Gift cards: shoppers losing millions

Customers lose out on up to £300 million a year as a result of expired gift cards

Updated: 
Plastic cards

Expiration dates on gift cards and vouchers are leaving thousands of shoppers out of pocket each year.

In fact, with some expiring just six months from the date of purchase, anyone who received one as a Christmas gift last year could soon find the present they've been holding on to is literally worthless.

Data from the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association suggests that we're losing out to the tune of £300 million a year.

Tesco worker jailed for £132,500 gift card thefts

Expiration confusion

The problem is that many of us (perhaps fairly) assume that gift cards and vouchers have no expiration date.

And even if you are aware, it can be difficult to know exactly how long you have given that each shop has the right to set its own date – these can range anywhere from six months to 10 years.

As we're seldom given these cards when we're at the shop in question, it's all too easy to forget to use them. Price comparison site GoCompare estimates that two fifths of UK adults have unspent gift cards wasting away somewhere.

To avoid losing out, Gocompare's Claire Peate suggests you check the purchase date of the card against the expiry date and make a note of it.

"If your card or voucher doesn't carry this information you can contact the issuing company and they will be able to provide this information from the code printed on the gift card or voucher.

"Also if you are buying a gift card or voucher as a present, make sure the receiver knows the value and the use-by date - this will help to ensure that the recipient is more likely to benefit from your gift, rather than the retailer!"

It is important to remember that the valid period often starts from the date the gift card or voucher was bought, not when it was given.

Just give someone cash

Of course there is an easier way to avoid losing out in the gift card scam: just give cash. It never expires, the recipient can spend it in any shop they want, and it's every bit as secure.

What do you think? Are gift cards a bad idea? Or do you think giving cash is too impersonal? Share your thoughts in the comments section below

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