancel the card if it goes missing. You may also find added perks upon registration, like a free coffee on your birthday from Starbucks.

Review the details.

Consumer protection laws ensure plenty of time to redeem the card, but it’s still a good idea to read up on the rules and review potential restrictions. Gift cards from credit card companies may include redemption fees, while promotional gift cards — those received for free with a purchase — are usually considered a coupon and may carry product restrictions and rapid expiration.

Exchange it.

Today is GIFT CARD EXCHANGE DAY. Gift cards seem like the easiest gifts to get right and yet, there are plenty of people who still get it wrong. Even though it’s the thought that counts, it’s frustrating to receive a gift card to a store or restaurant you don’t like or isn’t nearby. Luckily, you can exchange gift cards for cash using sites like, enabling you to spend the majority of the card’s value on something you really want.


Under the new CARD Act, consumers with gift cards are protected from mounting inactivity fees and early expiration dates. Since 2009, retailers are prohibited from adding fees to cards that haven’t been used for at least one year, and cards cannot expire for at least five years. That means you have plenty of time to think about a purchase and buy when you’re ready. This ensures you don’t spend the funds just because you can.

Redeem credit card points to stay on budget.

Shoppers who pay with a gift card pay an average of 20 to 50-percent higher than they would otherwise. If the gift card reduces an item’s cost to a price within your budget, go for it. Otherwise, reign in the desire to spend double the amount of your gift card and try to find something within the balance or as close to it as possible. Otherwise, consider redeeming your credit card points for gift cards to supplement the purchase so you don’t overspend.

Recover lost or stolen cards.

Check out “Wallet Recovery Kit.” The site will let you know how to go about recovering lost and stolen gift cards. Most retailers like Target, Walmart, Amazon, Toys R Us & Best Buy will reissue with a receipt, but make sure you notify the retailer right away so the balance can’t be used.