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How Australians can make the most of their gift cards this Christmas


Chinese customer handing cashier gift card in grocery store

Gift cards have long been hailed as the go-to Christmas present for those who are hard to buy for: the fickle nephew, fussy friend or distant colleague whose name you pulled for Kris Kringle.

They're convenient, diverse, and accessible at almost every turn: in supermarkets, service stations, chain stores and online. This makes them perfect for the uninspired or forgetful gifter.

But while we may love to give them, it's a different story when we're on the receiving end. As a nation, Aussies are sitting on a cool $835 million worth of unused gift card credit. The average person has two gift cards in their possession, with a combined untouched value of $187 each.

This raises the question of why we're so reluctant to spend our gift cards. Do we see this freedom of choice as a forced retail experience? Are we lazy, or just straight up forgetful?

Realistically, it can most likely be attributed to all three factors. But with gift card season staring us right in the face, it's important that any store credit we receive this year doesn't go to waste.

How to make sure you spend your gift cards

If you end up scoring a stash of gift cards this Christmas and want to get the most value out of them, you'll need to be proactive.

Know your expiry dates

The Australian government recently introduced laws around gift card expiries to protect Aussie consumers. Cards and vouchers sold after November 2019 will now be valid for a three-year period from the date of purchase. Previously, gift cards were only valid for one year from the purchase date, so this is a big win for consumers.

Some gift cards and vouchers now come with an unlimited expiry date as well, meaning you have no excuse not to use them. These retailers include:

Set a reminder

Once you know the expiry date, put measures in place to prevent it from slipping through the cracks. Set regular calendar reminders, leave notes on your desktop at work, use an alarm on your phone- anything that will remind you to spend it in time.

Keep your gift cards somewhere useful

We've all been at the checkout and thought "this would be a great time to use that card I've had for six months!" Problem is, it's sitting in the bottom of your desk drawer at home.

Try and stash your gift cards somewhere handy, like your wallet, handbag, phone case or car glove box. It goes without saying that if they're out of sight, they're out of mind.

Spend the entire balance at once

One in five Aussies have gift cards with money still remaining on them. If you end up packing plastic this Christmas, try and spend the entire balance at once, either in-store or online. Gift cards with smaller balances like $10 or $20 can be put towards a bigger purchase, to help bring down the overall cost. This way you aren't waiting for a smaller cheaper item to become available that you like.

The upcoming Boxing Day sales are also a good opportunity to stretch your voucher credit even further.

Use your voucher credit to buy for someone else

If you receive a gift card for a store you never shop at, use it to buy someone else a gift. This can end up saving you a small fortune on Christmas, birthday or anniversary gifts. For instance, you may not like electronics stores yourself, but your partner might love them. This can be a great way to offload the cost of gifts down the track ( and they don't have to know how you paid for it).

For more information on where and how to purchase gift cards, check out our guide on electronic gift cards and vouchers.

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