Make the Most of Your Holiday Gift Cards

Once the holidays are over and the decorations are put away, there’s still a common question on many people’s minds: How should I start spending the gift cards I received?

If you found a gift card under the tree this year, there are ways to avoid fraud and make sure you’re getting the most out of it, whether you spend it now or later in the year.

1. Decide whether to use, sell, or trade it. First things first – determine whether or not you can use the card. If out-of-town family or friends gifted you a card for a retailer with no locations near you, consider making an online purchase and having the item shipped to you. But if it’s for an in-person experience such as dining or entertainment, you may be able to sell or trade the card with friends or relatives.

2. Keep an eye on expiration dates. While gift cards can’t legally expire until five years after the date of purchase, unused gift cards can incur inactivity charges after 12 months. Check to see whether this applies to your gift cards, and spend them sooner rather than later to avoid diminishing values.

3. Always keep the receipt. A good gift-giver will include the original purchase receipt with the gift card. Keep this on hand to ensure your money is safe. If you don’t have the receipt, make a note of the card’s ID number. If the card is ever lost or stolen, contact the issuer to see if you can get your money back.

4. Make sure the protective seal is intact. Gift cards usually come with a sticker covering the PIN or activation code. If you receive a card with a damaged sticker, it may be a sign of a gift card scam. Contact the retailer’s customer support and make sure you have the receipt handy.

5. Add it to your wallet. After you decide which gift cards are safe to keep, rip off the cardboard backing, scratch to reveal the activation code, and put it in your wallet so it’s ready to use. If you have a gift card from an online retailer such as Amazon, add the balance to your digital wallet by entering the card code.

6. Track your balance. Keep track of how much money is on each card with a permanent marker. When you add the card to your wallet, write the balance on the front. After each successive purchase, make a note of the remaining balance.

7. Add leftover Visa cards to your Amazon account. Visa or Mastercard gift cards make great presents, but it can be a challenge to clear the balance on them when you only have a few dollars left. Before you toss them in the bottom of your purse or the trash, consider applying them to the balance of your Amazon account via Amazon Reload or use them for other online account payment methods. Simply add the card as a payment method and shave a few dollars off your next purchase.

8. Don’t forget to tip! When using a gift card for your favorite restaurant or coffee shop, don’t forget to add a tip. If you have a large enough balance left over, you can tip straight from the gift card. However, in the event that you spend it all in one go, it’s best to have cash on hand so you can properly thank your servers or baristas.

Want to learn more? Visit Origin’s Online Security Center for more information on how to spot scams, or contact a Trusted Advisor to learn how to make the most of your money.