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Using up gift card balances

If the contents of your wallet includes gift cards with a useless balance - say $2.54 - you will understand that the frustration of lugging these cards around which have no real value to you; or do they?

Know the balance Call the retailer's 1-800 number to verify the balances on the cards. Some cards require you to register your card to check your balance, but this can be useful if that piece of plastic is lost or stolen. Who knows, you may have more on the cards than you realize.

Keep track of the balance Some gift cards have an area on the back where you can note your remaining balance, or write the total amount on a sticky note and wrap it around the card with an elastic band.

Add to the balance If you want to make a purchase, calculate the total cost and then buy a gift card for the remaining amount.

Know the merchant policies Some stores allow card holders to pay for purchases in multiple ways, so you can empty the card and fork over cash or use a credit card to complete the transaction.

Know your spending habits Avoid a "dangling" balance by knowing where you like to shop and where you will probably never go again, then you know you will use up the balance at a future date.


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