Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Reasons why we hoard gift cards
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a gift card which sits in your wallet for months-even years--unspent? You're not alone. I'm currently carrying six gift cards that I've owned for at least 10 months.
It's not that these cards are necessarily forgotten. Instead, they are "reserved" for special occasion spending. That sounds perfectly reasonable, until you consider that people (me) will actually visit the restaurant or retailer for whom they are carrying a gift card and pay for their meal or purchase with cash or plastic.
Why do we do this? UCLA marketing professor Suzanne Shu says it has a lot to do with psychology. (Marketplace.publicradio.org Aug. 26)
Shu says gift cards are like rewards, and we feel like we need to create a great occasion around using them. But those occasions sometimes don't present themselves as often as we might think they will.
So this holiday season, as you receive gift cards or certificates make a plan for their use. Save your own hard-earned cash and use those cards for the purchases you would be making anyway. Don't let inactivity fees eat away your balance, or the closing of a retailer rob you of the card's worth. Plan a time to use restaurant, massage, or other service-type gift cards, and don't wait for a "special occasion"-the receipt of the gift card alone can be the special occasion.