Although the holiday season has come and gone, innovation in the gift card industry remains just as strong as before the holidays. Once again, the source of innovation is our friend Target. This time Target has created a gift card that is also a buildable model plane. We have seen various combination toy slash gift card before, however this is the first combo that also requires assembly. The ingenuity that went into creating this product is truly praiseworthy and what we have come to expect from Target. The plane adds an element of fun the gift card industry that we haven’t seen before. This product not only displays the commitment Target has to their gift card department, but also opens a new category of giftcard. This category of the stand alone toy combined with a gift card component expands the scope of possible gift cards substantially. No longer can companies bank on the standard CR 80 gift card as their bread and butter card, but have to give their consumer an additional incentive to purchase a gift card. It will be interesting to see how Target’s competitors react to this new product launch. I would hazard a guess that we are about to see further product launches in the world of multipurpose gift cards.
By now, most of us have returned the holiday gifts that we didn’t want, but I’m betting you still have gift cards lying around.
You may even have some from past Christmases.
The National Retail Federation estimates that $2 billion in gift cards went unredeemed in 2012, bringing the total since 2005 to $43 billion.
Another study showed that the average household had around $300 in gift cards sitting around.
Gift cards were as popular as ever this holiday season, remaining the No. 1 requested gift for the fifth season in a row, according to the federation. The average person spent $156 on them, and total sales approached $29 billion.
So now that they’re in your wallet or desk drawer, or maybe tucked away in a holiday box, you should act before they are completely off your radar.
The easiest thing to do with unwanted cards is simply re-gift them.
The key is to identify a precise use — a colleague’s birthday, a relative’s graduation, a teacher’s gift basket.
Another option is to bring the card to a CVS pharmacy. By using a QR code and a smartphone, you can convert it into a CVS gift card.
The in-store service was launched in November by CVS and Plastic Jungle, one of the larger online gift card exchange companies. Plastic Jungle acts as a clearinghouse for the card sales, based on their value in its online marketplace.
The transaction comes with a price, as does any gift card sale or exchange.
“It’s not a dollar-for-dollar exchange,” said Margaret Mackenzie, CEO of Plastic Jungle. “We typically buy at around 80 percent of the face value of the card and then sell for 90 percent of the face value. We keep the margin, and the seller gets the liquidity.”
On the website, unused gift cards can be exchanged for cards to Amazon.com, for frequent flier miles with United Airlines, or for virtual currency to buy online games, music, movies and other digital content through Zeevex.
Another option is to sell the card.
EBay, one of the largest movers of unwanted cards, is swimming in them now as the holiday returns season hits its stride.
The online auction service had almost 25,000 active listings for gift cards this week, from hundreds of retailers and restaurants.
Prices are driven by supply and demand but were generally 10 to 25 percent off the face value. For example, a $25 Kohl’s card went for $21.56 this week, while an $80 card at Dick’s Sporting Goods went for just $67.
Those who don’t want to auction off their cards can try a number of online services that will either buy your cards for a percentage of the value or post them for sale.
To maximize your return, go to www.giftcardgranny.com. The site acts as an aggregator for six online services and shows you how much each will pay.
This week, Gift Card Granny showed that Wal-Mart and Target gift cards were selling for 94 or 93 cents on the dollar, respectively, at GiftCardRescue.com.
The aggregate site also shows the value if the same cards were converted to gift cards for Amazon.com, which is offering a 3 to 4 percent premium for the exchange.
A Wal-Mart gift card this week was selling for 98.7 percent of its value if exchanged for an Amazon gift card using Gift Card Rescue, while the Target gift card was going for 97.65 percent of its value.
Cards with less demand can go for far less. Gift Card Granny showed that a RadioShack gift card would sell for just 75 cents on the dollar at Card Pool, the highest buyer.
J.C. Penney gift cards would get only 68 cents on the dollar at Gift Card Zen. Again, add another 3 to 4 percent if you exchange for Amazon gift cards.
Those with lower-valued cards may want to consider Coupon Trade, sort of an eBay for gift cards. The service lets you list your gift card at the price you want and see whether it sells. Coupon Trade then pays to ship the card and takes a flat 10 percent commission and $1.75 listing fee.
Card Hub offers another listing service for gift cards that also ties in with a seller’s Facebook friends, card-buying companies and local buyers, said John Kiernan, senior analyst at the company.
Most of the buyers are companies, such as GiftCards.com, eBay, Plastic Jungle and ABC Gift Cards, he said.
“We’re like an exchange for gift cards,” Kiernan said.
