Getting gift cards this holiday season? This is Clark Howard’s game plan to save you money

ATLANTA — Consumers are expected to spend over $1 trillion between October and December this year, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

When it comes to buying gift cards, Channel 2 consumer adviser Clark Howard would rather you don’t do it.

“But we buy them anyway. So, I want to tell you how to make sure when you buy a gift card it’s safe,” Howard said.

Sally McDonald is the managing editor of She told Channel 2 Action News that gift cards can limit where you spend.

“Retailers often can go out of business,” McDonald said.

She explained where you buy gift cards is important to protect your wallet.

“There can be a lot of scams out there online, especially online marketplaces,” McDonald said.

If you do shop online, choose a retailer with a money-back guarantee. has a 45-day guarantee. So, that if the gift card is somehow empty, then you are very low risk,” she said.


If purchase a card at a retailer, there are steps you need to take to make sure it’s valid.

“Make sure you check the back to make sure the pin hasn’t been scratched off,” McDonald said.

McDonald told Channel 2 Action News when it comes to stretching your holiday budget look for cards with cash-back bonuses.

“At a warehouse club you can sometimes get a gift card for $100, but it’s worth $125 of funds,” McDonald said.

Before you click or swipe to buy anything, look around the house.

Earlier this year, a Bankrate survey found Americans are sitting on just over $20 billion in unused gift cards.

Ted Rossman is an analyst at He told Channel 2 Action News that you run the risk of losing value or just paying out of pocket for things that otherwise could have been free.

Rossman said don’t assume gift cards are expired.

“Gift cards can’t expire for at least five years, although they can charge inactivity fees after 12 months of nonuse,” Rossman said.

Howard said even though you have five years, gift cards don’t get better with time.

“Use it right away or sell it right away, and get the money you can so you have cash in your pocket,” Howard said.