Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Four Tips for Avoiding a Gift-Card Fiasco

Between DD and FMF (from Free Money Finance), I almost never miss a good article from Yahoo Finance. DD is always sending me articles that I should read, they have great articles, by some great writers.

The latest article from David Bach, author of The Automatic Millionaire (which I am reading right now) is entitled Four Tips for Avoiding a Gift-Card Fiasco. This is a very timely article for me since I just received a bunch of gift-cards for Christmas and I have a bunch sitting around with small balances left on them as well. Here is what happens with gift-cards most of the time with me:
  • I get a gift card for let's say $100 at Best Buy.
  • I go there to buy something that I wouldn't normally buy myself because I don't really need it. So I use my "free" money to get a XBOX game, a DVD, and a CD for ~$90.
  • I won't buy another DVD, because then I will have to pay with money out of my pocket and I am trying to save money, so $10 sits on the gift card.
  • This $10 will sit on there until I either get another gift card, actually need something form the store, or until it disappears because of hidden fees or expiration dates.
Bach suggests the following tips:
  1. When You Get the Card, Photocopy It
  2. Check the Expiration Date
  3. Don't Lose the Change
  4. Read the Fine Print
As I mentioned, I get killed on numbers 2 and 3. Expiration dates are just ridiculous for gift-cards. Someone paid cash for these, they should not expire. What I have had happen is that after a year, they start taking some amount of money off of the remaining balance until it is depleted or used.

Retail stores must love me since I usually end up with a small balance that doesn't get used. I basically give them free money. The article states that 18%-20% of people who get gift-cards do not use them (I hope that they mean that they don't use all of the balance, I would hate to think that many people do not use them at all). This is why I would suggest to anyone to give cash rather than gift cards.

Check out the article at Free Money Finance for a full summary and his thoughts.


Blogger SL said...

RS you could give ME your "spare change" on your gift cards!

1/03/2006 3:05 PM  
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