Use Your Gift Cards Before They Expire

Use Your Gift Cards Before They Expire


You’ve just moved into your new home and the welcome shower given by family members and friends yielded some gift cardvery desirable gifts. A tiffany lamp, garden tools, and a food basket were some of the favorite items received, gifts that will come in handy immediately.

Along with the usual gift items you also received several gift cards, those plastic credit card-sized “financial instruments” that allow you to purchase what you want for your home and when you want it. But, before you stash those cards in a drawer thinking that you’ll use them at a later date, you’ll want to use them up as soon as possible. If you don’t they could be worth less or worthless.

Sorry, Your Card Has Expired

Some gift cards expire after a certain amount of time while others are worthless because the merchant went bankrupt. Do you think that this will not happen to you? Think again!

The Sharper Image Goes Bankrupt; You Lose

Recently, specialty retailer Sharper Image filed for bankruptcy, with a plan to restructure the company after just over half of its 184 stores have been closed down. Initially, the company also said that they would not honor outstanding gift cards, effectively rendering these cards worthless.

Earlier this week, Sharper Image amended their policy to allow shoppers to use their cards as long as they spent twice the card’s value and they used the card all at once. In essence, in order to recover the value of the gift card, you would still have to pay out of your pocket at least an equal amount of money to use your card.

Monthly Fees Can Kill Your Card

Sharper Image isn’t the only company with restrictions on gift cards. Some companies will automatically expire their cards after a certain amount of time — typically, one year — but in some cases the cards really haven’t expired. You’ll just have to pay a monthly fee which will drain the balance over the next year. Most retailers do not have such policies but the credit card companies — Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express do.

Use It or Lose It

The best advice when it comes to gift cards? Use them immediately. Even if there aren’t monthly fees charged after one year or your card never expires, the longer you put off using the card, the greater the chance you will forget about the card or lose it.


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Categories: Consumer Financing

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".