Most of us will receive at least one gift card this holiday season. You won’t find me complaining – gift cards offer flexibility and a great excuse to go shopping for yourself or stock up on necessities. I’ll help you lay out a strategy for shopping with your new gift cards after the holidays.
Right now, I have Jimmy John’s, Bonefish Grill, Target, Ulta, QuikTrip and Starbucks gift cards in my wallet, all waiting to be redeemed. For the retail cards, I’ll get the most bang for my buck by combining this “free cash” with sales. And what better time than the January post-holiday sales to scoop up great deals? Merchandise such as linens, TVs and workout gear are usually available at a deep discount.
Gift cards also work especially well with online deals (and can keep you safer if you’re concerned about online credit card fraud), so keep an eye on your inbox for online sales. Don’t forget to search for promo codes before clicking the order button. These coupon codes, combined with your gift card, can save you a ton of money!
Know Your Rights
About five years ago, the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 made gift cards even easier to give and use. The Act prohibits expiration dates before five years and limits fees that once made some gift cards practically useless if they weren’t used within a year. Still, you’ll get the most from your gift card if you set a reminder to use it within the first year of ownership.
If you’re a savvy smartphone user, you can input the gift card information directly into your phone using Apple Pay or Google Wallet (or a similar app). These apps store all the gift card information and then you can use them online or in stores. Talk about convenient!
Make a Trade
Lastly, you may get the most out of your holiday gift cards by trading or selling them for a restaurant or retailer you’re more likely to use. There are several websites that offer this service, but if you want to avoid service fees, you’re better off trading with family or friends. Or, you can save yourself a trip to the store and re-gift the card later in the year. With Christmas only 10 days away, last year’s cards could be the gifts you put beneath the tree.
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens or visit http://communityamerica.com.