As the WSJ reports, many states are boosting revenues by collecting so-called “abandoned property,” including unused retail gift cards. If a card is not used in as few as two years after being purchased, the states can claim the card’s value.
States are supposed to track down the card owners and get them their money back, but often that’s impossible. Many gift cards are purchased with cash and are totally untraceable. If that’s the situation, the state generally collects the money. New York, for instance, collected $9.6 million in unused gift cards in 2008. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: About $65 billion is spent on gift cards in the U.S. annually, and $6.8 billion of that is never redeemed.
So if you’ve got gift cards lying around the house, try to use them. And if you’re thinking about buying one as a gift, consider cash instead. You know that’ll get used.