Card Hub does not charge for the service and will let you list gift cards partially used with unusual amounts and from lesser-known retailers that other gift card services may not accept.
Kiernan advises those who want to sell locally to meet in a public place and have the buyer call the toll-free number to check the balance before the transaction is complete.
Electronic gift cards — generally codes used at an online retailer’s checkout — gained in popularity this holiday season and can also be sold through these services.
“E-gift cards picked up momentum this holiday season,” Kiernan said. “You could order digital gift cards right from the stores.”
It’s easy to check the balance on a gift card. Just contact the merchant either online or through its toll-free number.
Most website exchanges will list the retailer’s contact information for cardholders to check balances.
And the next time you need a gift card, consider buying from some of these sites as well.
You can save some money.
If someone took perfectly good cash (you could have used anytime, anywhere), and turned it into a gift card or gift certificate (that you now can’t), you need use it fast. If you don’t, there is a real risk the gift will become worthless and the law won’t protect you.
One of the biggest risks is you will forget about the gift before you use it; one financial firm estimates almost $2 billion worth of 2012’s gift cards will never be redeemed. Equally dangerous is something you have no control over and that is the business involved going out of business; consumers were stuck with $19 million in useless gift cards when the Sharper Image stores closed less than 2 months after Christmas in 2009.
Assuming you do not forget about the gift, and the business doesn’t close, your rights under the law depend on what type of card or certificate you received:
Gift Card or Gift Certificate Issued by a Local Massachusetts Business
- Only good at the store that issued it.
- Regulated by Massachusetts state law.
- Can expire after seven (7) years.
- Does not lose value over time.
- Can be redeemed for cash once the remaining value is 10% of the original value.
- The merchant does not have to reissue it if you lose it.
Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express Gift Card
- Issued by banks and accepted at stores that accept credit cards.
- Regulated by The Card Act of 2009, a federal law.
- Can expire after 5 years.
- Can lose value after the first year because of maintenance fees.
- Can be reissued if it is lost or stolen but fraudulent charges will not be refunded.
- Cannot be used for on-line shopping because there is no name or address associated with its owner.
Major Store or Restaurant Gift Card
- Most do not expire and most do not lose value because of fees. (Macy’s, Target, Walmart, Chili’s, Cheesecake Factory, etc.)
- But read the fine print because, if the business opted to issue it in such a way that it is exempt from state law, the card can expire and it can lose value because of maintenance fees.
Groupon or LivingSocial Deal
- The law on these is evolving as authorities wrestles with whether they are gift certificates or coupons.
- You generally have to use the entire voucher at one time. (So if you only buy $40 worth of food with your $50 voucher, you cannot use the remaining $10 for your next purchase.)
- After a voucher expires, both companies tell merchants they do not have to honor the entire voucher (i.e. $50 of food for $25) but they do have to credit the holder with the purchase price of the voucher (i.e. just the $25 cost of the $50 voucher).
- Groupon promises to refund the purchase price of a voucher if a business closes; LivingSocial only promises a refund if the business closed before the deal expired.
Reloadable Value Credit Card
- Worst cards for consumers.
- Issued by companies like GreenDot and Vanilla bearing a Visa or MasterCard logo.
- Lose value every month because of maintenance fees.
- Typically charge lots of ‘junk’ fees including a fee for checking your balance.
- Can be used at ATM’s if you pay fees up to $4 per withdrawal.
- Can be used for on-line shopping if you register your name and address.
If this article did not scare you into using your gift cards right away, consider selling them at a site like GiftcardRescue.com, CardPool.com or Giftcards.com. The sites will typically pay you 80% – 90% of a card’s face value if it is from a national chain.
This article was originally posted on golocalworcester.com by John T Longo.
NEW YORK — Gift cards are easily forgotten.
All too often, they’re placed in drawers or stuffed into wallets, never to be seen again. About $1.7 billion of the $110 billion gift cards bought in 2012 will go unused, according to estimates from research company CEB TowerGroup.
If you’re not happy about the store your gift card is from, don’t let the money go to waste. You have options, such as trading it in for cash or airline miles.
But the first step to take when you get a gift card is to register it on the company’s website, says Scott Gamm, founder of helpsavemydollars.com. Registration creates a record of how much money is on the card and will protect you in case you lose the card. Many companies, including coffee chain Starbucks, offer gift card registration. Just check the card provider’s website to see whether it’s offered.
Mobile apps can also help you keep track of your cards. The Gyft app, will even alert you if you are near a store that you have a card for. It stores both electronic and plastic gift cards.
