Question of the Day: How much (in $s) do consumers have in unused gift cards from Wal-Mart and Starbucks?

Feb 23, 2020
Behavioral Finance, Question of the Day

Answer: $3.5 billion


  • Why do you think that the balances on unused gift cards is in the billions?
  • What strategies can a consumer use to make sure that they don't lose track of their gift cards?
  • Would knowing that many people don’t use gift cards affect your gift-giving habits (i.e., would you decide not to give gift cards anymore since you’d be afraid it would never be used?)

Click here for the ready-to-go slides for this Question of the Day that you can use in your classroom.

Behind the numbers (Marketplace):

Vast sums of money are tied up in unused gift cards and digital wallets. Paypal had customer accounts totaling $22.5 billion as of a few months ago, and together Walmart and Starbucks held about $3.5 billion in deferred gift card revenue...Most of those cards are redeemed within eight weeks, according to marketing professor Dan Horne at Providence College. “The odds of a card being used after three or four years approaches zero,” he said.


Be sure to check out another NGPF resource on this topic: FinCap Friday: Stacking Unused Gift Cards


Be sure to check out the new documentary, The Most Important Class You Never Had, which demonstrates the power of financial education as told through the eyes of 8 teachers in high school classrooms across the country.



About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.