Gift cards are pretty much all I want for Christmas. In fact, cold hard cash would be nice but I certainly won’t saying no to an M&S voucher if Santa drops one into my stocking. The mini-Minteds are keen for them too: not M&S of course. Game and Urban Outfitters have been strongly tipped as desirable; Top Shop at a push.
While gift cards are a little unimaginative, I’m delighted that my Christmas shopping is made easier. Plus I’m happy that the above-mentioned retailers will still be around before the gift cards expire (although perhaps just Amazon would be a safer bet the way the High Street is going). So long as the cards don’t get lost, and I’m looking at you, Darling Son, then all should be well.
With teenage spending habits as they are, I’m hoping we won’t hit one of the disadvantages of a gift card - the expiry date. Most have a 24-month life which seems like a long time. But it’s all too easy to leave them in your wallet or 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.
One trick for extending the valid period is to spend the tiniest amount on the gift card which normally restarts its whole life-span. Much better to spend a couple of quid on Sellotape or chocolate at John Lewis than let the whole £100 go out of date, for example. With most retailers, a simple balance check has the same effect.
What if I made the terrible mistake of giving gift cards from, horrors, Laura Ashley or some other drearily grown-up shop? I wouldn’t be alone. According a survey by the UK Gift Card & Voucher Association last year, about £300 million of gift vouchers goes unspent annually.
Instead of splashing out on chintz, the mini-Minteds could try to sell their ‘unusable’ gift card to an obliging family member or neighbour but there is another way. If you really won’t spend the money, you can sell the card online at Zeek. This website allows you to sell your unwanted cards for at least 8% less than the face value. [UPDATE 7 FEBRUARY 2019: ZEEK IS IN ADMINISTRATION AND MAY STOP TRADING, WE WILL KEEP YOU POSTED.] Worth a try if that £50 is only going to go to waste otherwise. You can also buy discounted gift cards. I saw a £100 Ted Baker card yesterday on the site for 15% off and a £20 one for Top Man for 10% off. I haven’t seen an Urban Outfitters one up there as yet though. Keeping a look out!
If you think straight cash would be a better gift for kids, check out our SMM guide to children’s savings accounts here. For your rights if your retailer goes bust before you’ve spent the card, see this handy Which? article here.