As Inflation Rises, Gift Cards Lose Value

Like most Americans, you probably have a long-unused gift card lying around somewhere, half-forgotten. In fact, more than half of Americans have unused gift cards totaling an average of $116 per person, according to a Survey 2021 by personal finance website Bankrate.

If you need a reason to finally spend it, consider rising inflation, which has reduced the value of your gift card by about 13% since 2019, according to CNBC calculations using US Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index (CPI) data.

A $100 gift card issued in May 2019 would only retain $87.61 of its purchasing power if redeemed in May 2022, the month with the most recent CPI data.

However, it should be noted that some items were more affected by inflation than others. The 13% difference is based on a weighted average of CPI index as a whole, so price changes on individual items will vary. For instance, from Maytableware prices rose 6.1% over the past year, while men’s suits and coats rose 22.3% over the same period.

But with inflation at 8.6% year over year since last June, one thing is clear: inflation is eating away at the purchasing power of your gift card and will continue to do so until you used what was left. Retailers will likely be continue to raise prices waiting.

Another reason to use unused gift cards: some may expire or incur inactivity fees after 12 months of non-use.

Gift card expiration rules and inactivity fees vary by state. To learn more about the rules in your state, the National Conference of State Legislatures has a useful search tool.

How to dispose of your gift cards

The first step to redeeming your gift cards is knowing what you have. With most cards, you can check the remaining balance using a toll-free phone number or website printed on the card.

To keep track of verified balances, write them on the front of each card using a black marker. Then all that remains is to shop, in-store or online, depending on the retailer.

However, it’s not always easy to spend gift cards at retailers that don’t offer anything you want to buy. In this case, you can try to sell your gift cards on reseller sites such as Where

Keep in mind that you won’t be able to sell these cards for their full value. Wanted cards like Walmart can be sold for up to 90% of their value, while more specialized cards, such as a Subway restaurant gift card, will be sold for almost 60% of their value. It may not be worth selling unless you don’t use the card and can use the money.

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Michael N. Clark