Billions will be left on unused gift-cards this year

by Chris Bjorklund

This is useful consumer advice from CALPIRG (California Public Interest Research Group) that I want to share with you. They say we leave up to $5 billion on unused gift cards.

“It’s tough to beat the convenience of a gift-card, but consumers should be aware that about 2-5% of gift-cards end up going unused,” said Jon Fox, Consumer Advocate with CALPIRG. “In California that money stays with the retailers and is essentially a $5 billion gift from consumers every year.”

“Here in California, consumers have some of the toughest laws regulating gift-cards,” added Jon Fox. “For example, most gift cards are prohibited from having expiration dates or service fees,” noted Jon Fox, adding “In California the consumer, not the retailer, controls when and how a gift card will be redeemed.”

This an important point: California laws require merchants to reimburse consumers for the remainder of gift-cards with a balance of less than $10.

“Consumers often don’t know that the $2 balance left on their Starbucks card is as good as cash, and let it go to waste,” said Jon Fox. “If it’s less than $10, simply ask for the remainder on your gift card back in cash,” recommended Jon Fox.

CALPIRG suggests selling or trading unused gift cards, or even donating them to a charity that will accept them.