Tips for Gift Cards

Where is my gift card? That's the question many are asking, according to a study that estimates consumers lost $5 billion in misplaced or unused gift cards.

The ABA Education Foundation warns people to "Use it or Lose it" among its tips for the wise use of gift cards.

"Gift cards are on the top of everyone's list -- to give and receive -- with Americans spending $87 billion on them in 2009," explained Laura Fisher, ABA Education Foundation director. "Gift cards make great gifts but consumers should make sure they understand the terms for a rewarding gift exchange experience."

When buying gift cards, the ABA Education Foundation recommends:

  • Only buying gift cards from reputable sources.
  • Checking for an expiration date before you buy.
  • Considering practicality, such as a grocery store or gas station card.
  • Understanding the policies and fees before purchasing gift cards.
  • For using gift cards, the foundation advises: Keeping them in a secure place to avoid misplacement.
  • Spending them within the first year to receive the full value.
  • Considering swapping unwanted cards at card-swapping and card-selling sites.
  • Re-gifting cards unused or with minor balances to charities who distribute them to the needy.

The prepaid gift card provisions of the 2009 Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) will take effect Aug. 22. The provisions will prohibit inactivity fees for the first year and within 12 months following activity on the card. Funds credited to the gift card will remain for five years after they are added, even if the printed expiration date has passed.

For more information on gift cards or consumer education, visit the ABA Education Foundation at