Redeem those forgotten gift cards

Don’t let unused gift cards go to waste. (Photo courtesy of Bestlifeonline.com)

By ANDREW J. LUCA

Unless you’re looking forward to Christmas sales in July, thoughts of the Christmas holidays of six months ago are in the rearview mirror.

With warmer weather and trips to the shore coming up, it’s easy to forget about the few dollars left on those holiday gift cards.

However, with weddings and housewarmings just around the corner, now might be a good time to rummage through the kitchen junk drawer, roll up that plastic change, and use that found cash.

How much money is left?

On the back of each gift card, there is an internet address to access this information. Reminder: There is no need to “log in” or “register” and provide personal information as some sites require. Just look for the “Remaining balance” icon and click.

After typing in the account number and security code found on the back of the card (usually 3 or 4 digits), your remaining balance will be displayed. It is good practice to print this page or write on the card itself what is left in the account.

Sometimes the Internet address on the back of the card is too small or illegible. In that case, here is a link to the web addresses of the most commonly issued Visa Debit Gift Cards in the United States – https://usa.visa.com/support/consumer/gift-card-balance.html

Where to spend this buried treasure?

While many brick-and-mortar locations accept these declining balances without question, you often have to provide the cashier with the amount remaining on the card. Lately, due to lack of staff, cashiers can be hard to find.

Target stores have user-friendly self-service payment terminals that quickly and easily accept your remaining dollars and allow you and your purchases to get out and about.

If you’re an online shopper, many retail sites restrict you from using multiple forms of digital payment at checkout.

Amazon shines in this area. Here’s a stress-free way to convert leftovers from multiple debit gift cards at once: Log in to your Amazon account. Click on “gift cards”. Click on “reload your balance”. Under ‘Amount’, enter the card balance.

Then click “Buy Now”. Click on “Change payment method”. Scroll down and click “Add debit card”. Type the card number; name on card (often something like “Gift Card Recipient”); expiration date, then uncheck “Set as default payment method”. Click on “place your order”.

In a few moments, you will receive confirmation that your order has been processed. Those few dollars (or cents) that previously languished on that long-lost debit card have been transferred to an Amazon gift card in your account for future use.

Repeat this process for each “remaining” gift card you have. An added benefit is that unlike Visa or Mastercard debit gift cards, Amazon gift card balances never expire.

Donate these gift card balances:

Another way to capitalize on remaining gift card balances is to donate those funds to charity. It’s a win-win. Good causes benefit from a financial donation and you get a charitable contribution credit on your taxes.

Well-known charities make it easy. Small charities may not have registered with the IRS for digital donations. If you donate online, be sure to keep a paper trail to show Uncle Sam next April.

Some organizations, such as St. Jude Research Hospitals for Children, allow you to donate your gift card balance directly and then send you a confirmation of your donation to use when filing your taxes.

Those unused dollars or cents quickly do a lot of good for children and parents in need. To donate to St. Jude using your gift cards, go to https://www.stjude.org/get-involved/other-ways/cardcash.html

A good idea:

Especially in today’s tax environment, those forgotten gift cards that sit silently in your home shouldn’t be wasted. Bring them back to life in a few simple steps and enjoy every penny of these gifts as if they were waiting to be unwrapped again.

About the Author: Andrew J. Luca, Esquire, is a co-founding member of CKL Law Group, LLP and has practiced real estate and consumer fraud law in New Jersey for nearly 20 years.

Michael N. Clark