*Please note that this blonde, Jen Tucker, recognizes that her issues can cross hair color borders. She welcomes all people, with open arms, that have ever suffered from blonde moments, blonde jokes, or ate a Blondie brownie, regardless of the color at their roots.*
Hi! My name is Jen, and I’m a gift card hoarder.
For Christmas, my sweetie pie husband, Mike, bought me a gift card to a spa, and I just couldn’t bring myself to book an appointment. In my Jen-like thought process, if I spend the gift card, then it will be gone; spent, cashed out, at zero balance. If I make a willy-nilly appointment “just because,” then I no longer have it to bank upon when moments of rub down bliss might keep me from running away from home permanently. I’ve had this conversation with myself every time that little, plastic bugger in the back of my wallet pops into my view. I should probably mention Mike didn’t bless me with the little plastic card of beauty this past Christmas. It was Christmas of 2011. Shameful, right?
I know it sounds crazy that I haven’t cashed in this time of pampering. What’s crazier is I recently discovered a percentage disappears from this particular card every year that I do not use it. It sounds like robbery to me, and Jessie James at least used a gun on his prey! The gift card is paid for, so why deduct money from unsuspecting beauty hoarders lovers like me? This revelation got me thinking on a bigger scale. What if you’re saving gift cards for a year or more to your favorite retailer for a special purchase? Are you losing money on those as well? Wasn’t there a law passed a few years ago saying, “Not so fast there, swifty!” so retailers couldn’t penalize gift card hoarders holders?
I put on my Nancy Drew cap, and conducted a little research to pass on to you, my friends... Here’s what I’ve learned.
- Gift Card Laws Vary State-to-State: The Credit CARD Act of 2009 was signed into law on May 22, 2009. From what I gathered, most of this federal law actually pertains to credit card protection. If you visit the site ScriptSmart, you can read more about the law, and also look up laws in your state. My state of Indiana isn’t great at protecting consumers in this area, unless it applies to a gift card you can “reload,” such as Starbucks, or a major credit card gift card; Master Card or Visa for example. Those retain their balance for five years without fees being assessed.
- American Express and The Gap are tops! Thinking ahead to the graduates that will be excitedly waiting for you to show them the money this summer, Consumer Search has named AMEX and The Gap Stores (Gap, Old Navy, Piperlime, Athletica, and Banana Republic) most consumer friendly for gift cards. It’s not all rosy, however. The drawback for American Express is that their card is not as widely accepted as Visa and Master Card are, and there are usually purchase fees attached for the gift-giver.
- Big Box Store Winner: Sam Walton was the king of deals, right? Wal-Mart might be taking over the world *Jen shudders* and that’s a good thing if you hold one of their gift cards in your hot little hand. Creditcards.com favors Wal-Mart gift cards because they don’t expire, are reloadable by the consumer, offer online balance checks, and can be delivered electronically or shipped for free to customers. Wal-Mart will replace funds if your card is lost or stolen too, which seems unheard of in this day and age. Amazon gift cards were also ranked high with consumers along with Home Depot.
- Getting More Bang for Your Buck: Creditcards.com has a great article on how to get more moolah loaded onto your gift card and not pay full price. Some of their suggestions are checking out auction sites, swapping miles and points for gift cards, and looking to social media such as Foursquare and Swagbucks, where you can turn “checking in” at local hot spots and surfing the net into cash. I would suggest you refrain from buying them in a dark alley, however. That can’t be good.
- Just spend it for crying out loud! One of the biggest things I’ve learned while going on this little fact finding mission, was what I have wasting away in my wallet. Two Lowe’s gift cards, one to a local diner, four for Starbucks, one to Build-a-Bear Workshop, and—wait for it—one to the defunct Borders Bookstore. What in the world?! I have a plethora of dollars that yearn to be spent, that have already been spent and gifted to me, and I’ve obviously gone Ebenezer Scrooge in some way, shape or form along the way. Stockpiling my little plastic dandies is over. If you’re in the market, I have a “collector’s edition” Borders gift card for you. It’s one of a kind, so don’t delay!
Jen Tucker has never met a gluten free cupcake that she didn’t like. A former teacher and educator, she has worked with children in school, hospital, and enrichment settings. In her years at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, it was Jen’s job to bring the “hands on fun” into the visiting exhibitions in the galleries. Jen broke away from writing children’s books and thematic units in 2011 with her memoir, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out which was a semifinalist in the humor category in the 2011 Goodreads Book Awards. She is a monthly guest blogger at the Survival for Blondes where she marries humor with preparedness; and also Click Lit Central. Jen lives in West Lafayette, Indiana with her husband, Mike, and their three children.