Ignore these simple rules and you could end up with a worthless voucher or gift card.
I don’t know about you, but most years I’ll be given a voucher to spend instead of a present. If there’s something I want I usually use it within a few weeks. But if there’s nothing that catches my eye, well the gift card can sit around for months – and doing that makes it more likely the voucher can become worthless.
Find out how to avoid this and other risks in this video. If you’d rather read it, there’s a full transcript further down the page.
My six rules for gift cards
- Check where you can spend it. It might only be valid online or in shops, not both
- Check if there’s a limit for how many gift cards can be used in one transaction
- Check the expiration date
- Think about where you’ll keep it so you don’t forget it
- Treat it as if it was cash. If you lose it you won’t get a refund
- Make sure the retailer isn’t at risk of going bust. If it is, spend it quick!
Full video transcript
Hi I’m Andy Webb from Be Clever With Your Cash.com, and in this video I’m talking through the things you need to think about if you’ve been given a gift card. Christmas, birthdays, weddings – whatever the occasion there’s a good chance that rather than get a gift, someone has given you a voucher or a gift card for you to pick up the thing that you want.
In lots of ways that’s a great thing, because you’re spending it on something you’re actually going to use rather than maybe getting something that’s going to get left in the back of the cupboard, maybe sold or even regifted. So I think they can be a good thing. But you need to consider a few different things if you’ve been given one.
First of all – where can you use it? Now you expect any gift voucher now with the way that we shop online so much that you can use them anywhere. But actually some retailers will only let you use the cards in the shops – you can’t use them online. Tesco is a really good example of that. Only in the stores will that gift card be valid. Or conversely you might have been given an e-code. Lots and lots of retailers, that’s how they’re doing it. Well you can’t then use that in the shop. So find that information out.
Particularly with online retailers it’s worth finding out if there’s a limit to how many gift cards you can use. This is useful to think about if you’ve asked a few people for a different gift cards because you want to buy something big. Sometimes, this is quite surprising, the retailers have limits. Space NK – they only let you use one gift card per transaction. Ticketmaster it’s five and all the different retailers they have different limits. Some of them have none but it’s worth checking this out.
Probably the most important thing to check out once you’ve done that is what’s the expiration date. When do you have to use it by. When we had paper vouchers – they’re much much less common now – that date was printed on there and there’s a nice visual reminder I’ve got to use it by this time. But when you’ve got a card there’s nothing on there. The only way to find out is go online, phone up the retailer or go into the shop and ask. But it’s really important you do that.
Because if you let it expire it becomes worthless. There’s no way of getting it back once it’s expired. It’s very very very rare that a retailer is going to go “yeah all right I’ll put the money back on”. No that money’s gone. There’s a huge amount of money across the country that is wasted this way, where people have just left their cards at the back of a drawer or hidden in their wallet, forget it’s there and don’t use it.
I guess on the same basis you need to kind of have think about where you are going to keep it, one, so you don’t forget it – it might be worth having like a little reminder pop up in your calendar on your phone that you’ve got this to spend with the expiration date next to it.
But you also need to think about storing it safely. If you were to get it damaged, the paper ones particularly, or if you were to lose it and not be able to find it again, that money is gone. So I would encourage you to treat any gift card or voucher you’ve got as if it’s cash. As if it’s a £20 note. You’re going to look after that you’re not going to just throw it around the house, leave it on the side are you? No, you know where it’s going to be because you wouldn’t throw 20 quid away. So treat your gift cards and gift vouchers in the same way.
Another little thing to think about is the retailer. Are they at risk? Now we’ve seen this in a past when big shops such as BHS have gone into administration. When that happened the gift vouchers became invalid. It didn’t always happen straight away but pretty much if you hadn’t spent it before that happened – again the money was gone. So if you’ve got one now, keep an eye on the news, just to check that stores aren’t being shut down. Check that there isn’t news about this retailer struggling, which might mean it’s at risk of going under. If that’s likely to happen, spend it before it does. Again otherwise that money is wasted.
Now the last thing I guess to think about if you’ve been given a gift card is if you’re pretty sure you’re not going to use it – if you’re pretty sure you don’t want it – well you do have an option. You can sell gift cards now. There’s an app called Zeek which is pretty good for buying reduced gift cards that people have sold. If you’re selling it however you do have to take a chunk off. You’re not going to have to sell it – if it’s 20 quid you’re not going to get
20 quid for it – you will lose a bit of money on it. But if there’s no way you’re going to spend it or if you can’t think of anyone else you know who might buy it off you, then that’s a really good option to at least get some of that cash back.