Gift cards are expected to be the most popular gift this holiday season. The National Retail Federation estimates some 80% of shoppers will spend almost $29 billion on gift cards. Don’t buy or redeem any gift card without first taking a look at these five gift card tips:
1. Expiration dates
Thanks to new Federal laws, which took effect two years ago, gift cards will not expire until five years have passed since the card was originally opened. So if you get a gift card and randomly discover it a few years later, you’ll still be able to use it.
2. Gift cards via email (or text message!)
You can send (or receive) e-gift cards by email, or even text message. Retailers like Starbucks, The Home Depot, Whole Foods, Best Buy, Amazon and Target allow consumers to send e-gift cards. The recipient will receive a gift card number that they can print out or display on their smartphone in the store. Whole Foods even lets e-gift cards to be sent via text message!
3. Register your gift cards
You know this already, but gift cards are cash – and should be treated as such. So throwing the card into a draw or leaving it on your desk under a stack of papers are two ways to lose or even forget about your gift cards. Try to use the gift card as soon as you receive it, but if you can’t find anything to buy with the card once you receive it, head to the retailer’s website, where you can register the card. This way, if you lose it or it’s stolen, the retailer can issue you a new one.
4. Gift card apps
Yes, there are apps to track your gift cards. Download the free Tango Card iPhone app, which lets users enter in the card’s balance, pin and card number – there’s no need to carry around the cards with you to the store. When it comes time to redeem the card, some stores will be able to scan the bar code on the app – or the retailer can manually enter in the pin and card number to access the value of the card. The app will even send you emails to remind you to use the gift cards.
5. Don’t like the gift card? Regift!
If you receive a gift card to a store you don’t shop at, regift the card to someone on your shopping list – or use the card to buy an actual item as a gift for someone else. Think about the many times throughout the year where you need to buy gifts, such as friend’s birthdays, graduation gifts, weddings, etc. Or, there are plenty of websites to redeem the gift card for cash, like CardHub.com or GiftCardGranny.com.