Never get caught without the gift cards you want to use again. These simple tricks will help you remember your gift cards.
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? To me, it means that if you open a greeting card and find a gift card inside, you put the gift card into your wallet immediately, just as you would if you found a $20 bill inside of the card. You would not likely leave the cash in the greeting card and plan to get it out later because prudent thinking would suggest that it is possible the money could get thrown out with the wrapping paper and other trappings from the party. So why take that risk with gift cards?
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.)
5. Use a Gift Card App
Gift Card apps such as Slide and Carpool 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.
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 the When you an egift card via email or text, you should also treat it like cash, resisting the temptation to let the virtual gift just sit in your feed. Add that egift to your mobile wallet or gift card app, just as you would a plastic gift card. That way you will be ready to use your egift card at the store.
8. Sell Gift Cards for Cash Immediately
I think one of the main reasons people forget to use their gift cards is that immediately recognize that they are not likely to use the cards, but hold onto them anyway. 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 or donate the gift card to someone else.
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