Never get caught without the gift cards you want to use again. These simple tricks will help you remember your gift cards.

wallet to hold gift cards
Gift Card Wallet by HahnStitched via Etsy

Over the holidays, my husband and I received several Regal Cinemas gift cards. Halfway to the theater this past weekend, however, I realized that I’d left the movie gift cards at home. (Ugh!) Too far down the road to turn back and fetch the gift cards, we had to pay cash for our tickets. We go to the movies often enough that we will eventually use the gift cards, but I don’t like missing the first opportunity.

In my experience, gift cards that are not used within the first three to six months of being received are at risk of becoming part of the eight billion dollar unused gift cards statistic. Gift cards that are not used within the first year are at risk of being assessed dormancy fees. Although the CARD Act gave consumers a fair amount of protection to ensure the value of their gift cards would go untouched over time, I think it makes more sense to simply use the gift cards you receive as quickly as possible.

Below are my low-tech tips and high-tech tricks to help you remember your gift cards.

Low-Tech Tips

Low-tech tips are basically simple fixes–behavioral patterns you can adopt to remember to use your gift cards, products you can buy to keep your gift cards handy and extra steps you can take to store the card information in case the physical gift cards get lost.

Store Gift Cards With Credit Cards

Though seemingly obvious, the easiest way to remember your gift cards is to keep them handy and with you at all times. Putting gift cards next to the debit and credit cards that you use most often is ideal because you will get a visual reminder that the gift cards exist every time you reach into your wallet to pay for something.

Buy or Make a Gift Card Holder

To keep multiple gift cards accessible, buy or make a gift card holder. My sister gave me a business card holder that I use to hold gift cards on one side and business cards on the other. If you look on Etsy or my Pinterest board, you’ll find gift card holders ranging from a simple gift card key ring to a cleverly crafted gift card wallet.

Keep a Gift Card Log

Gift cards should be treated like cash because there is little opportunity to recover gift card funds if the physical card is lost or stolen. Keep a log of gift card numbers you receive (including any PIN or sequence number found on the back of the card). You’re more likely to remember to use the cards if you consistently write them down, and you may be able to redeem them online or over the telephone if you can’t find the plastic. As long as you have the card information, you should also be able to get a replacement card, as needed, depending on the gift card issuer’s policy.

High-Tech Tricks

High-tech tips involve using technology to help you remember to use your gift cards and ways to change the manner in which you use gift cards. Rather than take the physical plastics to the store with you, simply enter the gift card number into your smartphone and you’re more likely to have the card handy wherever you go.

Take a Picture

Instead of recording the gift card information on paper, take a picture of the front and back of each card you receive. When you use the card, delete the photo. By seeing pictures of the cards in our photo library, you’ll know which ones haven’t been used. Also, if anything happens to the physical cards, you should be able to use the card online, possibly in stores, and definitely over the phone if you call the issuing company to get a replacement card. (Be sure to scratch off the personal identification number (PIN) before taking the picture, of course.)

Get a Gift Card App

Gift Card apps such as TangoCard allow you to store gift cards electronically, check gift card balances, and sign up for reminder services. You can choose to be reminded of your gift card balances weekly or monthly, by email or by cell phone alert.

Store Gift Cards in a Mobile Wallet

Even better than recording your gift cards is storing the gift card codes in a mobile wallet on your smartphone. With gift card numbers securely held on your phone, you don’t need to carry the plastic in order to keep the gift cards accessible. Gift cards stored in mobile wallets may also be usable online, over the telephone, and at cash registers. (I’ve done it multiple times.)

Thanks to changes in gift card laws that prohibit retail gift cards from expiring or losing value, the urgency to use gift cards quickly is less about protecting funds and more about remembering your gift cards before you lose them. For me, using gift cards quickly is also a way of honoring the gift giver’s generosity. I want to be able to use the card and tell the recipient what I bought with it. That conversation is easier to have and more gratifying if it happens shortly after the gift exchange.

Happy Gift Carding!

~Shelley Hunter, Gift Card Girlfriend