Can you guess what percentage of gift cards get lost or expire without use?

Our columnist urges people to think carefully before buying a gift card.
Our columnist urges people to think carefully before buying a gift card.

It  is a sad day for many parents when their kids decide they no longer want birthday or Christmas presents to unwrap, and would rather have cold hard cash in an envelope or festive stocking.

But while money is an eminently sensible gift, giving people the choice over where to spend it and on what, it seems there’s something in the British psyche that baulks at the idea of handing over a bundle of notes as a gift to a loved one - of any age.

Which is why so many of us opt to purchase a “gift card” instead - even though for the vast majority of recipients it leaves them disappointed.

New research has shown that two thirds of those surveyed buy gift cards but 87 per cent of people who receive them don’t like them. What’s more 45 per cent of people get them for stores where they wouldn’t even choose to shop.

The investigation by Circle, a social payment app, says that the average annual spend on gift cards is £62.57 yet in 37 per cent of cases people lose the cards or forget to use them altogether - easy money for stores.

While around 40 per cent of those surveyed said giving money was tacky, more than a quarter said they’d rather have cash so they can spend when they need to, and on what they really want.

Indeed some said they’d rather have cash gifts to spend on life essentials such as food, rent, bills and petrol.

It’s no wonder then that many unwanted gift cards frequently change hands, find themselves on eBay, or are left to gather dust on the mantelpiece.

And if they do the latter, you could find that they’ve expired. If you do buy a gift card make sure you check and find out whether the recipient will have enough time to spend it. Also make them aware of the expiry date and other important conditions when you gift it to them.

If a card has expired without the recipient realising, they may be able to extend it with a fee but it’s unlikely it will be extended for free unless it can be proved the expiry date conditions weren’t clear at the time of purchase.

So think twice before buying a gift card - it might seem an easy option but it could be wasted money.

Send me your consumer queries to askalex@which.co.uk