Nearly half of Americans have unused gift cards, survey finds

Men have an average of $213 in unused value while women typically have $163
Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 2:14 PM EDT
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(InvestigateTV) — Nearly half of Americans have at least one unused gift card, according to a Bankrate study. The average value of that unused card is around $187 per person, which adds up to $23 billion nationwide.

Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst Ted Rossman was surprised by the high value languishing in people’s wallets.

“That surprises me in the context of high inflation, high interest rates. Unused gift cards are real money,” Rossman commented.

He suggested people take an inventory of what gift cards they have and come up with a plan to use them.

“If it’s a store you don’t really like, make a plan for an upcoming friend or family member’s birthday or holiday gift. You can even consider gifting the card itself,” Rossman said. “Or finally, resale sites like CardCash and Raise, they’ll often give you something like 70 or 80% of what the card is worth.”

The National Retail Federation reports that gift cards are the second most popular gift category, so it’s not that people don’t want them, it’s that they stick them in a drawer and forget about them.

The 2009 Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act bolstered protections for consumers buying and receiving gift cards. Among the protections are:

No service or inactivity fees can be charged against the balance until a minimum of 12 months from the activation date.

Gift cards cannot expire for a minimum of five years

Protections extend to merchant gift cards (for specific stores) and bank gift cards, such as those that carry a Visa or Mastercard logo

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has tips for buying and using gift cards plus advice on how to avoid gift card scams.