Watch Gift Card Expiration Dates

Did you know that $8 billion in gift cards go unredeemed each year?  That’s about 10% of the $86 billion in gift cards sold in 2010.  

Don’t let this happen to you!  Because it almost happened to us!

My wife and I went out to dinner last night to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our engagement.

For some reason, my friends are amazed that I remember exactly when we got engaged, but it’s really easy. Because I discovered that our planned wedding date (July 11, 1992) was exactly 18 months from our very first date (January 11, 1991).  So, being the math whiz that I am, I thought I’d just divide by 2, and ask my wife to marry me on the 9 month half-way point, which was October 11, 1991.

So, 9 months after our first date, we got engaged.  9 months after our engagement we got married.  And 9 months after we got married…well, nothing happened. (What were you thinking?)

Anyway, back to the gift card story.  Gift Card

We had been given a $150 gift card over a year ago to a very fancy and expensive restaurant.  We used $90 of it last year for our anniversary, and had $60 left on it.

We went to the restaurant last night and enjoyed a wonderful special meal which cost $77.00 for the two of us. Definitely way more than we’d typically spend, but with the gift card, it felt great to enjoy a fine dining experience for a fraction of the price.

When the bill came, my wife handed me the gift card, and I noticed there was an expiration date written on the back of the card:  ”Expires 12/31/2010.”

At first we felt sick that we were 10 months late in using this gift card which was worth $60!

But then we thought we should at least ask our server if there was any chance there was still some value on the card.  Gratefully, she was happy to check the balance, and she came back to report that our full $60 value was still there.

Whew, what a relief!  We thanked God that the value was still there and that we hadn’t wasted it.  What a poor stewardship example that would have been!

We realized we need to pay closer attention to expiration dates on gift cards, coupons, and other special offers we had received, to make sure we never lose out on the opportunity.

We’re starting to right the expiration dates on our calendars so we can be sure to use them before it’s too late.

While many restaurants and retailers are now offering gift cards without expiration dates so their customers don’t have to worry about wasting the value of an unredeemed gift card, and states have createdgift card and gift certificate statutes to provide greater protection consumers, it’s wise to keep track of gift cards you receive and use them before they expire.