On Your Side Alert: Tips for using gift cards

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you received a gift card for the holidays, hopefully you've used it. If not, consumer experts say don't let it sit and collect dust. The experts say every year, millions of dollars in gift cards go unredeemed.

They are quick and easy to give, but not all recipients remember to use them. Even Rebecca Gershowitz, with Clear Point Credit Counseling Solutions, says she's forgotten to cash in. "I was looking in my filing cabinet yesterday and right on the top, I saw a gift card that I am not sure how long has been there. So I was able to pull it and find out what kind of balance was left over," she says.

Gershowitz says if you are not going to use the card at the intended store, there are some options. Clear Point recommends several sites. Gift Card Granny allows you to convert the card to cash. On Card Cash.com, you can trade the card you don't want for one that you will use. Another site is Gift Card Giver.com. This site allows you to donate the card to a charity.

Whatever you decide to do, Gershowitz says just make sure the card doesn't go to waste. "Sometimes it easy to receive a gift card and even if it is a store you really like, you kind of hide it in the back of your wallet and just forget it is there, or perhaps you use a portion of it and don't remember how much of the balance is left and it just sits," she explains.

Here are some other important tips: record the card's information - in some cases even if you lose it, but you have the card's details, you can shop with it online. Put it in a safe place. If you misplace the card, it is like losing money. Finally, make sure you know the terms and conditions. Some cards may lose value overtime or expire. "Really a gift card is an asset for you. That is money in your pocket. So you want to make sure you are taking advantage of all your possible resources," Gershowitz says.

One more thing to think about, there's always a chance the retailer could go out of business, leaving you with a worthless piece of plastic. So if you have a gift card, the sooner you use it the better.

Here are some helpful links:


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