According to a study conducted by the Tower Group, every year over $5 billion in gift cards goes unused! While that may surprise you, think about how often you've tossed a card because there was only a dollar or two left on it-or maybe you've forgotten about a couple of those valuable pieces of plastic altogether. Every unused card adds up, meaning big-and free-bucks for retailers. But, with these five tips, you'll be sure to get the most out of your gifted dollars this holiday season!
1. Do Some Online Research
Scope out retailers' Web sites to see what you might want to purchase ahead of time. You're more likely to get something you really want if you plan ahead. Scouting out after-Christmas sales will also help you to make the most of your "free" money.
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2. Exchange Your Gift Cards
If you found a gift card from Forever 21 in your stocking when you're more likely to shop at J. Crew there's no need to waste time searching for something you don't really want to begin with. Instead, turn to an online service, like GiftCardRescue.com or PlasticJungle.com, that allows you to swap your gift card for one from another store-or even exchange it for cash!
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3. Decide How Much of Your Own Money You Want to Spend
Retailers love selling gift cards because customers usually end up spending more money than is on their card. So, if you're on a budget, decide ahead of time how much you want to spend to make up the difference and be sure to bring cash so you're not tempted to shell out additional money.
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4. Go for the Big Purchases
Chances are if you received a $50 gift card to a store like Coach or Saks or there's not much you can buy without going over. Instead, think of the gift card as your ticket to a discount. Have you had your eye on a killer watch or pair of shoes but thought it was too pricey? Suddenly a $100 purchase seems more manageable when you only have to fork over $50. Also, check if you can use your card at a brand's outlet store, which will also give you more bang for your buck.
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5. Donate the Leftover Money
If you can't find a way to spend your last couple dollars at Walmart or Target, consider donating the money to a worthy charity like GiftCardGiver.com, which collects the smaller amounts from the donated cards and transfers them onto a single card they then provide to people in need.
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