It’s Use Your Gift Card Day, spend it on yourself or the retailer will happily pocket it

In many ways, gift cards can be the perfect gift. Sometimes for the recipient, but even more so for the giver. It’s the ideal example of throwing money at the problem of what to buy as a gift.

Don’t know what to give to your only semi-beloved relative? A $25 gift card for Target or Amazon that you can buy at most grocery store impulse aisles will hit the spot. Bam. Done.

If the glancingly appreciated relative accidentally throws the card out in the flurry of stuffing Christmas or birthday gift wrapping paper into a garbage bag, not your problem. The gift has been given and received. You’re golden.

Saturday (today) is a fairly new holiday, National Use Your Gift Card Day, established in January 2020 by a Florida-based public relations company. It’s a rare holiday in that it isn’t overly appreciated by retailers or web sites who annually boost their budgets to the tune of about $3 billion a year generated by unused gift cards, according to the Mercator Advisory Group, that pays close attention to the payments industry.

An ignored, lost or just unappreciated gift card that goes unredeemed is pure income for the business without its having to give anybody anything in return.

Gift cards can go unredeemed for a variety of reasons. They get thrown out. They get misplaced in that kitchen drawer that is used for virtually every miscellaneous household item that doesn’t warrant getting its own drawer. They get ignored because they’re from a store or service that the recipient doesn’t care for. Or they are only partially used and tossed with balance still remaining on them. Nobody wants a gift card with 67 cents left on it, but there isn’t a business in the world that would turn up its nose at 67 cents, especially when those scraps cascade into their coffers at an alarming pace.

If you do happen to get the gift of a card for a business or restaurant that you don’t care for, you can kick the can down the road by re-gifting it, or selling it for up to 90% of its value to any number of online services like CardCash, Card Pool or Raise. Most companies that buy gift cards also sell them at a discount of as much as 30%.

So, celebrate today. Rummage through your junk drawer for forgotten cards or just grab one that you’ve been hauling around in your wallet since Christmas or longer, and buy yourself something nice. Or if you can’t find something you like with your card from Jack in the Box or your local vape shop, sell it and use the cash for whatever you want, or just fritter it away. It’s your money. And anything’s better than letting some faceless corporation squeeze more profit from it.

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.