5 On Your Side

Have unused gift cards or store credits? 5 On Your Side says use them

Posted August 31, 2020 5:54 p.m. EDT
Updated August 31, 2020 6:19 p.m. EDT

Would you just throw away $20 or $50?

Of course not.

But, many people do with gift cards. It’s estimated unused ones add up to about $20 billion nationwide.

With companies filing for bankruptcy, attorney Ciara Rogers suggested people use their gift cards as soon as possible.

Even though stores and restaurants are open, it may not be enough for all of them to survive — some are headed for bankruptcy.

"What we’re seeing is a lot of commercial filings, stores, retail industry," said Rogers, who is a bankruptcy attorney with The Law Offices of Oliver & Cheek.

She said she believes there will be more bankruptcy filings in the months to come.

"There are lots of websites online that tell you which companies, big box store companies, may be in danger of filing for bankruptcy, " she said.

She suggested searching “companies in danger of filing.” That status impacts gift cards, gift certificates and store credits.

Even if a business has already, customers may still be able to use gift cards, provided a court allows it as part of the bankruptcy process.

"Monitor how long you’ll be able to use those, because there may be a very short time frame," explained Rogers.

Some places, like Pier One, could have different time frames for using cards online or in a store. Rules could also vary between stores.

Another option is gift card resale sites.

"You may decide that you want to sell your $50 gift card for $35, because you’d rather have the $35 than the $50 gift card," said Rogers.

To get the most of that money, do what Rogers does.

"When I get a gift card, I usually spend it as soon as I get it. So I don’t hold onto them too long," she said.

Once a business shuts its doors, consumers are pretty much out of luck.

Technically, consumers can file a claim in court, but they’re considered the lowest priority. Consumers are paid only if money is left after big creditors, such as suppliers and loan holders, are paid.

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