How can I make the best use of the gift cards I received during the holidays without getting hit with hefty fees?
CreditCards.com says industry estimates show consumers will lose $5 billion in gift card money this year to fees and expiration dates. You know, those cards you've misplaced, shoved in a drawer or otherwise neglected.
"That's a huge amount of money that consumers will be wasting," Ben Woolsey, director of marketing and consumer research for CreditCards.com, said in a statement. "But if they're savvy and read between the lines, gift cards can be just as good as having cash in your pocket."
Here are some suggestions from CreditCards.com on how to make the most of your gift cards:
• Corral your cards: Make sure you can always find cards when you need them by putting them in the same place.
• Log them online: Register card numbers and PINs online at a site like LeverageCard.com or PlasticJungle.com, where you can track your balances and check expiration dates. You'll also have backup in case it's lost or stolen.
• Read the fine print: Beginning in August 2010, the new Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act prohibits gift card inactivity fees for the first year and extends expiration dates to five years from activation.
• Give again: The next time you have two dollars left on that gift card, remember groups like Atlanta-based nonprofit GiftCardGiver.com, which stockpiles cards then combines them into higher-value gift cards that are donated to the needy.
For more information visit www.creditcards.com.