Here are six ways to put a gift card to use:
1. TURN IT INTO CASH
For a $100 Target gift card, all three are paying $92. Depending on the store the gift card is for, you might have to mail the plastic card in, but in many cases just typing in the card number works. You’re then paid through PayPal or by check. You need to have at least a $25 balance on the card to sell it on plasticjungle.com and cardpool.com and $20 to sell it on giftcards.com.
2. THINK OUTSIDE THE CARD
Even though a card has a specific store name on the front, you might be able to use it in the parent company’s other stores. For example, an Old Navy gift card can be used at Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta stores and on Piperlime, the company’s online store. Similarly, TJX Cos. Inc. gift cards can be used at TJ Maxx, Marshalls or at Home Goods stores.
3. TRADE FOR MILES
A lingering gift card balance can bring you closer to a dream vacation. United Airlines customers enrolled in their MileagePlus program can exchange gift cards for award miles through the airline’s website. A $25 gift card is worth 1,000 award miles. United Airlines accepts gift cards from more than 100 stores. The gift card must have at least $15 on it for the airline to accept it.
4. GIVE TO THOSE IN NEED
Many charities, such as Goodwill, will take your gift card and distribute it to those who can put it to use.
Call your favorite charity to see whether it has a gift card program.
5. SWAP FOR ANOTHER CARD
Plasticjungle.com also charges less if you want to make the switch. Even though the website will pay $92 for a $100 Target gift card, it will give you $94.50 if you choose to turn it into an Amazon card.
6. RE-GIFT IT
You can always re-gift a card to someone who would appreciate it more. You’ll get rid of the card and you won’t have to buy a gift.
The Gyft app, which stores gift cards on smartphones, also enables you to re-gift the cards. The recipient doesn’t need to have the Gyft app downloaded. The gift card can be emailed as an electronic gift card or it can be posted on a Facebook account.
Savvy shoppers and consumer-friendly regulations will keep more value on holiday gift cards than ever before, according to researchers at an executive think tank. In a statement to reporters, representatives from CEB TowerGroup Research said that nearly 85% of the U.S. population exchanged prepaid gift cards during 2012, for a total of over $110 billion in stored value.
However, as a result of the Credit CARD Act of 2009, retailers and gift card issuers can’t pocket leftover funds on most gift cards until at least five years after their last load. CEB’s research shows that “gift card spillage” dropped from $8 billion per year in 2007, to just under $1.7 billion in 2012.
CEB TowerGroup officials credit the proliferation of “open loop” gift cards with much of the market’s expansion. Bearing Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover logos and redeemable at most retailers, open loop gift cards account for much of the industry’s growth over the past five years. Researchers reported that 75% of consumers redeem these gift cards in full, while 30% of consumers will spend as much as $25 in cash to complement their gift card redemptions.
Research also indicates that physical gift cards remain far more popular among gift-givers than electronic vouchers. E-cards accounted for just $3 billion of the gift card market in 2012, especially as holiday shoppers picked up attractive, last-minute gift card packages at supermarkets, banks, and convenience stores. CEB TowerGroup senior research director Brian Riley told reporters that the “variety and assortment of gift cards available” helped gift givers pick cards that their recipients will actually use.
At this rate, researchers said, the gift card market could top $130 billion in annual sales by 2015, with electronic gift cards accounting for about 15% of the industry’s revenues. With sustained demand for gift card activations at retail locations, American Express and Chase have expanded plans to use the same channels to support new prepaid debit card products.
The original article can be found at CardRatings.com:
Americans squeeze more value from gift cards, even as stored balances soar.
With the end of the holiday season, one would expect to see a drop in the gift card launches and therefore a drop in innovation. However, Target has once again proven itself to be the leader when it comes to innovation. This time around Target has chosen to simultaneously launch three new products. All three of these products are multi-packs, which we have seen before, yet never in these quantities. The new release includes a ten, twenty and fifty card multi-pack. Normally, we see packs of 5 or sometimes eight, but never such large quantities before. These packs, especially the 50 pack, must require a tremendous degree of sophistication. According to the Target employee that I spoke to they are all activated simultaneously by simply scanning the bar code and entering the amount to be put on each card. Aside from the complexity of the pack, we should infer that sales of smaller multi-packs are going quite well. Thus, Target wants to offer its customers the convenience of purchasing as many cards as they want simultaneously. The packs were located at various locations around the store except for the fifty pack, which was only in a display on the customer service counter. By placing them throughout the store, Target is heavily promoting this new product on to its customers, rather than hoping for the impulse buy at the checkout line with its other gift cards. We will be interested to see how long these larger multi-packs remain in Target stores and if they are a success, who will be the next company to copy them.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The gift card business is big business, a $9 billion industry just in 2012 alone. If you got one, read that fine print carefully as some cards might have what called a “dormancy fee.”
