Check Those Gift Cards

Money / Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Almost everyone has some type of gift card lying around. Maybe you burn through them as soon as you get them, maybe you have that one gift card for a place you just do not want to go to that’s been sitting in your drawer for 2 years. Either way, gift cards are as prevalent as credit cards and only as safe as cash. Do you know what’s going on with your gift cards?

I have learned the hard way that gift cards can suck. Lesson 1: Read AND REMEMBER the fine print such as those pesky expiration dates. I had a juicy rebate card that I knew had an expiration date on it but for some reason I didn’t use it right away. It expired and I may as well have burned that cash like Krusty the Clown lighting up a cigarette. Know your dates and don’t lose that hard often free money. When you do, the terrorists win.

Lesson 2: Check, know and keep track of the card value. Recently I had that gift card to the place I didn’t want to go. I sat on it for well over a year because I checked and it didn’t have an expiration date. Great… No rush. It was a card with a face value of $50. I thought about trying to get 2 meals out of it but I didn’t want to have to go back there so I figured I’d eat extra good that night and get as close to $50 as possible. Turns out there was a mistake with the card and it was only worth $25. My free dinner just ended up costing me $20 and I didn’t even like the place. If I would have checked the value before going out, I would have been a lot happier. Instead, the terrorists won.

Oh, and let’s not forget that you can just plain lose a gift card and ::poof:: it’s gone. Fun stuff.

Some good news though. There’s a new service called Cardpool that can possibly change the way we all deal with gift cards. Cardpool is a gift card exchange for buying and selling gift cards. Buying cards from them can save you up to 35% at certain stores and if you’re absolutely not interested in using a gift card you currently own, you can actually sell it to them for up to 92% cash back depending on the store. The rates all vary, most likely depending on popularity, however you could essentially sell one card and buy another one for close to the same price, pretty much trading a card worthless to you for one you may actually use. Good deal. With the aforementioned pitfalls of gift cards, I wouldn’t suggest stocking up on them. However if you know for a fact that you’ll be spending money at a store very soon, and they have a card for it, that’s some instant savings that would be tough to pass up. It takes some planning because the cards need to be shipped but again, instant savings.

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