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If you’ve found a gift card (or three) you had forgotten about in the back of your wallet, or were surprised by the store credit you found sitting in an app, you’re in good company. Nearly half (47 percent) of U.S. adults have at least one unused gift card, gift voucher or store credit, according to a new Bankrate study.
Those gift cards aren’t small change: The average value is $187 per person — a total value of $23 billion nationwide.
Due to inflation and recession concerns, 39 percent of U.S. adults say they’re putting in more of an effort to use their gift cards since last year. This is especially true for younger adults: 50 percent of Gen Zers (ages 18-26) and 49 percent of millennials (ages 27-42) say they’ve made an effort to use gift cards more over the last year, compared to 35 percent of Gen Xers (ages 43-58) and 27 percent of baby boomers (ages 59-77).
Putting your unused gift cards to work is a good inflation-busting strategy. This is real money, so you might as well use it. I feel the same way about unused credit card rewards, frequent flyer miles and hotel points.— Ted Rossman, Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst
Bankrate’s key gift card insights
- Many Americans intended to use their unused gift cards in 2022, but didn’t. 47% of U.S. adults say they had at least one unused gift card, gift voucher or store credit in both June 2023 and July 2022. 45% of people with unused gift cards in July 2022 said at the time they intended to use all their cards over the next 12 months.
- The tendency to use all gift cards decreases as people report higher income. 62% of people with a household income of $100,000 or more per year say they have unused gift cards, compared to 59% of those between $80,000 and $99,999 per year, 49% of those between $50,000 and $79,999 per year and 37% of those with less than $50,000 per year.
- Those unused gift cards have a significant amount of money on them. The average value of an unused gift card is $187 per person. That’s up from the average value per person of $175 in June 2022 and $116 in June 2021.
- The economy is incentivizing people to try and use the free funds from their gift cards. 39% of U.S. adults say they have made an effort to use gift cards more frequently over the past year due to economic concerns, such as inflation and recession worries.
Despite promises to use them by now, 47% of people said they have unused gift cards in both 2022 and 2023
After receiving gift cards, credit card rewards, store credit and other sources, not everyone uses them immediately — or at all. A little under half of U.S. adults (47 percent) say they have unused gift cards, gift vouchers or store credits, according to Bankrate. That percentage has remained unchanged since the survey question on unused gift cards was asked in July 2022. At the time, 47 percent of people also said they had unused gift cards.
Many Americans had expected to use all of their gift cards by now. Although the percentage of people with unused gift cards didn’t budge year-over-year, in July 2022, 45 percent said they planned to use all of their unused gift cards before July 2023. One in three (30 percent) said they would at least use some of them in that time period.
The tendency to have more unused gift cards rises as people report a higher household income. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of the highest-income households say they have at least one unused gift card:
- $100,000 a year or more: 62 percent
- $80,000-$99,999: 59 percent
- $50,000-$79,999: 49 percent
- Less than $50,000 a year: 37 percent
If you have unused gift cards you think you’ll never use, there are still ways to take advantage of their value, according to Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst Ted Rossman.
“The best way to get the most value from a gift card is to use it yourself. If it’s not a store that you like, maybe you can buy a present for a friend or relative,” Rossman said. “Or you could even gift them the card itself. Another option could be to resell it on a site such as CardCash or Raise. You won’t get full value, but 70 percent or 80 percent sure beats the nothing you’ll get if you just leave it in a drawer somewhere.”
The average person’s stash of unused gift cards is valued at $187
Some of these collections of unused gift cards are worth a lot of money. The average value of a person’s unused gift cards is $187. In total, Americans have $23 billion in unused gift cards:
Source: Bankrate survey, June 20-22, 2023
Note: Of U.S. adults who have unused gift cards
Though the percentage of people with unused gift cards didn’t change year-over-year, the value of someone’s unused gift cards has risen over the last two years. In July 2022, the average value of unused gift cards per person was $175 — up from $116 in 2021.
Though higher-income earners tend are the most likely to have unused gift cards, people in both the lowest- and highest-income brackets tend to have the highest average value in gift cards:
- $100,000 a year or more: $238 per person
- $80,000-$99,999: $192 per person
- $50,000-$79,999: $146 per person
- Less than $50,000 a year: $199 per person
Among generations, Gen Xers have the highest average value in unused gift cards:
- Gen Zers: $168 per person
- Millennials: $198 per person
- Gen Xers: $251 per person
- Baby boomers: $145 per person
Other clear trends emerge for those in different U.S. regions and among gender lines. Northeasterners have the highest average unused gift card value per person ($293), followed by Westerners ($189), Midwesterners ($161) and Southerners ($144).
Men tend to have more unused gift card value than women: They hold an average value of $213 per person, compared to women’s average value of $163 per person.
Around 2 in 5 people have been making an effort to use gift cards more frequently over the past year due to economic concerns
Amid economic concerns like inflation and a possible recession, around two in five people (39 percent) say they have been making an effort to use their gift cards more:
Source: Bankrate survey, June 20-22, 2023
Younger Americans are most likely to have been using gift cards more due to economic concerns:
- Gen Zers: 50 percent
- Millennials: 49 percent
- Gen Xers: 35 percent
- Baby boomers: 27 percent
Similarly, the lowest-income households are most likely to make an effort to use gift cards more due to economic concerns:
- $100,000 a year or more: 37 percent
- $80,000-$99,999: 35 percent
- $50,000-$79,999: 39 percent
- Less than $50,000 a year: 44 percent
3 ways to use old gift cards
If you’ve forgotten about old gift cards, it’s worth checking to see if you can still use them. New legislation has made gift cards valuable for a longer time than you might expect, such as a December 2022 New York State law stating that gift cards cannot expire within nine years, and won’t decline in value due to fees. You can typically check a gift card balance online or through the store’s website for brand-specific gift cards. However, if you’re uninterested in using an unused gift card, consider these options:
- If you’ll never go to that restaurant or store where you own a gift card for, consider regifting it to someone else. Most gift cards allow you to load more money on it, so if there’s only a few dollars left on the card, you may be able to increase the amount and give it to someone special.
- If you’re not interested in the gift card you have on hand, you may be able to convert it to a discount or another card at another store. Sites like CardCash or Raise allow you to trade in your card for one that may be more appealing to you.
- Sites like CardCash and Raise also allow you to just sell the card for cash, though you likely won’t receive the full value of the card back. Some states, like New York or California, allow you to trade cards with limited value, typically under $10 or $5, for cash through the retailer.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,446 US adults, of whom 1,065 have unused gift cards. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th – 22nd June 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+). The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a non-probability-based sample using both quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results.