Americans Each Have About $175 in Unused Gift Cards, High Inflation Makes it a Good Time to Spend Them

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Zalubowski/AP/Shutterstock (12619225p)Gift cards hang on a display at a Best Buy store after doors opened at 5 a.
David Zalubowski/AP/Shutterstock / David Zalubowski/AP/Shutterstock

If you’ve ever found an old and unused gift card lying somewhere deep in the back of a drawer around the house, you’re not alone. Nearly half of American adults have at least one unused gift card, voucher or store credit, according to a new survey from Creditcards.com — and the combined total of those cards and credits is about $21 billion.

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The survey of 2,372 adults, conducted in July and released on Aug. 22, found that the average amount of unspent gift cards, vouchers and store credits is $175 per person, up from $116 in 2021.

Younger respondents are more likely to have unused gift cards and store credits than older ones. More than half of millennials (52%) and Gen Zers (51%) are likely to have them lingering around. That compares to 43% of Gen Xers and 42% of baby boomers. On average, millennials have the highest balances at $226, followed by Gen Xers at $180, GenZers at $149 and boomers at $133.

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Having access to this kind of spending power could prove especially useful now, in a period of historically high consumer prices.

“With inflation at a 40-year high, everyone is looking for ways to save money,” Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, said in a press release. “Putting your unused gift cards to work is an easy way to unlock some hidden value.”

Americans in lower income brackets are the least likely to have unused gift cards and store credits. About four in 10 (41|%) of respondents with annual household incomes of less than $50,000 have reported unused gift cards and store credits. That compares to 53% of those earning between $50,000 to $79,999 a year; 57% of those earning between $80,000 to $99,999; and 56% of those earning $100,00 or more.

Unused gift card balances also vary widely based on annual income, ranging from an average of $128 for those earning less than $50,000 to $265 for those earning $100,000 or more.

Less than half (45%) of respondents say they plan to use the cards and vouchers over the next 12 months — a strangely low figure, considering that gift cards, vouchers and store credits essentially represent free money.

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As Creditcards.com noted, “too many people” end up not using gift cards at all. Nearly one-third of respondents (29%) kept unused gift cards so long that they expired, while one-quarter have lost at least one gift card or store credit. Rossman recommends cleaning out your wallet, purse, junk drawer, glove compartment or other places that might hold unused gift cards and putting that money to work.

Even if you don’t use the gift card yourself, you can still take steps to ensure it doesn’t go to waste.

“Regifting gift cards is a great way to stretch your budget since you don’t have to spend money on a gift for an upcoming celebration,” money saving expert Andrea Woroch said in a statement.

Just make sure the gift card is valid before regifting it. It’s also better to regift a card with a full balance instead of a partial one. You can check the balances on any gift card at sites like giftcardgranny.com and Gift Card Mall.

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If regifting is not an option, try selling your unused gift cards to ensure they don’t go to waste. Numerous websites let you do this, Woroch said, including Raise.com and even eBay. In some cases, you can get as much as 92% of the card’s value in cash.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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