Unused gift cards accumulate to $44 billion

Since 2008 gift cards have accumulated to a staggering $44 billion. A report by the New York Post along with

Since 2008 gift cards have accumulated to a staggering $44 billion.

A report by the New York Post along with credit card research firm LowCards unearthed the staggering number. Gift cards have become one of the most purchased items in the US and this past holiday season alone saw the amount of gift cards purchased surpass $118 billion.

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“I’m not surprised by that number at all, people get these cards and often put them away in a drawer and then forget about them. And that’s too bad,” said Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.

80% of US shoppers this holiday season purchased gift cards as a present in 2013. The study report shows an average of $163 was spent on each gift card purchased this holiday season, a 4% rise in comparison to 2012.

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The story is not one sided and retailers are also losing out. As the cards are supplied and loaded from external companies, stores do not see any revenue until the cards are used. This results in retailers holding $44 billion in liabilities due to unused gift cards.

Retailers have long been noticing the trend of forgetting gift cards and have begun promoting gift card usage. Walmart, the largest seller of gift cards has released a promotion encouraging shoppers to use their unused gift cards for gaming and mobile add-ons such as game controllers and chargers and cases, given the credit on gift cards do not amount to the price of preferred items.

Some companies have taken a different approach and offer consumers ways to redeem or cash out gift cards without going to the store. Companies like CardCash.com, CardHub, and GiftCardRescue offer gift card exchanges, allowing people to trade their gift card for one they might be more interested in, or sell them in exchange for cash. PayPal has also recently begun to accept prepaid gift cards at checkout, while new startup Card for Coin exchanges Starbucks gift cards for Bitcoin.

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