It’s a fee that kicks in after one year if the card isn’t used. Every month the card loses a few dollars of value.
Tom Bartholomy from the Charlotte Better Business Bureau said don’t assume the fine print explaining the fee structure is on the card itself.
“If someone just gave you and took off the packaging already, you might be missing valuable information, so call the number or visit the website to see what the fee structure is” said Bartholomy.
Federal law prevents gifts from expiring until five years after they’re bought, but there may be activation fees beyond the initial cost of buying it that you need to know. For example, if you lose the card or if the company goes out of business, then you are out of luck and out the value of the card.
In 2009, $5 billion worth of gift cards went unused and it’s now estimated that Wal-Mart has roughly $1 billion worth of unused gift cards in circulation right now.
RetailMeNot.com, which describes itself as the largest online coupon site in the United States, last week released a survey that suggested 27 percent of Americans acknowledge that they usually only use up to half of the value of gift cards or gift certificates when shopping” according to the Charlotte BBB.
Over $100 million of gift cards were rendered useless or compromised in value in some way in 2008 because of the bankruptcies of Sharper Image, Linens ‘n Things, and other failed retailers with outstanding gift cards.
By the numbers, 61 percent of gift card holders spend more than the gifted amount and 75 percent of gift card shoppers spend 60 percent more than the value of the gift card. Purchases made with a gift card are typically between 20 percent and 50 percent higher than the average purchase price.
Here is a good link that breaks down the laws for gift cards in all 50 states. There are some differences from state to state.
Metro Detroiters have more time to spend the gift cards they received this holiday season, thanks to changes to state laws that have made swiping the plastic easier than ever.
Gift cards can’t expire for at least five years, and the annoying inactivity fees that used to eat away at the balance are a thing of the past.
The simplified process comes at a time when gift cards are more popular than in years past, according to industry analysts.
In a November holiday spending survey, the National Retail Federation said consumers will spend an average of $156.86 on gift cards this holiday season, the highest amount in the survey’s 10-year history. More than 80 percent of shoppers will purchase a gift card, the federation said.
“Sometimes you don’t know what to get someone and you can allow them the freedom to pick something out themselves,” said Bill Hallan, vice president of government affairs and general consul with the Michigan Retailers Association. “I think they are really popular.”
That’s due, in part, to changes to state law, Hallan said.
Prior to 2008, if a gift card went unclaimed past its expiration date, the retailer was required to report it as abandoned and the money went to the state as unclaimed property, Hallan said.
After 2008, laws said the gift cards no longer can have expiration dates of less than five years. In addition, the retailers can’t change the terms and conditions during that time period and can’t charge inactivity fees or service fees, although Hallan said there can still be an activation fee.
In addition, retailers — not the state — retains the money if cards go unused for longer than five years.
“It’s kind of a win-win for consumers and retailers,” Hallan said.
Ed Nakfoor, a retail consultant in Birmingham, cautioned shoppers that, despite the reduction in fees, they should still be familiar with each card.
“I think it really comes back to ‘buyer beware,’” he said. “It’s all about reading that fine print. It’s incumbent on the consumers to find all that out.”
Still, Nakfoor said buyers need to be aware of any stores that could potentially close, or go into bankruptcy, and avoid purchasing gift cards from them.
As long as it’s a location the person frequents, they make perfect last-minutes gifts, he said.
“Rather than giving cash, the idea of a gift card seems like there’s a little more thought to it,” he said. “A lot of places put them in a nice envelope; it looks like more of a gift.”
And, he said, you never have to return it.
Six out of 10 Americans received a gift card this holiday season, and thanks to the Gift Card Weekend, they can now get more than they had hoped.
The second annual Gift Card Weekend is being held this coming weekend, January 4–6. Customers who redeem their gift cards at participating retailers will receive gifts and incentives for shopping either in store or online.
Rebekka Rea, executive director of the Retail Gift Card Association (RGCA) – a sponsor of Gift Card Weekend, wants people to know that turning the most popular gift this holiday season into the perfect present gets even better. “Gift Card Weekend is a time when our retail sponsors say thank you to their customers by giving them a little something extra. This is a fun way to extend the joy of gift giving, and we hope customers will shop and redeem their gift cards this weekend.”
