It's easy to forget that those flimsy credits and gift cards should be treated like cash and stored away in a safe (or vault) depending on the value. While still mourning over the loss of the Prada card, I started to take inventory of what other cards are stuffed carelessly in my wallet and in my desk draws. There's $500 to Saks, $200 to Barneys, $mucho to Hermes, $200 to Bloomingdales, $50 to Scoop, $25 to Target... the list goes on.
Although I always anticipate using the credits for a delicious purchase, I never seem to have the right card when I need it. (The Prada situation is just one example.) And I'm not the only one. According to The National Retail Foundation, the average American Family has over $300 in unredeemed gift cards and more than 40% of gift card recipients never even use the entire balance.
Of course, you can sell your gift card on eBay but we've heard too many horror stories of scammers buying the card using the balance and then returning the card. Alternatively, there are dozens of websites that will purchase your gift cards.
Obviously some cards maintain their values better than others. The website Gift Card Granny is somewhat like the Big Board of gift cards and will give you a competitive analysis of the value of your credit at up to a dozen different buying sites. For example, a Saks Fifth Avenue gift card is worth 82% of the value at Cardpool.com but GiftCardMonkey will only give you 77%. A payout for a Barneys New York card is much less valuable and worth only 70% of the face value on Giftcard Zen and just 66% on Gift Card Monkey.
Selling an Hermes or Prada gift card is a bit too specialized for these big clearing houses but there are steps you can take to ensure you don't have the same misfortune as me.
2. Keep a master list of your gift card inventory on your phone or mobile device so that you can reference the values when you're out shopping.
3. Take a photocopy or picture of the card so that if it's misplaced you can contact the store with all the ID numbers. We can's say for sure that the store will be able to reissue the card but the extra information could be very valuable.
4. Rather than wait for the next big sale, use your gift card quickly because the longer it lays around the less likely you are to use it. Remember it's a gift, treat yourself even if it's just a lipstick.
5. Spend all your gift card dollars or give a small remaining balance to a fellow shopper. The chances are unlikely that you're going to track a card that doesn't have much money on it anyway. Sharing a gift can sometimes be the best gift!
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my Prada gift card will resurface. In the meantime, I'm going to make an effort to follow my own advice and spend the remaining gift cards-- immediately! Please feel free to share any gift card/credit tips in the comment section below.