Gift card tips and tricks

Gift cards are a popular birthday, Christmas and convenience gift – and a new app by Brisbane entrepreneur Tim Kelly aims to help you get the  most value out of the ones that you receive.

In 2012, the Australian National Retailers’ Association (ANRA) estimated that the size of the gift card market was approximately $1.5 billion per year, with 20% of ANRA survey respondents saying that gift cards were the type of present they would spend the most money on. In the USA, gift-card spending is estimated to be around $124 billion!

One of the biggest bugbears with gift cards, though, is the risk of expiry before your owner has had a chance to redeem it. So how can you avoid that?

How to avoid missing your gift card’s expiry

Brisbane-based Tim Kelly has provided one solution, with his ‘Use It Don’t Lose It’ app.

The app reminds consumers to use their gift cards before the nominated expiry date and even includes a prompt as to where the consumer has stored their card.

The Use It Don’t Lose It app was inspired by Tim’s own bad experience with a large Australian retailer.

Tim advised, “Last year I had a retailer refuse to honor a $100 gift card that had only just expired and I was absolutely furious.

“To receive a gift, that should be as good as cash, and to not be able to use it isn’t a nice feeling and I’m sure that millions of consumers throughout Australia can relate to my frustration.

Canstar caught up with Tim to find out a bit more about it.

Q: Why do you think it is that gift cards remain unused by their expiry date?  

A: I think the main reason is a simple one – people “stash” the cards somewhere and then forget about them.  They are either never seen again or by the time they are rediscovered, the expiry date has passed.

In addition, card users with only small balances remaining on the card often just discard the card and in other instances, shop policies might have restrictions on how the card can be used and therefore relinquish the card value without a fight.

I know of one customer that tried to use their VISA gift card three times but couldn’t.  Each time they had to phone VISA to get the pin reset which was then provided to the gifter of the card, who had to pass it on to the card user.  After the third attempt, the customer simply gave up on the card and relinquished the $50 value – it was all too hard.

Q: Why do think it is that gift cards have become such a popular gift?

A: I think people are attracted to the convenience that these cards present.  You can be sure that you have given a gift of value that the customer will use to buy something they like as opposed to trying to guess the recipient’s tastes and preferences.

In summary – it’s a safe option – and these days, a socially acceptable option.

Q: What are some of the shortest-term gift cards you have come across?

A: I have seen 3-month expiry dates on some items – rare, but it does happen. I have also seen a few of those Daily Deal websites offers with extremely short expiry dates. In general, 1 year and 2 year expiry dates are the accepted norm for gift cards from the major retailers in Australia.

There are a few retailers who have no expiry date on their gift cards but they are the roses amongst the thorns at the moment!

Q: Do you think there should be a mandated and uniform expiry period for all gift cards?

A: This was investigated by the Australian government in 2011/12 but that resulted in no changes to the present laws. Initially when I first began researching this issue some 2-3 years ago, I would have said, unequivocally, YES.

Now I would answer that with – expiry dates, in themselves, are not the issue.

It is the (non-existent) support and assistance available to consumers, to manage their growing gift card usage that needs attention – and a solution.

After all, some degree of responsibility needs to remain with the consumer to use the card but at the same time, retailers should recognise the needs of their customers using those cards.  They need cards that are easy to use and have few limitations (such as expiry dates).

 Q: Can you please explain how your app works?

A: Although initially focused on gift cards and vouchers, the app can also be used for other products and services that have deadlines or dates (such as the interest free periods etc).

Users simply need to load their gift card details (or the like) into the app and then select how often they would like to receive an expiry date reminder for that card.

The reminders serve as a prompt for users to recall their card and start thinking about what they could spend it on.

One of my favourite features of the app is the field which asks “where did you stash your card?”.  A simple concept but important as your card is useless if you can’t remember where it is!

I’m 100% committed to ensuring the app remains free for consumers for its lifetime and we also won’t be using customer’s details for SPAM or external marketers.

Customers will only receive email reminders on the dates that they actually choose to receive them.

We’ve designed the system to be as accessible for consumers as possible – they can use it online via our website or can download the apps through Google Play or the Apple App store.

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