Eeeww! Zombie Gift Cards That Won’t Go Away

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Forever Gift Cards

My Forever Gift Cards – The Ones I Just Can’t Finish Off

I love a deal, especially on goods or services I normally consume.  Sometimes, a deal is so good to me, that I’ll admittedly go after it even if it isn’t the exact item I would normally consume.  My favorite deal category is probably discounted gift cards.  This deal type is consistently available and relatively quick to complete.  I’m not a reseller, but I’m fairly active in buying and using discounted gift cards to save money on everyday living expenses and some splurges.  I periodically review my gift card files (yes, I use a filing system), and I keep seeing some that I’ve had for years.  Why not go through these forever gift cards and the various reasons I still haven’t used them up?

Steak ‘n Shake

I obtained these gift cards a few years back when they were 25% off at Sam’s Club.  Previously, I had only seen restaurant gift cards up to 20% off at Sam’s, and I thought 25% off was a good deal for a burger joint I enjoyed every now and then.  Little did I know that 25% off became the new standard for Sam’s extreme value gift cards.  About one year after I bought the $50 Gift Card for $37.50, all of the Steak ‘n Shake locations in my area closed.  I figured I’d end up visiting locations when I traveled elsewhere, but of course other local restaurants took priority.  No surprise, I still have plenty of money left on the card.

Forever Gift Cards

Regal Cinemas

I enjoy visiting a small movie theater nearby, but they don’t end up screening every film I want to see.  Alas, I’ve normally ended up at Regal for years.  My favorite move has been Tuesday night (the cheap ticket night) for the late show, often with my own theater.  I normally consume a $25 gift card normally over several months, so I picked up another late last year.  Buying a $5 off $25 Regal gift card, plus 4x fuel points, late last year seemed to make sense.  A global pandemic wasn’t within the realm of possibility to me as I bought said gift card.  This one sits within the file in pristine, unused condition.

Cold Stone Creamery

I picked up Cold Stone gift cards at Costco four or five years ago.  Okay, I didn’t pick them up – they were emailed to me.  This may sound silly, but the fact that there’s no actual card is a big reason I haven’t used this one up.  Instead, I have a barcode and long gift card number stretched across a wrinkled piece of printer paper.  Not exactly an item I keep in mind.  Hopefully, I use this thing before it looks more like a centuries-old artifact than a gift card.

Forever Gift Cards
Speedway has often held great gift card deals. It’s too bad I can’t use Speedway gift cards for third party gift cards!

Speedway

Several years back, I bought Speedway gift cards on Ebay for 8% off sticker price.  This was during the heyday of Ebay stacking.  I would track through a cash back portal to buy gift cards (Speedway, in this example) on Ebay while earning Ebay bucks and paying with a discounted Ebay gift card.  Others had even more convoluted, lucrative strategies.  Again, I’m not a reseller, so I bought a healthy amount for personal use.  Since then, we relocated to another region which has less convenient Speedway locations.

On top of that, I do earn Kroger fuel points and enjoy using those (to an extent).  I am spending down the Speedway gift cards on fuel, just not at the speed I prefer.  They’ve come in handy as gifts for family members and use at my favorite location, the Speedway close by Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.  I should have these finished up relatively soon.

Fuddrucker’s

Similar to Steak ‘n Shake, I got a 25% deal on Fuddrucker’s cards at Sam’s Club.  I vividly recall enjoying Fuddrucker’s from my youth, and we’ve visited annually up until a few years ago.  We only have one (inconvenient) location left in our area, though.  I need to finish this one up, as they’ve been shutting down properties for years.

Hotels.com gift cards sometimes provide solid discounts in lower denominations. Now, I only need to get around to using them….

