Use them or lose them! Gift cards, that is.
That’s a lesson that I learned painfully a few years back. I had obtained a “reward” card – essentially a debit card – at work, which was given to me with value added to it. Basically, it was almost like a repository for spot incentives or gifts, which were fairly infrequently given out but slowly accumulated over time nonetheless. Kind of like a gift card that kept slowly increasing in value.
At one point, the total was several hundred dollars. Again, this was a result of smaller awards, typically for a little extra money given around the holidays or things like that. The total dollar amount wasn’t massive, but hey – a few hundred dollars is a few hundred dollars, right? Besides, what was great about it is that it was stashed away, kind of like a little slush fund of sorts. I like the idea of diversifying, so this was a small amount that I had squirreled away and consciously forgot about but knew in the back of my mind that I had it available somewhere.
Anyway, the time eventually came where I decided that I’ll dip into the slush fund and use that old debit card, with those accumulated gifts from work. Time to get something, and feel great about the idea that didn’t have to pay for it!
Before I went out to the store, I called the number on the card to find out the balance. No problem, right?
Uh, wrong. Big Problem. They had no record of the card or number.
Long story short: the card had expired, and I was out luck, after numerous calls and attempts to recover it. Ouch!
I learned a lesson there, which goes counter against my tendency of stashing things away for a rainy day well into the future. The lesson was that with gift cards, you should try to use them as soon as you can, in case they lose their value or the company goes out of business.
Fast forward to this week. News came out that Borders, the book retailer, was going to be going out of business. The first thing I thought of was that I thought I had a gift card to Borders. I recalled a $25 gift card that was sitting around for well over a year. Remembering my past experience, I thought I had better apply the prior lesson learned and go use that gift card. I also noticed a post by Everyday Tips and Thoughts that introduced the topic of gift cards and Borders.
The next day, I made sure to stop at a Borders and use the $25 gift card before it’s value plummeted. Not that I knew for sure what might eventually happen and when it would happen, but my guess what that this gift card’s value would hold for only a short period of time. Just couldn’t bear to see my squirreling ways burn me again, instead of helping as they normally would in other cases.
It’s good to learn lessons and apply them in the future, no matter how small the outcome might seem to be. In this case, the loss of several hundred dollars due to my own stowing away of the prior gift card had taught me a lesson that I needed to apply, before making the same mistake once. It’s like spending money on ATM fees – you don’t do it on purpose, but due to poor planning!
Happy to report I made the right choice this time!
Bottom Line: Keep this in mind when you get a gift card: Use it. Soon.
My Question for You:
- Do you use gift cards right away:
- Or, do you procrastinate I as I had previously done?