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The 4 Wisest Tips About Using Your Gift Cards


Cashier giving customer a gift card

Photo by WhiteHaus Marketing

Just about everyone in America age 10 and up received a gift card for Christmas this year. While most consumers listed cards as their number-one gift, it's sometimes easier to give than receive. There are tricks to getting the most out of those handy pieces of plastic.

Merchants consider gift cards the same as cash, and so should you. While you can't pay your electric bill with a gift card -- yet -- you might consider it found money and use it as wisely as possible. Read on for 4 tips to making the most of your holiday gift card.

1. Is The Card Good At Multiple Stores?
That gift card from The Gap may also be good at the corporation's other brand stores, including Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta. With the merging of so many merchants, you needn't be restricted to just one retailer. Examine the back of your gift card or look for more details at the company's online site.

2. Buy Sale Items
Use your gift card cash wisely and shop the after-holiday sales. You'll often find the best bargains of the year in the two weeks following New Year's, both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Before you reach checkout, however, make sure your card applies to deeply discounted items, particularly online.

3. Swap or Sell Gift Cards

Not interested in using your gift card? Consider swapping or selling it for ready cash online. Visit the sell a gift card page of Gift Card Granny to learn more.

4. Use Cards Before They Acquire Fees
The CARD Act, extended expiration dates and limited fees on standard gift cards purchased after Aug. 22, 2010. But to avoid inactivity fees, you must use the card 12 months after receiving it, so don't stuff it in the back of a drawer and forget about it.

Store gift cards, known as "closed-loop" cards, don't usually charge such fees, but "general-use" cards do, including Visa or American Express gift cards. Look for terms on the back of the card such as "inactivity," "maintenancy" or "dormancy." Those are the fees that will deplete your card's worth.

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