Hotels.com

I consolidated all value on one Hotels.com gift card after I bought several $50 gift cards that each came with a $15 bonus a few years ago, effectively ~23% off Hotels.com rates.  We’ve ended up using other chains’ hotel points for most stays since, and the pandemic has made this card unnecessary this year.  Maybe it’s just me, but many times I’m on Hotels.com, find great rates, then lose motivation and use other points currencies.  I’ll get around to using the card, but I’m not quite sure when.

Visa Gift Cards

I have a countless number of VGC’s with a penny or two on them.  I feel like I could build a second home with them.  Of course, I’ll never go to the effort of squeezing every last drop from these cards.  I’m sure I’m not alone here.  They’ll be trashed soon enough.

Forever Gift Cards – Conclusion

Overall, I feel I’ve done a productive job of consuming all of the gift cards I’ve purchased.  But breakage risk is always out there.  An even bigger risk I see is loading gift cards to online merchant accounts.  I need that visual reminder that the gift cards need to be used.  Of course, organization helps, but at a certain level the benefits of discounted gift cards are outweighed by the potential risks.  It’s key to identify your level of comfort with this, and all other, aspects of the hobby.  What are your forever gift cards?  Will you ever use them?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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16 COMMENTS

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16 COMMENTS

  1. I have somewhere around 400 visa gift cards that might have upto a dollar on them, I like to randomize the amounts. One of these days im going to prepay my cable bill with them.

  2. I’ve used the last $10 or so on a Visa gift card at giftcards.com to buy a Target or Sephora gift card, since those are so much easier to use up.

    • I bought $3,000 worth of $100 Hotels.com gift cards when they were on sale for $75 at BJ’s Wholesale a few years ago.
      So happy I did, because they’ve never been sold again for this low.
      I use them exactly as you mention – extremely easy to use for all members (and friends) of the family at non-chain hotels around the globe.

  3. This article got me to look at my stack. I’m sitting on some Morton’s Steakhouse GCs for 10+ years, and some newer Gordon Biersch GCs from a great Sams Club deal only to find out the AZ location I was planning to use them at closed since my last vacation there.

    • Larry,

      Whoa! Hopefully, one or two decadent meals at Morton’s will take care of those. I just looked up Gordon Biersch locations, and I was surprised to see ours has closed. There only appear to be several left!

  4. Mine would be Texas de Brazil and TGIFridays. Both were bought from BJs (or was it Sams?) During one of their holiday sales on GCs. Turns out the TGIFridays came with no pin, so couldn’t sell them thru my normal avenues. TexasdeBrazil were selling on Raise, but then found out they’re a restricted brand that can’t be sold on Raise (not valid with promos/ other discounts etc.) Still carrying over $1,200 between the two.

    • Use those Fridays GCs as soon as possible! So much fraud on those (for me) that I stopped buying them for personal use and even stopped eating there.

      It’s one thing to have these cards lying around for a while until you can use them, but it really pisses me off when they’re stolen and Friday’s doesn’t care. (Neither did amazon in my case)

  5. For the VGC’s with just a few pennies on them, I use these either at the grocery store or Target because their registers (self serve and cashier) can tell how much is on the gc and drain the last bits without too much hassle. There are more stores than you might think with this technology embedded in the register, give it a try! Just remember to do credit vs. debit. For whatever reason, when you choose debit, you need to know the exact amount.

  6. I liquidate VGCs with small amounts at Sams in the self checkout lines. It takes a few extra seconds per card, but it works. You can do the same at Costco, but since it’s not self checkout and there’s always a long line behind you, it’s a little more stressful…

    • Jason and Michael,

      Great points you are sharing here. While I’ve known of these options previously, I haven’t taken action to pursue them (enough). It all adds up, though! Thanks for reading.

  7. Steak ‘n Shake expired my gift cards for inactivity after they closed the only store in my area! In consumer-friendly California when they weren’t allowed to do so….but they claimed they weren’t bound by California law unless I purchased the GC at full price at a CA restaurant. They charge $1.50 per month after 24 months of inactivity and once you’re at $0 they close your card.

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