What Happens to Unused Gift Cards? (Plus Tips on Making Them Work for You)

unused gift cards

In 2023, the global gift card market is expected to reach a worth of $405.17 billion. Gift cards can be a great gift idea for someone who is hard to buy for. They can also make good last-minute gifts for friends and relatives during the holidays. 

But did you know that 47% of Americans have at least one unused gift card in their possession? These unused gift cards usually sit around and gather dust. Some gift cards still contain their full original value while others are just gift cards with small balances left over. 

If you want to learn more about what happens to unused gift cards, this guide can help you. You can also learn other ways you can use or cash in your gift cards. Keep reading below for helpful information.

Why Are There So Many Unused Gift Cards?

In 2022, gift cards claimed the top spot for the most popular gift item for the 16th consecutive year. That’s an impressive track record, but then why do so many gift cards still remain unused? There could be multiple possible answers to this question that we will explore.

Misplaced Gift Cards

The first reason for this could be that the person just misplaced their gift cards and forgot about them. They may have left them in an old wallet, purse, or coat pocket that they haven’t used for a long time. These unused gift cards could also be sitting in their car’s glove compartment box or at the bottom of an old junk drawer in the house.

Unwanted Gift Cards

Another reason could be that the person doesn’t like the business the gift card is for. Sometimes co-workers, friends, or family members will give out gift cards to someone as gifts without really knowing the person that well. It could also turn out that the gift card recipient simply chooses not to go to this business because of a bad previous experience. 


Convenience can also play a factor in the accumulation of unused gift cards. A business-specific gift card can greatly limit the options for the recipient. There may not be a location nearby that the recipient can easily go to or the business may have closed down completely, rendering the gift card useless.

Lost Gift Cards

A lost gift card can also contribute to these variables. If the gift card fell out of a person’s bag, it could be lying in the street. Someone also may have thrown it away as garbage, thinking it was already used up. 

Inadequate Balances

An inadequate balance may cause the gift card recipient to buy an item for less than their gift card’s worth and then trash the leftover balance intentionally. This is because some gift cards don’t allow partial payment. The transaction will be voided if there isn’t enough money to cover the full purchase price.

What Happens to Unused Gift Cards?

The answer to this question varies depending on where you live. It can also depend on the type of gift card you have. 

It used to be that gift cards had a set expiration date when the remaining balance not used would simply void out after a period of time. However, due to a federal law enacted in 2009, there are new regulations.

The CARD Act

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act changed the terms and conditions for credit cards and unused gift cards.

The CARD Act is a consumer protection law that creates more transparency and imposes limits between consumers and credit card and gift card issuers. For example, in California, the CARD Act states that unused gift cards can never expire. In other states under the CARD Act, unused gift cards can’t expire for at least 5 years. 

Inactivity Fees

While this applies to the full expiration of unused gift cards, there are some fees that can still be associated. Some gift card issuers can charge an inactivity fee which is taken out of the remaining balance on the gift card if it has not been used for 12 months. After a few inactivity fees from non-use, this may wipe out the remaining balance left on the card.

Gift cards with small balances under $10 may be exchanged in some places for the cash value left on the card. This is subject to certain local laws and restrictions. The back of the card will tell you if this is allowable or you can find out through the card issuer’s website or customer service phone number.

On top of inactivity fees, there are also many other fees associated with prepaid gift cards. This can include monthly use fees, balance inquiry fees, transaction fees, and decline fees. 

What Can You Do With Your Unused Gift Cards?

There are a number of ways you can get rid of your unused gift cards. This is especially helpful if you can’t or don’t want to spend them at their designated business.

Regift Gift Cards

The first option is simple. Just regift your unused gift cards to others who may like them more. Regifting gift cards should only be done if you have a full, unused balance on your card so you don’t appear as cheap or inconsiderate giving gift cards with small balances.

Donate Gift Cards

There may be some charitable organizations willing to take gift card donations. You can give your unused gift cards to these places and they can use them to buy the items they need for their charity. You can feel good about giving your unused gift cards to a place that can really use them.

Use a Gift Card Exchange 

If you’ve exhausted all other possible options for getting rid of your unused gift cards, try a gift card exchange instead. A gift card exchange company like Prepaid2Cash can turn your unused gift cards into the cash you need quickly and easily. 

Simply download the Prepaid2Go app from the Apple Appstore or Google Play Store to your smartphone. Then, sign up for a new account and log in. Click on “Start a New Transaction.”

All you need to do next is input the details of your unused gift cards like the amount on the cards and the type of branded cards you want to exchange. Once you’ve verified the CVC, card number, and expiration date (if applicable), submit the transaction

The remaining value can be transferred directly into your account within 2-3 business days. There’s also a new option that allows you to receive your money instantly, within 15 minutes. 

Trade Your Unused Gift Cards for Cash with Prepaid2Cash Today

Don’t let your unused gift cards build up for another day when you can get cash for them right now! Cash out your gift card from hundreds of top-branded gift cards. The Prepaid2Cash gift card exchange app makes it easy, fast, and simple to get your cash.

Prepaid2Cash is the best way for you to get the cash you need from your unwanted and unused gift cards. You can even cash out gift cards with small balances. Get your cash instantly, deposited in as little as 15 minutes, through our smartphone app. 

Contact us today with any questions.

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