- There's about $15 billion in gift cards, vouchers and/or store credits that have not been used.
- That represents an average value of $116 per person.
- Because those unused funds could be lost, the best strategy is to come up with a way to spend it.
If you're like many Americans, you could be sitting on a small financial windfall.
A new Bankrate.com survey finds that more than half of adults — 51% — currently have unused gift cards, vouchers and store credits. In total, that adds up to approximately $15 billion in unused money.
The average value per person of those unused credits: $116.
What's more, many people — 73% — have left those funds untouched for a year or more.
There has been some progress. Last year, the average unused value per person was $167.
Still, people should make a plan to put these funds to work, said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate.com.
"The less unused value, the better," Rossman said. "I think a lot of people hold on to these for too long and end up losing them."
Millennials, in particular, were most likely to have unused credits sitting around with no plans to put the money to use, the survey found.
The good news is that most gift cards do not expire until after five years, if they do at all, Rossman said. But cardholders are still susceptible to losing those funds because they may misplace the cards, forget about them or forfeit the ability to trade them in if a store goes out of business.
The best way to remedy that is to assess your outstanding store credits and make a plan to use the money.
"If you can't use it for yourself, at least use it for somebody else," either by buying a gift or passing on the card, Rossman said.
Most gift cards are reloadable, so even if you have an uneven amount like $9.22 left, you may be able to add more money to it and regift it.
Alternatively, you could also try to resell the card at websites like CardCash.com or Raise.com, which can let you get back up to 85% of its value.
Bottom line: "Don't just let it sit around," Rossman said. "That's like the worst outcome."
The Bankrate survey of 2,387 U.S. adults was conducted online between June 30 and July 2.