Surprising? 51% of adults have one or more unused gift card, new study shows

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- When we get money as a gift, we put it in our wallet or bank account. But get the same amount of money via a gift card and there's a good chance it is thrown in a drawer and forgotten. And even if the cards are remembered, they may still not be used.

Melissa Gialdini showed 7 On Your Side her unused gift cards -- there were a lot of therm.

"I have 50 gift cards that just hang out," she said. "I have a special pouch that they even go in that stays in my glove box, because that way, I always have it, and I still never get it out or use the gift cards."

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Gialdini is not alone. A new study shows just how many of us get gift cards, but don't use them.

Senior industry analyst for Bankrate.com, Ted Rossman says, "We found in our survey that 51% of US adults have at least one unused gift card or store credit or voucher, and the average amount is $116 a person, so this is real money."

Rossman says it is, in part, a perception problem: "If we find 20 bucks in an old jacket pocket we're excited about it and we put it to good use, I don't think we always have the same feeling about gift cards and we probably should."

Gift Card Girlfriend Shelley Hunter of GiftCards.com, says the problem sometimes starts with the gift card giver. "A gift card should be a gift, not a coupon. So if I am giving you a gift card to a really nice restaurant, then I need to make sure there's enough money on that gift card for you to spend it at the restaurant," she advises.

Gialdini's mom gave her a lot of those cards. She makes sure they feel and even look like a gift. So 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney asked her, "Perhaps in the future, you should buy her physical gifts?"

"I thought this would be a better idea, but I'm thinking it's not. I mean I even put the gift cards in a box I wrapped them," Pattie Bowling says. "I mean I go to a lot of trouble to putting gifts under the tree, to make the gift cards feel like they're bigger. Yes I'm thinking -- yeah, no, not anymore."
One final thought. The stores get more money if you use the cards. Bankrate.com's Rossman says complex accounting rules often don't let retailers put the money on the books until the card is used. And if it is not used, the government often takes a cut.

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Hunter and Rossman both say keep the cards where they are handy, next to your computer or in your wallet next to your credit cards, but perhaps in the glovebox is not a good choice.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE!
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