I love a gift voucher, especially when it's in pounds not euros like the photo here - don't worry, the picture editor is in very hot water. A good old-fashioned gift card allows me to buy what I actually want rather than putting up with a present I don’t like or need. Also, if it’s from a store I visit regularly, such as John Lewis or Marks & Spencer, I can use up the money on everyday necessities if I can’t think of anything for myself. It’s a win-win situation.
However, there’s always a fly in the ointment and, with gift cards, it’s the expiry date. Most vouchers have a 24-month life which seems like a long time. But it’s all too easy to leave them in your wallet and drawer and then find they’ve passed their sell-by date. Once that’s happened, you can kiss goodbye to the monetary value because the store won’t honour it.
This happened to a Skinted Minted Mum just recently (thanks for the story, KN!). Our reader was stockpiling John Lewis gift cards she received from work as a performance bonus. Her idea was to collate them and buy a large item rather than just fritter the smaller amounts. To her horror, she discovered that one of them (worth £100) had passed its expiry date. She went to the store and wrote to head office in an attempt to reclaim the money but to no avail. John Lewis refused to pay out. That's not very Christmassy behaviour in my book and seems to be a nice little addition to company profits too.
So if you do get vouchers for Christmas, remember to spend them and preferably in the January sales. Another way to keep them alive is to spend the tiniest amount on them: a single transaction on most cards resets the (usually) 24-month period. If KN had bought a nick-nack for £1.50 on her John Lewis gift card, she would still have £98.50 today which is a lot more than zero. A simple balance check (with John Lewis gift cards at least) also has the same effect.
Finally, if you really won’t spend the money, you can always try to sell the voucher online at Zeek. [UPDATE 7 FEBRUARY 2019: ZEEK IS IN ADMINISTRATION AND MAY STOP TRADING, WE WILL KEEP YOU POSTED.] This website allows you to buy discounted gift cards and sell your own unwanted ones (for at least 8% less than the face value). Worth a try when you consider that a survey by the UK Gift Card & Voucher Association found that about £300 million of gift vouchers goes unspent every year. Just think of all the M&S dressing gowns you could have got with that …
For the SMM guide to saving on Christmas, see here.