Gift Card Weekend is sponsored by some of the country’s largest gift card organizations and companies, including Gift Card Impressions (GCI). Liz Trimble, director of online for GCI says, “GCI is excited to be part of the second Gift Card Weekend. We have more retailers participating this year, which means only great things for consumers. Getting more than you bargained for is a great way to start 2013.”
Retail partners include such popular brands as Cabela’s, JCPenney, Red Lobster, Chili’s and AMC Theatres. RGCA and GCI have partnered with InComm and Ceridian Stored Value Solutions to sponsor Gift Card Weekend. For more information about Gift Card Weekend, its sponsors and participating retailers, please visit www.giftcardweekend.com.
The Retail Gift Card Association was founded in 2008 to promote the use of in-store gift cards. To be a member of the RGCA the retailer’s gift cards can neither expire nor have any fees associated with the product. For more information about RGCA, please visit www.thergca.org or follow the association on Twitter @TheRGCA or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/retailgiftcards.
This article was originally posted on Pyments.com .
Christmas may be over but that has not stopped people from shopping in record numbers. At Target, sales continued to be brisk Wednesday.
“Our returns have been very light but we have our after-Christmas sales and have seen lots of gift cards,” said Paul Tuttle, store manager. “This is the largest gift card sales we have ever seen, so we are anticipating a very busy post season. Videos, electronics and Christmas clearance items are big, as are our containers for storage and organizing. People are also thinking about health resolutions, so health foods and [exercise-related] items have been very popular.”
By 1 p.m. numerous shoppers waited in line to return or exchange items.
The parking lot was filled with vehicles and the store with shoppers. Among them was Andrea Morales.
“I’m using a gift card today. I enjoy getting them and giving them to nephews and nieces. It’s simple and they can get specifically what they want,” she said.
Bertha Gutierrez and Abigail Munguia of Terra Bella left the store with a shopping cart filled with Christmas wrap and accessories and several large red and green storage boxes.
“We do this every year — hit the stores the day after Christmas,” Gutierrez said. “My husband gave me cash this year. Usually I get something for me but this year I decided to get some things for the house.”
Gutierrez said she is tired of storing Christmas treasures in carton boxes, resulting in misplaced or ruined items.
“We live in Terra Bella in the country and have a storage out back. More than once I have found mice get in the boxes. There’s always spiders and once I found a scorpion in there. This year I’m storing it all correctly and marking each box with what is inside.”
As the two walked away from the store, Zachary Hopson walked toward the store — an Xbox 360 in his arms.
“We got this for Christmas and we like it but I’m trying to see how much it will be to upgrade it to the next model,” he said. “If it’s not too much, we might go ahead and get it. Or we might just leave with this same one. We also received a few gift cards this year. Gift cards are always nice.”
At Rue 21, a specialty discount retailer of young men and women’s casual apparel and accessories which opened earlier in the year, Deborah Villa left the store with her brother and mother, with their exchanges.
“We just had to get a different size,” she said. “The people inside have been really good and real patient with us.”
Assistant manager Rebekah Cruz said the day after Christmas is all about exchanging and buying what one didn’t get.
“We prepare for it so we’re ready,” Cruz said. “The store has been busy. We stayed open until 6 p.m. Christmas Eve and we had people in here all evening. Our gift cards did really well. We sold them all — the ones we had in stock. It’s been busier than usual.”
Employees at Maurice’s experienced a similar morning.
“They’re just having fun shopping. The majority of them ask us to help them pick something. They seem to like the [shopping] experience,” said sales associate Christina Pineda, adding that many of them were already spending their gift cards.
The retail chain specializes in young women’s attire, shoes and accessories.
“It’s been extremely busy. We were open on Christmas Eve until 6 p.m. and at 6:30, still had several people here,” said assistant manager Thomas Schaufelberger. “We’re expecting a big shopping day, especially with the sales we are offering. It’s been busy. Our sales have doubled from last year.”
Gift certificates also fared well at Special Occasions and Gifts — a store offering an assortment of fine and unique gifts on Main Street. However, people tend to hold on to them and cash them in for gifts through the year, said co-owner Carrie Brinkley.
“We’ve been busy but have had only one exchange today. We’re now rearranging our store to feature our Valentines and Easter items, since Easter comes early this year,” Brinkley said. “We had a very blessed Christmas and would like to thank our customers for 31 years of business.”
This article was originally posted on Recorderonline.com by Esther Avila.