It's a gift: Use it, or lose it

10 January 2022
prepaid cards

Reloadable prepaid cards /

Twenty years ago, when I clocked 40, my mother gave me a cheque for R1 000 as a birthday present. I never cashed the cheque because the sentimental value of hanging on to that piece of paper was worth more to me than the pleasure I would have gotten from spending it on my bribes of choice.1

We don’t use cheques anymore. The modern equivalent of giving money without giving cash is a gift card. More than half of US consumers bought one over the holiday season, spending close to $100 billion in the process.2 (That’s R1,55 trillion at today’s rates — compare with South Africa’s 2021 national budget revenue of R1,52 trillion.)

I got several gift cards for my 60th birthday — some of them from specific stores, some of them for specific shopping malls — and it took me a while to work my way through all of them because I kept forgetting they were in my wallet.

I’m not alone. It turns out that in the US market, around 3% of gift cards never get used.

Yes, that’s around $3 billion in gift cards that never gets cashed in, and that’s just the US market.

If you have received one of these recently, maybe make a New Year resolution to use it?

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