Never forget to use the gift cards you have again. These simple tricks will help you remember to use your gift cards every time.
Over the holidays, I received several Regal Cinemas gift cards. Halfway to the theater a weekend later, I realized that I had 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 do not 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 one billion dollar unused gift cards statistic. Though the CARD Act gave consumers a fair amount of protection to ensure they would not lose the value of branded gift cards that are not used quickly, the law does not help you much if you lose your gift cards and have no way to use the protected balance. Plus, bank-issued gift cards are not covered by this law which means dormancy fees can be assessed if a Visa, MasterCard or Discover gift card is not used within a year. So I have a better idea…use your gift cards!
Treat Gift Cards like Cash
Experts always advise that we treat gift cards like cash, but what does that mean?
It means that you put the gift card in a designated place and make a plan to use it. If you opened a greeting card and found a $20 bill inside, you would take the money out of the greeting card and put it in your wallet immediately. You wouldn’t leave money in the greeting card for fear you might accidentally throw it out later.
That’s what you should do with gift cards as well…yet people often leave gift cards inside of greeting cards, toss their gift cards into drawers, or throw new gift cards into a pile of other unused gift cards. Then…sorry to say…they freak out when the gift card accidentally gets thrown away or they later find the gift card to be unusable for some reason. So don’t do that.
Instead, use your gift cards right away so you never need my advice on how to replace a lost gift card.
How to Remember to Use Your Gift Cards
Below are some tips on how to remember to use your gift cards. The tips range from simple fixes such as changing where you store your gift cards to buying products to help keep your gift cards handy. I also have some tips that involve using technology so the task of remembering to use your gift cards becomes automated.
Here are some ways to remember to use your gift cards:
1. 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. This wallet pictured above is my actual wallet and those are my cards…and yes, I absolutely turn them sideways so I see what gift cards I have to spend every time I open my wallet.
2. 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 used for a while to hold gift cards on one side and business cards on the other. If you look on Etsy or follow Gift Card Girlfriend on Pinterest, you’ll find all sorts of gift card organizers ranging from a simple gift card key ring to a cleverly crafted gift card wallet–like this one from Ingenious Bros.
3. 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.
4. 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.)
I have a photo album on my phone for gift card images. This helps me keep track of the gift cards, delete when used, and have a single place to look when I am pondering a purchase.
5. Use a Gift Card App
Gift Card apps such as Card Smash and GiftPocket allow you to store gift cards electronically and check gift card balances. Transferring the care and feeding of your plastic gift cards to a digital version of the very same cards is a great way to make sure you always have your gift cards with you and ready to use.
6. 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.) I particularly enjoy the SamsungPay wallet which makes it easy for me to store the gift cards I already have as well as buy new gift cards through the app–sometimes even getting a gift card deal.
Apple Pay will only let you add gift cards to your mobile wallet if the retailer allows you to add directly from the retailer app. This works great when the connection is there, but you can’t use it when the card isn’t connected. Bummer.
7. Buy eGift Cards Instead
One of the things I like best about egift cards is that you do not have to worry so much about losing them. If you accidentally delete the email or text that delivered the egift card, you can call the company and ask for a replacement to be delivered. Though not all guarantee they are willing to do this, you should be able to prove ownership by giving your delivery address.
Now you still have to treat your egift cards like cash. I know it will be tempting to leave the email or text in your feed, but do not do this. Add the egift cards to a mobile wallet right away, take a screen shot or print out a paper copy–this will be your back up if you accidentally lose the card.
I move all of my egift cards to an email folder marked, “*** GIFT CARDS TO SPEND ***.” This is an easy way to have your egift cards handy and ready to use your egift card at the store.
8. Add Gift Cards to Store Accounts
Whether you receive a physical or a digital gift card, the best way to keep track of them is to apply them to your store accounts when possible. For example, at Amazon.com, you can apply a gift card to your account as soon as you receive it. Amazon will prompt you to redeem the gift card every time you check out. If you can’t add the gift cards to store accounts, keep your gift cards near the desktop you use most often to shop online.
I add my gift cards to store accounts AND take the time to add a note to the list I keep in my phone as well. There is little chance I’ll forget to use a gift card if I have reminders set in multiple places.
Something Else to Consider
I think one of the main reasons people forget to use their gift cards is that they immediately recognize the card is not a great fit. But rather than find a way to use the card, they hold onto it hoping an opportunity will arise.
When you receive an unwanted gift card such as a gift card to a merchant that is not nearby or a gift card to a restaurant that you do not like, find another use for the gift card right way. Rather than carry a gift card in your wallet indefinitely, sell the gift card, donate the gift card, or regift it to someone else.
And if you are buying a gift card, then pick the best gift card to ensure it gets used.
These new multi-store gift cards are a great first choice.
What other tricks do you have for remembering to use your gift cards? Let me know in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter (@GCGirlfriend). I am always interested in tips to help people get the most out of their gift cards.
Happy Gift Carding!
~Shelley Hunter, Gift Card Girlfriend