Are Your Gift Cards Going to Waste? Tips on How to Manage Them

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Gift cards are immune to supply chain issues, so many of you may give and get more of them this Christmas. However, millions of dollars in gift cards go unused.

According to the Texas Comptroller’s Office, it currently has more than $27.5 million in unused gift card balances – reported to the state as unclaimed property.

Read on for expert advice on making sure your gift cards don’t go to waste and how to claim an old gift card balance if you’re the rightful owner.

'If You Don’t Use It Immediately, You’re More Likely to Forget About It'

"If you don't use it immediately, you're so much more likely to forget about it or just lose it,” said Anna Kocharian, shopping editor at Consumer Reports.

To avoid letting your gift cards go to waste, treat them like cash. Don’t stick them in a drawer and don’t save them for a special occasion.

“Say someone gave you a gift card to a store you don't shop in. Think about using that gift card to buy a gift for the holidays or a birthday,” said Kocharian. “Try to figure out ways to use that gift card without putting it away and saying I'll use that later.”

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“The longer you hold on to it, the higher the likelihood is that you won't use it,” added Kocharian.

Keep the gift card accessible in your wallet, instead of tucked away in a drawer.

Create a simple balance sheet to keep track of your gift cards. Write the balance on the back of the physical card with a marker and keep a list on your phone.

“Write it in the notes section of your phone, just to have it in one place so next time you're out and about, you can easily refer to it and make spending those dollars a lot easier,” explained Kocharian.

A word of caution: be wary of websites that offer to check your gift card balance.

According to the Better Business Bureau’s scam tracker, some sites ask for the card number and pin and then drain the money.

When in doubt about your balance, call the number on the back of the gift card or the store that issues the card.

How to Claim Your Abandoned Gift Card Balance

Remember that $27.5 million in unused gift card balances at the comptroller’s office? If you’re the owner of a gift card that was reported to the state as unclaimed property, there may be a way to claim the money.

It can be tricky – since most gift cards aren’t reported with an owner's name like other unclaimed property.

Start your search here.

Search your name in the “claiming property” search box.

If nothing comes up, click on the hyperlink that says, “Click here if you did not find your expected results.”

This will take you to a page where you provide the state with your information. Click “next” and then explain what property you’re looking for. This is where you can provide a gift card number, store and any other information about the gift card balance you’re trying to track down.

From there, comptroller staff can do a more in-depth search.

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