Nation & World

You probably have $167 of unused gift cards

Survey suggests $20 billion in unredeemed cards, credit

Starbucks reported $1.7 billion in unredeemed gift cards as of Dec. 31. (PA Wire/Zuma Press/TNS)
Starbucks reported $1.7 billion in unredeemed gift cards as of Dec. 31. (PA Wire/Zuma Press/TNS)

More than $20 billion in unredeemed gift cards and store credit is floating around the United States and there is a good chance some of it belongs to you, according to a survey commissioned by Bankrate.com.

Half of all U.S. adults have about $167 in some form of unused credit, including airline redemption vouchers, the survey found.

People with household income over $80,000 have the most in unused credit, at $297, followed by those with minor children ($274), and millennials ($234).

If those numbers seem high to you, consider that Starbucks alone reported $1.7 billion in store value card liability — accounting speak for unredeemed gift cards — as of Dec. 31. Shoppers bought $425 million of the coffee company’s cards in the fourth quarter.

Retail chain Target had $683 million in gift-card liability as of Nov. 2.

Almost as startling is that one-quarter of U.S. adults have allowed a gift card to expire.

“Gift cards and store credits are real money,” said Ted Rossman, an analyst at Bankrate.com. “The longer you hold it, the more likely you are to lose it. Or the company could go bankrupt.”

Unwanted gift cards can be sold in a robust secondary market on sites such as Cardpool.com, CardCash.com and GiftCardSpread.com. And there’s also always the tried-and-true gifting option.

“The best thing you can do is buy something for yourself or someone else,” Rossman said.

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