“It’s a good way to create some goodwill if you’re not going to use them,” Tilson says.
You might sell the card to someone you know or trade it for one of their unwanted cards. Gift cards can be sold or swapped online but scams abound. Buyers may ask you to read off the card numbers to “ensure the card is legit” and disappear with the card’s value once you do. Or the card you get in a swap may be phony or already used. Avoid private-party sales to strangers, such as those on Craigslist or Facebook. If you want to use an online site, make sure it has a post-transaction money-back guarantee.
SET REMINDERS FOR THE CARDS YOU WANT TO USE
If you’re planning to use a card, employ your phone and a calendar to help keep track, says Shelley Hunter, spokeswoman for GiftCards.com, an online provider of gift cards. Hunter keeps a running list of her cards on her phone and makes a note on her calendar when she plans to use one.
“On Saturday, I’m probably going to go out to lunch with my boys, so I will put on the calendar, ‘Lunch with boys. Use Panera gift card,’” Hunter says.
Even if you don’t have a specific plan for a card, consider putting a “use by” date on your calendar so you don’t forget it, Tilson says.
Some states have additional rules. Where I live in California, store gift certificates and gift cards can’t expire. Inactivity fees are mostly forbidden and balances below $10 can be redeemed for cash. The law doesn’t apply to general-use gift cards, however, if the expiration date is printed on the card. (General-use cards include gift cards issued by Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express that can be used wherever those brands are accepted.)
You can find other states’ rules by searching the National Conference of State Legislatures ‘ site for “gift card.”
In general, though, the quicker you use your cards, the better. You’re less likely to forget about them and more likely to enjoy the value the giver wanted you to have.