It’s estimated that about 160 billion dollars in gift cards were sold during 2018. But more than a billion dollars worth won’t be spent.
Some of us just forget to use them -- others will buy things with the card but won't use the entire balance.
In fact, a consumer reports survey finds that nearly 20% of consumers have three or more gift cards with balances. Some don't even know how much. And spending those remaining dollars isn’t always easy, especially if it’s only a few dollars.
Trae Bodge, a shopping expert with Gift Card Granny, a site that sells discount gift cards says, "Only some e-tailers will allow you to pay with the small balance left on that card, and then pay the rest with your regular debit or credit card.”
It’s usually because of the stores website design. On most checkout pages the space where you apply a gift card is only for a card from their own store not a general gift card like one from Visa, MasterCard, or AMEX.
And if the few dollars you have left on that general gift card won’t cover the item you are trying to buy, you can't use it in the credit or debit card space either. You will get a message saying you don’t have enough funds.
But Trae says there is a way around that, "My suggestion would be to call their customer service and place the order with them, and they will allow you to use the two different cards.”
Target has also zeroed in on a solution. They have a trade in program where you can bring in dozens of store gift cards and exchange them for a Target card.
And just like their packages, Amazon’s policy might also bring a smile to balance holders.
Trae says, “If it's Visa specifically, in many cases, Amazon will allow you to roll that balance into an Amazon gift card.”
I was able to buy a gift card for just $1 dollar.
Walmart also lets you use general gift cards to buy their store gift cards for any dollar amount. Although if it's less than $5 dollars, you have to contact customer service.
Finally, let's say you have a leftover balance on a store card and there's nothing else you want to buy. Ask if they'll cash it out.
Trae says, "There are certain states that have restrictions around how much you have to have on that card to allow for that to happen. So, you will want to inquire with customer service. But that is a good option if you have $1.50 left on a gift card.”
Whatever you do, timing is important. While most gift cards have to be valid for at least five years, here in Ohio, issuers can start hitting you with inactivity fees if you haven't used the card for 12 months. And those fees could eat up whatever you have left.