If you have unused gift cards in your wallet right now, you are in good company: There’s an estimated $44 billion dollars in unredeemed gift cards floating around out there.
Consumers who saved them for a rainy day in recent years learned to regret that, as they bumped into the buzzsaw of retailer bankruptcy. Radio Shack, Linens ‘n Things, The Sharper Image – the list is a long one, and many consumers holding gift cards to the affected stores said they didn’t know about the business failures until it was too late.
Which is where the “Gift Card Girlfriend” comes in. Blogger Shelley Hunter says the recent Radio Shack bankruptcy put her over the edge, and her “Gift Card Watch List” was born.
“The idea to create the graveyard and the watch list is for me to have a way to say, 'Look, these are some things that have happened with gift cards, these are the gift cards currently in jeopardy of going defunct, and if you have any of them, go out and use them.'” Hunter advises.
Thanks to the Credit Card Act of 2009, there are federal protections in place which make gift cards more secure than ever. But the law does not safeguard against a retailer’s failure.
Chicago attorney Clint Krislov says consumers don’t play their cards right when they assume a bankruptcy means their plastic is automatically worthless.
“They could individually make claims and they would have priority and everybody knows and recognizes they have priority, but most people figure well, the company went bankrupt, my gift cards are worthless,” Krislov explains. “So the general creditors just grab up all the money, and the gift card holders wind up with nothing.”