5 mins read Gift Card Brands

What Happens To Expired Or Unspent Gift Cards?

Gift cards are a brilliant marketing tool created by brands to ensure customer retention and give customers like you and me a convenient method of shopping at their stores. 

Both small local shops and large-scale businesses incorporate gift cards these days. They look great, but the real purpose is to guarantee that we’ll come back to the brand to spend money there. 

In reality, less than 80% of people actually redeem their gift cards before they expire. I’m sure the question, “What happens to those expired or unspent gift cards?” has crossed your mind once or twice, just like it did mine.

After doing some digging into this topic, I can finally provide an answer to that burning question.

In this article, I’ll break down exactly what occurs when gift cards go unspent or expire. By the end, you’ll never let a gift card balance go to waste again. Let’s dive in!

What Happens When Gift Cards Go Unspent?

When a gift card goes unspent and expires, the term is referred to as “gift card breakage” The issuing brand benefits from gift card breakage, and I would let you know how. 

gift card

To the company, when a gift card is sold, it is registered as an advanced payment. This is because they know you will come back to redeem it in the future. However, when you don’t, and it expires, some of that unspent balance goes back to the brand. The percentage depends on the state and tax laws governing them.

This is why some companies hope you do not redeem your gift card. Unless you want to give rich corporations your money, the best way to ensure you do not have unused gift card codes is by redeeming them early. 

Benefits Of Redeeming Gift Card On Time So It Doesn’t Go Unspent

A general study conducted indicated that most people redeem their gift cards within the first 6 months of getting them. The margin drops from 80% to as low as 10% between 9 months to a year. That being said, the significant reasons why you should redeem your gift cards on time are to beat inflation, utilize your digital assets when the brand is still functioning, and avoid losing the gift card.

1. Beat Inflation: In simple terms, inflation means the general rise in the price of goods and services over an elongated period. This happens in almost every country. When you redeem early, you will be able to enjoy the full benefits of your digital assets, as opposed to redeeming after inflation kicks in. Then your purchasing power reduces.

2. Redeeming When The Brand is Functioning: This mostly applies to small-scale businesses, but on rare occasions, medium and large businesses as well. Any business can suddenly go under. Sadly, when it does, your gift card becomes useless.

3. Avoid Losing Your Gift Card: It is very possible to misplace a gift card. Much more likely if you are a bit careless. How to avoid this happening is simply redeeming your gift card as soon as possible. 

How To Make Use Of Your Unused Gift Cards

It is common knowledge that one of the major reasons why gift cards expire is the customer’s lack of interest in the brand. It is hard for you to use a gift card at a brand you have little to no interest in. So the possible solutions are to either swap them or sell them for cash.

Top 7 Most Popular Gift Cards in Italy

1. Swap Them: This method may seem a bit crude and tedious, but it is worth a shot. You can look for a family member, friend, or colleague who has a gift card you want and is willing to collect yours. As I said, the chances are slim, but you won’t know unless you try.

2. Sell Them For Cash: Selling your unwanted gift cards for cash is a much more straightforward and convenient means of making use of the gift card. It also has a cash reward, so I believe you would like that if you are anything like me. If you reside in Nigeria or Ghana, the best place to sell your gift cards for cash is Cardtonic.

Frequently Asked Questions About Unused Or Expired Gift Cards

1. Is There Anything I Can Do With An Expired Gift Card?

Unfortunately, most retailers will not accept an expired gift card, so your options are very limited once that expiration date has passed. Trying to sell or trade an already expired gift card is usually not possible.

However, if the card is getting close to its expiration date, one option worth exploring is selling your unwanted gift card online on platforms like Cardtonic before it expires.

2. Can Gift Cards Expire?

Yes, gift cards can absolutely expire, which is why it’s so important to keep track of their expiration dates and use up the balance before you lose it.

While some states have laws prohibiting expiration dates or inactivity fees on gift cards, many still allow them. Be sure to check the fine print.

3. Where Can I Convert My Unused Gift Card To Cash?

If you have gift cards you know you won’t use, the best place to sell them for cash is through a reputable online gift card platform like Cardtonic.

4. Can I Redeem Expired Visa Gift Cards?

According to Visa’s policies, you should technically be able to use a Visa gift card until the funds are fully depleted, regardless of the expiration date printed on the card itself. 

However, in practice, some retailers may deny an expired Visa gift card. Your best bet is to call the number on the card and try to get a free replacement card issued before the expiration date

5. What Happens To The Money On Expired Gift Cards?

When a gift card goes unspent and hits its expiration date, the company essentially pockets that remaining balance. It’s called “gift card breakage”, and it’s a lucrative revenue stream for the company. 

6. Can I Get A Refund For An Unused Gift Card?

Most companies will not provide a refund for an unused or partially used gift card, unfortunately. Their policies usually state that gift cards are non-refundable. 


Gift cards offer convenience, but it’s crucial to understand what happens when they go unused or expire. With companies benefiting from unredeemed balances through “gift card breakage,” the responsibility is on you to be a savvy consumer. 

Check expiration dates diligently and redeem cards well before they expire to get full value. If you can’t use a card, explore selling options like Cardtonic to turn it into cash. 

Don’t let gift card balances collect dust – maximize every dollar by staying informed about policies. This guide has provided the insights to ensure your gift cards never go to waste. Your money is valuable, so make the most of those plastic cards!


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