Although gift cards have topped holiday wish lists in recent years, half of U.S. adults currently have unredeemed gift cards or store credits that are estimated to be valued at $21 billion in untouched money, according to a new survey released on Tuesday from personal finance resource Bankrate. This whopping 10-figure number even includes airline redemption vouchers.
High-income households tend to leave the most on the table when it comes to unused gift card funds. On average, families that make $80,000 or more have $297 in unredeemed cards. This number drops down slightly for parents who have children under the age of 18, according to Bankrate, who instead have $274 in unredeemed gift cards on average.
The other demographic that is most likely to leave money on gift cards are Millennials between the ages of 24 and 39. On average, $234 is left on these cards.
Both Gen Xers between the ages of 40 and 55 and low-income households that make under $30,000 are least likely to leave money on gift cards, according to Bankrate. In particular, only 46 percent of Gen X leave money on gift cards while 41 percent of low-income households do the same.
With all the demographics are factored, the average adult has $167 in unused gift cards or credits, according to Bankrate.
Thirty-six percent of respondents to Bankrate's survey said they don't plan to use all their gift cards or store credits.
On the flip side, 23 percent of respondents said they plan to use most of their unredeemed cards. Conversely, nine percent said they plan to use only a few of their gift cards while four percent said they plan to spend none.
In terms of how long people are holding on to gift cards, 57 percent of respondents said they have held onto at least one gift card for more than a year. The generation that is most likely to hold onto gift cards for more than 365 days turns out to be Gen Z (ages 18 to 23), according to the 70 percent of respondents who answered the Bankrate survey. Fifty-six percent of older respondents answered the same.
Additionally, one-quarter of U.S. adults have had gift cards expire.
For the people who haven't used their gift cards, there are different approaches or reasons for why it occurs, according to the survey. Twenty-three percent said they re-gifted their cards, 22 percent said they lost their gift cards and eight percent said they resold at least one gift card.
Millennials are said to be more likely to re-gift their cards at 27 percent while Gen Z is most likely to have lost one card at 33 percent.
"Gift cards and store credits are real money, so treat them as such," said Ted Rossman, a Bankrate analyst. "If you've been holding onto a gift card from a store you don't like, there's nothing wrong with re-gifting it, using it to buy a gift for someone else, or even selling it."
"You can sell unwanted gift cards at sites such as Cardpool.com, CardCash.com, and GiftCardSpread.com," Rossman added. "You can also buy discounted gift cards from these sites. That's a great way to save on an upcoming purchase. Look for consumer protections – for example, Cardpool offers a one-year guarantee on gift cards it resells."
Bankrate's survey was commissioned by YouGov Plc, which included a sample size of 2,602 adult – 1,312 of which have current unused gift cards or store credit.