KSL INVESTIGATES

Why billions of dollars in gift cards go unused every year

Aug 30, 2021, 10:21 PM | Updated: 11:59 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Gift cards tend to show up at the top of major surveys of people asked what they want for Christmas or other special occasions.

Whether you love them or lean on them in a pinch, make sure you USE them. Most of us do not, according to new data shared with the KSL Investigators.

According to Bankrate, 51 percent of U.S. adults have unused gift cards, and the average person is leaving $116 on the table, which adds up to around $15.3 billion nationwide.

“It is a lot of money for sure,” said Bankrate’s Ted Rossman.

People surveyed say they planned to use their gift cards, ya know, eventually. But if and when that happens, many will be sad to learn that it’s too late.

Half of our cards have lost value because one expired, or we lost it, or the store went out of business — and some gift cards have fees, slowly draining them down to nothing.

So why are so many going unused?

Rossman said it’s largely psychology.

“People think that gift cards are a little bit of a like: heads, the store wins, tails, you lose,” he said.

Meaning, either you don’t use all of it, so you’re leaving money on the table, or the gift card isn’t enough, so you end up having to spend money at a place you may otherwise not have visited.

Others may feel it makes them look cheap if they throw down a gift card, rather than a credit card — especially at a restaurant, when many are struggling to get back on their feet post-pandemic.

“It was a real pandemic talking point about: ‘Hey, let’s support our local restaurants and other businesses by pre-paying for services and it gets cash flow now,” Rossman said.

If you’re not going to spend it, consider selling it. There are a handful of online gift card exchanges.

“You normally take a little bit of a haircut on the price, maybe you’ll get 80 or 85 percent of what it’s worth,” Rossman said.

Most stores allow you to trade in old, unused gift cards for new ones.

In Utah, it is a violation of the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act to issue a gift certificate that has an expiration date, without disclosing the expiration date on the gift certificate or its packaging.

KSL 5 TV Live

KSL Investigates

Matt Gephardt looking over the CarShield documents for Scott Dumas....

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

West Haven man says extended auto warranty refuses to cover costly engine repair

Many drivers buy an extended auto warranty to help keep their car on the road, but when the extended warranty a West Haven man bought refused to cover replacing an engine, he decided to Get Gephardt.

2 days ago

Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...

Matt Gephardt

How hoarding documents puts you at risk for identity theft

Someone who knows what they’re doing can do a whole lot of damage with the scraps of paper you’ve stashed in filing cabinets, drawers and other various hiding places around your house.

3 days ago

IOC excludes Russian and Belarusian athletes from Paris 2024 Olympics opening ceremonies....

Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: How to stay ahead of the 2024 Olympics scams

As Utahns know firsthand from 2002, the Olympics can be a bit chaotic with millions in an unfamiliar place. The situation is sure to entice opportunistic con men with Olympic scams.

4 days ago

Prosecutors filed felony charges in a Salt Lake City rape case from 2019, but later reduced them to...

Daniella Rivera

Could making this change help Utah improve sexual assault prosecutions?

Only a fraction of sexual assaults reported to police in Utah result in criminal charges for the perpetrator, but a legislative proposal could potentially change that.

5 days ago

FILE: construction zone...

Matt Gephardt

How to avoid hiring a bad contractor

Bobby Main investigates contractors for Utah's Division of Professional Licensing, here's his advice for avoiding bad contractors.

5 days ago

Dave Donegan showing Matt Gephardt the items that were broken in his move....

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

How liable is a moving company if your stuff gets damaged?

Dave Donegan’s home was just about to go into renovation, so he hired a moving and storage company to hold onto his household goods while work was underway.

9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Why billions of dollars in gift cards go unused every year