Costly: Amanda Hawkes spent £80 on the gift card
An early spring clean could prove profitable if you rummage through your cupboard drawers at home and discover a forgotten gift card that you received at Christmas or for your birthday.
According to experts, there are some £300million worth of gift cards lying around homes just waiting to be used – or expire without value
Vouchers are often put away somewhere safe – such as in a wallet, a kitchen or desk drawer. But many are then forgotten with some becoming worthless as they pass their expiry date.
Hannah Maundrell is a financial expert at consumer website Money. She says: ‘Shops make millions of pounds a year from unclaimed gift cards because of the time limit they put on them.
‘If you have received a voucher, do not fall into the trap of putting it aside waiting to buy something special – spend it immediately.’
School nurse Amanda Hawkes knows all too well how forgetting about vouchers can be costly.
The 53-year-old, from Wandsworth, South West London, is a big theatre lover and recently enjoyed watching West End shows The Ferryman and The Play That Goes Wrong.
She wanted her parents to see the plays too and thought an £80 Ticketmaster gift card she had bought them would mitigate the cost. But it was not to be.
She says: ‘We assumed it was like a theatre token with no expiry date. But the card had gone past its shelf life by the time Mum and Dad got round to using it. They ended up going to the shows but paying for tickets themselves.’
Acting up: A scene from The Play That Goes Wrong
Ticketmaster cards expire after 12 months. Such time limits are not unusual but most last 24 months – some longer.
Waterstones, WH Smith, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis gift cards all have a two-year limit. But they do not require that you spend within this period. If you check the balance on your card, it resets the time-expiry clock.
One of the most popular gift vouchers is the National Book Token – these must be spent within six years. Amazon gift cards issued after July 2013 must be redeemed within ten years while Apple Store and iTunes cards and Theatre Tokens have no expiry date.
Ticketmaster gift cards expire after 12 months
If a gift card is lost, stolen or damaged so that the code number is no longer readable, then the card becomes valueless.
Some providers, such as Marks & Spencer and Amazon, offer online e-cards rather than plastic cards. Although these do away with the worry of losing them you must still have a note of the passcode to access them online.
Another consideration is the financial health of the company where the gift voucher can be used. If a retailer goes bust, a store voucher card can become worthless if there are no outlets to shop in. For example, when clothing chain Republic went out of business in 2013 those holding its vouchers found they had nowhere to go to use them.
Toys R Us cards should be spent immediately
The Toys R Us gift card expires two years after the last time it was used – unlike rival cards a balance check is not deemed as usage. Last month, the retailer went into administration with the result that many of its stores are closing this month. Those in possession of a Toys R Us gift card should use it immediately – today, according to the company’s administrators.
Those who purchased a gift card with a value of £100 or more using their credit card are covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This means that if a retailer goes into administration you can reclaim gift card losses from your credit card issuer.
For those with gift cards they are unlikely to use, they can be advertised for sale on website Zeek.me. By being prepared to sell the card at less than face value, you should be able to get a buyer. To use the website you will have to pay a sum equivalent to seven per cent of the price you are asking.
For example, if you are prepared to sell a £10 gift card at a 10 per cent discount, the trading website will take 63p in commission – leaving you with £8.37. Buyers pay a £2 postage fee plus a minimum 30p ‘processing fee’.