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Gift Card (Photos.com)
Gift Card (Photos.com)

Preet Banerjee

These holidays, put those unused gift cards to work Add to ...

You’re at a friend’s house for dinner to celebrate the holidays and you’re exchanging gifts. They hand you a gift-wrapped box and you hand over an envelope containing a gift card.

They take it from your hand, telepathically acknowledging that you didn’t take the time to plan out a meaningful gift representative of your relationship, but that it’s okay. It’s Christmas. It’s a stressful time of year, and sometimes there just isn’t enough time to get it all done.

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Some people see gift cards as a great way to reduce the stress of shopping during the holidays. They’re flexible, after all, and let the recipient decide which item will make them happy. To these people, they are the perfect gift. Others argue that gift cards are merely the fastest way to cross a name off your shopping list.

Studies have shown that many people loathe receiving them, others want nothing more than to accumulate them. To each his own.

Whatever your stance may be, gift cards are big business for retailers. Chances are, you have received a few and they are wasting away in various nooks and crannies in your home. Some of those unused gift cards may be losing value due to maintenance charges, which slowly drain the cash balance when the cards remain unused. Older cards may have expiry dates, while others may simply be forgotten or lost.

Rules governing gift card fees and expiry dates are generally under the purview of the provinces, but federally regulated industries are exceptions so phone cards and bank-issued pre-paid gift cards may still have expiry dates.

Canadians waste a lot of the money we are given in the form of gift cards. Cardswap.ca, a site that facilitates the buying, selling, and donating of gift cards, reports on its website that Canadians are losing $1-billion per year.

So if you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping, round up all the unused gift cards in your house. Use them to lessen the fiscal blow to your bank account as you check off the remaining naughty or nice people in your life. I was surprised to find out that the gift cards lying on my dresser totalled over $300.

If you can’t use all the gift cards at all the stores you are shopping at, you can sell them for a small fee on sites like CardSwap and take the cash to help pay down debt. That might be the best option for many Canadians because eliminating interest payments is the gift that keeps on giving.

Follow on Twitter: @preetbanerjee

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