Check your wallet: Nearly half of Americans have $21 billion in unused gift cards, survey finds

Have you used those gifts cards you got for your birthday or Christmas yet?

If you haven't used that credit to go shopping or get a meal, you aren't alone. A new survey from CreditCards.com found nearly half (47%) of Americans have one unused gift card, voucher or store credit, totaling $21 billion nationwide.

The findings were determined after CreditCards.com commissioned YouGov Plc to survey 2,372 adults online in July about gift card use.  

On average, a person has $175 in unspent gift cards, vouchers and store credit, a $61 jump from 2021. 

"They’re not going to get more valuable over time," Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, said in a statement. "In fact, it’s the exact opposite, as inflation eats away at the value. And the longer you hold on to these unused gift cards, the more likely you are to lose them, forget about them or have the store go out of business."

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Younger people are not using gift cards

The survey results also showed younger people are letting the credit go to waste more: 52% of millennials and 51% of Gen Z have at least one unused gift card around. On average, millennials have $226 in credit, and Gen Zers have $149.

Only 43% of Gen Xers have one, and 42% of baby boomers have one, the findings show. Gen Xers have about $180 in unused gift cards and boomers have $133. 

Income factors 

CreditCards.com noted that the more money a person makes, the more they have in unspent gift cards. 

Results showed 41% Americans with annual household incomes of less than $50,000 have gift cards to use, averaging $128. 

Meanwhile, 57% people with incomes of $80,000-$99,999 have unused cards, with an average of $227. For those making at least six figures, 56% of those have unused cards of an average $265. 

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How to make sure those gift cards are being used

Even if you know you received a gift card recently, a problem people have is holding on to them for too long (29%) or not knowing where it is (25%). Another problem was having a gift card for so long that the business closed before the card could be used. In total, 47% of gift card owners eventually lose out on the gift money. 

Rossman said people should clean out their wallets, junk drawers, glove compartments or anywhere a gift card could be. 

If you don't want to or can't use the gift card yourself, experts said, gift cards can be regifted – if they are still valid – or they can be resold for cash on various websites to ensure the money is not lost. 

"With inflation at a 40-year high, everyone is looking for ways to save money," Rossman said. "Putting your unused gift cards to work is an easy way to unlock some hidden value."

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.