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Unspent gift cards now total $1.9 billion

Australians are leaving almost $2 billion on the table by not redeeming gift cards, new research has found.

In a survey of 1086 respondents conducted by consumer group Finder, two out of five people (39 per cent) said they had unused gift cards lying around.

The total amount left unspent across these cards is around $1.9 billion, or an average of $243 per gift card.

Graham Cooke, head of consumer research at Finder, says that although gift cards are a popular (and easy) gift for Christmas and birthdays, almost one-third of them go unused.

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“Gift cards are a practical gift if you’re unsure of what someone will like or use,” he says.

“However, by not redeeming them, you’re essentially giving that money back to the retailer and losing out on a great deal of savings.”

But it’s not always forgetfulness or laziness that sees gift cards go unspent.

One in five (22 per cent) of survey respondents said they couldn’t redeem their card as it had expired, six per cent had misplaced the card and around two per cent were unable to redeem as the company had gone out of business.

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Mr Cooke says that’s equivalent to almost 6 million people who have lost an opportunity to spend the credit. He says the often-short timeframes given by retailers in which to use the gift card have contributed to this blowout.

“Until recently, retailers could issue gift cards with an expiration date as short as six months. Thankfully, they must now allow you to use the card for a minimum of three years,” he says.

“It is illegal for retailers to issue cards with an expiry date shorter than this. If a retailer rejects your card within a three-year period, lodge a complaint. If they still won’t honour the credit, reach out to your local consumer body.

Under the relevant Australian Consumer Law (ACL), gift cards purchased after 1 November 2019 must come with a minimum three-year expiry period. Some gift cards and vouchers now come with an unlimited expiry date as well, meaning you have no excuse not to use them.

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Mr Cooke says there are several ways you can ensure you don’t leave your gift cards unused.

“Set a reminder on your phone for when the card expires so you remember to use it,” he says.

“Take a picture of the front and back of the card with your phone. In many cases, the details on the card will be sufficient to use the credit in the future if you lose it.

If you’ve been gifted a card that you’re sure you’ll never use, consider selling it to a friend or using it to buy a gift for someone else.

Do you have any gift cards lying around at home? Have you ever been unable to redeem a gift card? Let us know in the comments section below.

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