Did Santa bring you a gift card this Christmas?
Year after year, gift cards have been one of the most popular holiday gifts and 2021 was not an exception.
According to the National Retail Federation’s annual holiday survey, gift cards were the second most popular gift of the holiday season with 46% of shoppers planning to buy an average of three or four cards this year. Holiday spending on gift cards was expected to total $28.1 billion, the highest since $29.9 billion in 2018.
And with supply chain challenges, shipping delays and shortages, more cards were expected to be placed in stockings than in past years.
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But when consumers will redeem the plastic cards or digital codes is another matter. According to a Bankrate.com poll from July, 51% of U.S. adults have more than $15.3 billion in unused gift cards, vouchers and store credit. This adds up to an average of $116 per person in gift cards.
Use your Christmas gift cards ASAP
The rule of thumb with a gift card? Use it before you lose it.
The Federal Trade Commission recommends using the card as soon as you can. It also advises treating gift cards like cash and using them early to get full value.
Another good reason to use the cards sooner rather than later: the risk that the retailer or restaurant goes out of business.
While gift cards are often accepted after businesses file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, in many cases they quickly become worthless. Sometimes there’s little or no warning before a business closes.
“I generally tell people if they have gift cards in their wallet, use them yesterday,” Melissa Jacoby, a bankruptcy law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, previously told USA TODAY.
The Bankrate poll found 29% of adults have let at least one gift card expire, 27% have lost at least one and 21% lost out because a business closed permanently before they used at least one card.
Check gift card balances (carefully)
It’s important to go to the actual retailer or card website and to confirm you are at the right place before entering any information. If you’re not careful you can wind up at a website that appears to be legitimate but could steal your gift card balance, making it worthless.
USA TODAY has rounded up the sites to check the most popular store, restaurant and credit card gift cards. This list is current as of Dec. 24. Another way to check balances is with store apps and some retailers like Target allow you to add gift cards to app wallets.
Amazon gift card balance
Amazon says you can view your gift card balance in your account. Also when you apply a gift card to an order or add one to “Your Account” for future purchases, the balance will be stored. After you go to your account, select “Gift cards” and view the balance on your gift cards.
American Express gift card balance
Check AmEx gift cards and business gift cards at Balance.amexgiftcard.com.
Apple gift card balance
Check your card at Support.apple.com/en-us/HT212864.
Best Buy gift card balance
Check your Best Buy gift cards at Bestbuy.com/gift-card-balance.
Costco gift card balance
Check your Costco gift cards, called shop cards, at Costco.com/costco-shop-card.
Dick’s gift card balance
Check Dick’s Sporting Goods gift cards at Dickssportinggoods.com/s/gift-cards.
Disney gift card balance
Go to Disneygiftcard.com/checkbalance to check Disney gift cards.
Dunkin’ gift card balance
Dunkin’ cards can be checked on the app or at Dunkindonuts.com/en/dd-cards/check-balance.
Fortnite V-Bucks gift card balance
According to Epic Games, an Epic Games account is required to redeem a V-Bucks Card code. Cards can be redeemed at Epicgames.com/fortnite/en-US/vbuckscard.
JCPenney gift card balance
Check your JCPenney gift cards at Jcpenney.com/cart/giftcard.
Home Depot gift card balance
Check Home Depot cards at Homedepot.com/mycheckout/giftcard.
Kohl’s gift card balance
Check Kohl’s gift cards on the app or at Kohls.com/giftcard/gift_card_check_balance.jsp.
Lowe’s gift card balance
Check how much your Lowe’s gift card is worth at Lowes.com/l/help/gift-card-balance.
Macy’s gift card balance
Macy’s gift cards can be checked at Macys.com/account/giftcardbalance.
Mastercard gift card balance
Check Mastercard gift cards at Balance.mastercardgiftcard.com.
Nordstrom gift card balance
Check your Nordstrom gift card at Nordstrom.com/nordstrom-gift-cards.
Oculus gift card balance
According to Oculus, if you receive a store credit you can check the balance from your settings in the Oculus app. You’ll need to add a payment method to your account before you can use the credit.
PlayStation gift card balance
Learn more about PlayStation gift cards and how to redeem them at Playstation.com/en-us/playstation-gift-cards.
Roblox redeem code
According to Roblox, gift cards can only be redeemed in a browser and “can’t be redeemed in the Roblox apps.” To redeem a card on your account, log in on a browser, go to the “Gift Card Redemption Page” and then enter the PIN from the card. You’ll then select redeem to add the credit to your account.
Sephora gift card balance check
Check Sephora gift cards at Sephora.com/beauty/giftcards.
Shein gift card balance
Shein gift cards can be checked at Us.shein.com/giftcard.html
Starbucks gift card balance
Adding gift cards to your Starbucks app is one way to check cards or go to Starbucks.com/gift.
Target gift card balance
Check Target card balances at Target.com/guest/gift-card-balance or on the mobile app.
Ulta gift card balance
Check Ulta Beauty gift cards at Ulta.com/guestservices/giftCards.jsp
Vanilla gift card balance
According to Visa, Vanilla gift cards should be checked at Balance.vanillagift.com.
Visa gift card balance
Check Visa gift cards at Usa.visa.com/support/consumer/gift-card-balance.html
Walmart gift card balance
Check Walmart store gift cards at Walmart.com/account/giftcards/balance.
Xbox gift card balance
Find information on how to redeem Xbox codes and gift cards at Support.xbox.com/en-US/help/subscriptions-billing/redeem-codes-gifting/types-of-prepaid-codes. You can also redeem your card at Redeem.microsoft.com.
More store, restaurant gift cards
Tips for using gift cards
If you received a gift card, here are some tips to get the most out of them:
The fine print: Read the card’s terms and conditions. Pay close attention to whether the card is redeemable only at a certain store or location.
Fees: Some state laws bar service fees and expiration dates on store gift cards, but the rules on cards branded with the name of a credit card company are stricter. These cards cannot expire for at least five years and cannot have a service fee deducted unless it has not been used in 12 months.
Bonus cards: It’s holiday gift card promotion season, a time when select restaurants and stores give bonuses with gift card purchases. If you receive a bonus gift card, sometimes called bonus bucks, most of these will expire. Check terms.
Protect your card: Some gift cards can be registered as credit cards on websites listed on the card, which can protect them against theft or loss. Also, take photos of the front and back of the card or write down card details as some companies will replace lost or stolen cards if you can provide specifics. Save receipts with card information, too.
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