Gift cards have become the most popular holiday gift in the U.S. over the past decade.
Billions of dollars are spent each year as millions of consumers save hours of searching by selecting the plastic (or electronic) shopping shortcut. About 60 percent of U.S. shoppers plan to buy a gift card, with the average shopper spending a little more than $175 according to the National Retail Federation. That equals about $143 billion spent nationwide according to WalletHub.com.
Here are ten tips from experts to help you make the most of the gift cards you give or receive.
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1. Spent your gift card as a soon as possible: $1 billion dollars in gift cards go unused every year. The longer you hold onto a gift card, the higher the likelihood that you will forget to use the card or lose it," Shelley Hunter, the GiftCards.com Gift Card Girlfriend
2. Gift Cards are Tax Free: Check your receipt after you buy. The Massachusetts state sale tax is not applied to gift cards. However, it could apply when you buy an item with the card.
3. You have 5 years to use your gift card: If you don't want to redeem it right away, remember that piece of plastic is as good as cash for years. But don’t forget the merchant still has to be in business for you to redeem.
4. Register your gift card: "Merchants like Amazon, iTunes, Starbucks and others allow you to register gift cards to your account. This redeems the gift card immediately, but stores the value until you buy something," said Shelley Hunter, the GiftCards.com Gift Card Girlfriend.
5. You can resell your gift card: There is a huge market to resell your gift card with full or partial value. You often have to sell at a discount, but if you weren’t going to use it anyway.
6. Check for fees: Many of us are attracted to gift cards that are linked to MasterCard or American Express because they are as good as cash. However many of these gift cards come with an additional "activiation fee", as high as $3.95 in some cases. Also, many of these cards have an "inactivity fee" if the card is not used for 12 consecutive months.
7. E-Gift Cards: These save time, money and potential shipping fees if you were planning to order physical gift cards online.
8. Protect yourself from fraud: Buying from major retailers gives you some protection according to the NRF. Ideally you want to buy gift cards that are behind the register or closer to it. This prevents scammers from getting valuable information. E-gift cards also offer protection from scammers in stores.
9. Buy Gift Cards with Rewards Points: Most credit card rewards programs allow you to redeem your points/miles for gift cards from a wide variety of major retailers --- WalletHub.com
10. Think outside the box: You can really personalize things by buying an "experience-based gift card. Restaurants are the most popular gift card selection according to an NRF survey. "The increase in popularity of experience-based – or experiential- gift cards such as Paint Nite, Groupon, Airbnb, Spafinder, Stockpile, Go Play Golf, etc suggest that people are looking to gift more than physical items", said Hunter.