Got a gift card for Christmas? Here's how to easily check the balance, protect it and other gift card tips

Gift cards remain one of the most popular Christmas presents year after year, and 2020 was no exception.
Gift cards were the second most popular gift for 49% of consumers who wanted to buy between three and four gift cards, according to the National Retail Federation's annual vacation survey.
Total vacation spending on gift cards is expected to reach $ 27.5 billion, the association said. Consumers spent an average of $ 163.
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Whether consumers redeem the plastic cards or the digital codes is another question. According to a survey by Bankrate.com, U.S. adults have unused gift cards and other credits such as airline coupons valued at over $ 20 billion.
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The survey found that 25% of adults let a gift card expire at some point, 22% have lost a gift card, and 57% have held on to an unused gift card or balance for more than a year.
While the average unused card and credit value was $ 167 per person, Bankrate found that those with annual income of $ 80,000 or more had the highest average unused gift card value compared to $ 93 for those less than $ 40,000 earn, and $ 135 for those earning between $ 40,000 and $ 40,000, and $ 80,000.
Is your gift card becoming worthless?
The rule of thumb with a gift card? Use it before you lose it.
The Federal Trade Commission recommends using the card as soon as possible. It is also recommended that you treat gift cards like cash and use them early for full value.
Another good reason to use the cards sooner rather than later: the risk of the retailer or restaurant going out of business.
While gift cards are often accepted after companies apply for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, in many cases they quickly become worthless.
"I tell people in general, if they have gift cards in their wallets, use them yesterday," Melissa Jacoby, professor of bankruptcy law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, previously told USA TODAY.
According to the CoStar Group, more than 40 major retailers have filed for bankruptcy as part of the coronavirus pandemic, and more than 11,000 stores have been announced to close in 2020, breaking previous records of store closings.
Further closings are expected in 2021. Although J.C. Penney emerged from bankruptcy earlier this month after closing more than 150 stores this year, and plans to close an additional 15 stores this spring.
Check the balance of popular gift cards
To save you from another Google search to see where to check balance on gift cards, here is a list of major retailer sites up to date as of December 24th. Another way to check balances is to use store apps and some retailers like Target allow this to add gift cards to app wallets.
Apple: https://secure.store.apple.com/shop/giftcard/balance
Banana Republic: https://bananarepublic.gap.com/customerService/info.do?cid=61830
Barnes & Noble: www.barnesandnoble.com/account/giftcard/checkbalance/
Bath & Body Works: www.bathandbodyworks.com/giftcards
Belk: www.belk.com/gift-cards/#gift-card-modal
Best Buy: www.bestbuy.com/gift-card-balance
Body shop: www.thebodyshop.com/en-us/gift-card-balance
Dick's sporting goods: www.dickssportinggoods.com/s/gift-cards
Dunkin ': www.dunkindonuts.com/de/dd-cards/check-balance
eBay: www.ebay.com/gft/balance
GameStop: www.gamestop.com/giftcards/
Gap: www.gap.com/customerService/info.do?cid=2116#
J. C. Penney: www.jcpenney.com/cart/giftcard
Home Depot: www.homedepot.com/mycheckout/giftcard#/
Kohls: www.kohls.com/giftcard/gift_card_check_balance.jsp
Kroger: www.kroger.com/checkGiftCardBalance
Lowes: www.lowes.com/l/gift-card-balance.html
Macy's: www.macys.com/account/giftcardbalance
Mastercard: https://balance.mastercardgiftcard.com/
Nordstrom: www.nordstrom.com/nordstrom-gift-cards
Old Navy: https://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/info.do?cid=35433#giftcardbalance
rue21: www.rue21.com/store/jump/static/17800001
Sephora: www.sephora.com/beauty/giftcards
Shein: https://us.shein.com/giftcard.html
Starbucks: www.starbucks.com/card
Goal: www.target.com/guest/gift-card-balance
Ulta: www.ulta.com/guestservices/giftCards.jsp
Victoria's secret: www.victoriassecret.com/us/vs/gift-cards
Visa: https://usa.visa.com/support/consumer/gift-card-balance.html
Walmart: www.walmart.com/account/giftcards/balance
Zara: www.zara.com/us/en/z-zara-card/balance
Check the Amazon Gift Card balance
According to Amazon, you can view your gift card balance in your account. Also, if you use a gift card in an order or add one to "your account" for future purchases, the balance will be saved. After going to your account, select "Gift Cards" and view the balance on Amazon.com Gift Cards.
Tips on using gift cards
If you've received a gift card, here are some tips to get the most out of it:
The fine print: read the card's terms and conditions. Pay close attention to whether the card can only be redeemed in a certain store or in a certain location.
Fees: Some state laws prohibit service fees and expiration dates for in-store gift cards, but the rules for cards with a credit card company name are stricter. These cards cannot expire for more than five years and no service charge can be deducted unless it has not been used in 12 months.
Bonus Cards: It's a Christmas gift card promotional season when selected restaurants and stores offer bonuses when purchasing gift cards. When you receive a bonus gift card, sometimes referred to as bonus money, most of it will expire. Check the terms.
Protect your card: some gift cards can be registered as credit cards on the websites listed on the card to protect them from theft or loss. Also, take photos of the front and back of the card or write down the card details as some companies will replace lost or stolen cards if they can provide details. Save receipts with card information too.
Unwanted Gift Cards: If you receive an unwanted card, you can sell it for cash or exchange it for another gift card on sites like Cardpool.com, CardCash.com, and Raise.com.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Gift Card Funds: How to Review Subway, Destination, Starbucks, and Belk Cards

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