Unspent gift cards climb to $175 on average per person

A pedestrian carries shopping bags in San Francisco, California, U.S., Wednesday, June 1, 2022.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Even though many people are struggling to boost their incomes amid high inflation, it turns out there’s money they already have that they’re probably neglecting – unused gift cards. .

According to a new survey from CreditCards.com.

The average unused amount is $175 per person, compared to $116 last year. For the entire US adult population, that can be as much as $21 billion, according to CreditCards.com estimates.

In a context of record prices, these sums could provide a welcome boost to consumers’ wallets.

“It’s like finding that $20 bill in last winter’s jacket pocket,” said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com. “But in this case, it’s even more money than that.”

Holding on to gift cards can be a losing proposition for several reasons, Rossman said. The value of unused funds could decrease due to inflation. You risk losing the card or being charged an inactivity fee. Or the store may close.

“There’s really no good letting them hang around,” Rossman said.

How to Make the Most of Unused Gift Cards

Ideally, consumers can find ways to use unused gift cards in ways that they will personally appreciate.

But if you can’t think of anything you want, there are other ways to put the cards to good use, Rossman said.

Take inventory of unused gift cards you have and upcoming events like birthdays and holidays. You may be able to purchase gifts for friends or loved ones using these sales.

Alternatively, you can choose to resell your gift cards with companies like CardCash, Raise or ClipKard, Rossman suggested.

However, it is important to note that these services can only honor part of the value, usually 70% to 80% of the initial sum.

Most gift cards no longer expire. For those who do, regulations generally prohibit them from doing so for a period of five years, according to Rossman.

Still, businesses can charge an inactivity fee that reduces the initial value of a gift card. In addition, shops or restaurants may close, making the sums useless.

“My advice would be to use them, because they won’t get more valuable over time,” Rossman said.

Who has the most money in unused gift cards

Of the 2,372 adults who took part in the online survey in July, millennials were the most likely to have unused gift cards, at 52%, with an average value of $226.

Next is Gen Z, 51% of whom had unused balances, with an average value of $149.

However, Gen X and Baby Boomer respondents are also guilty of not using gift cards, at 43% and 42% respectively. The average unused value is $180 for Gen X and $133 for Baby Boomers.

When broken down by household income, those with between $80,000 and $99,999 were the most likely to have unused gift cards, at 57%, with an average value of $227.

Respondents with incomes over $100,000 were next, at 56%, and an average value of $265.

Those with lower incomes were less likely to leave money unspent. Still, 41% of those with household incomes under $50,000 reported having unused gift cards, along with 53% of those with incomes between $50,000 and $79,999.

The average value of unused gift cards is $128 for households earning less than $50,000 and $165 for those earning between $50,000 and $79,999.

Michael N. Clark