US consumers are sitting on $15 billion worth of unused gift cards; many lose value over time

National News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Unspent gift cards are proliferating.

Those who track them say there’s an estimated $15 billion worth of funds in the hands of consumers who have yet to cash in the cards.

Experts believe the numbers of unused gift cards will grow because their use is climbing significantly, according to Coresight Research.

Those gift cards sitting around in your home are meant to help you buy things without spending cash, but first, you must actually use them.

If you let them sit around too long, many of them start to lose value over time.

Half of us are currently sitting on at least one unredeemed or partially redeemed gift card, according to a survey by Bankrate.

“I tuck them away and then it’s out of sight, out of mind,” consumer Valerie Guerrero told CBS News.

It’s a common problem, which is why there is so much unredeemed money out there.

Bankrate says the average person is sitting on $116 and many times the money is never spent.

“Half of us have lost value at some point because we lost the card, or it expired, or maybe the business went out of business before we had a chance to use it,” Bankrate’s Ted Rossman told CBS news.

If you received a gift card, a federal rule called the Card Act of 2009 says you have at least five years to use up the balance.

However, some gift cards have inactivity fees, which typically kick in after 12 months, so it’s best to use your gift cards — or sell them — as soon as possible.

There are plenty of websites that will offer cash for gift cards.

The websites include Raise, Cardcash, and Giftcash which allow you to sell the card and receive around 80 to 90 percent of its value.

You may want to test out selling cards — with one or two gift cards first — to make sure you like the process and receive payment in a timely fashion.

Another option is to give the card to someone else, even if there’s a small amount remaining.

“You can often top off a gift card,” said Rossman. “You can add additional value to it.”

Topping off a card would make it more palatable to give as a gift.

Bankrate says about 73 percent of those with unused gift cards, vouchers, or store credits have been holding on to them for a year.

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