Using Those Forgotten Gift Cards

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

By ANDREW J. LUCA

Unless you are eagerly awaiting Christmas in July sales, thoughts of the yuletide holidays from six months ago are in the rearview mirror.

With the warmer weather and drives to the shore ahead, it’s easy to forget about the few bucks left on those holiday gift cards.

However, with weddings and house-warming parties around the corner, it may be a good time to fish through the kitchen junk drawer, reel in that plastic currency and put that found money to use.

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 “sign in” or “sign up” and provide personal information as some sites imply. Simply 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 a good practice to print that page out or write on the card itself what’s 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 internet addresses for 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 dwindling balances with no questions asked, you often need to provide the cashier with the amount left on the card. Lately, due to staffing shortages cashiers may be difficult to find.

Target stores have user-friendly self-checkout terminals that quickly and easily accept your leftover dollars and get you and your purchases out the door and on your way.

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

Amazon shines in this area. Here is a stress-free way of converting the remnants of multiple debit gift cards at one time: Sign into your Amazon account. Click “gift cards.” Click “reload your balance.” Under “Amount,” type in the card’s balance.

Then click “Buy Now.” Click “change payment method.” Scroll down and click “add debit card.” Type in the card number; name on the card (often it is something like “Gift Card Recipient”); the expiration date and then uncheck “set as default payment method.” Click “place your order.”

In a few moments, you will receive confirmation your order has been processed. Those few dollars (or cents) previously left languishing 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 “leftover” gift card you have. An added perk is that unlike Visa or Mastercard debit gift cards, Amazon gift card balances never expire.

Donate Those Gift Card Balances:

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

Well-known charities make this easy. Smaller charities may not have registered with the IRS for digital donations. If you are donating online, be sure to retain a paper trail to show Uncle Sam next April.

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

Those unused dollars or cents quickly add up to 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 fiscal environment, those forgotten gift cards resting silently in your home should not be wasted. Bring them back to life with a few simple steps and enjoy each and every cent of those gifts as if they were waiting to be unwrapped again.

About the Author: Andrew J. Luca, Esquire, is a co-founding member of the CKL Law Group, LLP and has been practicing Real Estate and Consumer Fraud law in New Jersey for nearly 20 years.