Gift cards, popular stocking stuffers, are projected to see nearly $30 billion in spending by Americans during this holiday season, with restaurant gift cards making up one-third of those sales. However, a significant portion of these gift cards, estimated to be tens of billions of dollars, may go unused or be forgotten. According to a Bankrate survey, 47% of U.S. adults had at least one unspent gift card or voucher, with an average value of $187, totaling $23 billion. While federal law prohibits gift cards from expiring for five years from the time of purchase or the last addition of money, state laws and expiration dates can vary. Some states, like New York, extend the expiration period, making it important to know the rules for each gift card.
Experts recommend spending gift cards promptly, as some cards, particularly generic cash cards from Visa or MasterCard, may start incurring inactivity fees after a year of non-use. Resale options are available on sites like CardCash or Raise, where sellers can receive 70 to 80 cents per dollar, although it won’t be at face value. For unwanted gift cards, consumers can explore state unclaimed property programs, with all 50 states and the District of Columbia offering such programs. The website MissingMoney.com allows individuals to search for unclaimed property, including cash from gift cards, by name. National Use Your Gift Card Day, occurring on January 20, 2024, is also suggested as an opportunity to clear out gift card stashes.