Some $41 billion in money on gift cards went unused from 2005 to 2011, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing TowerGroup research.
Gift cards, impersonal to some and a godsend to others, are growing increasingly popular each year.
A National Retail Federation survey finds that 80 percent of respondents plan to buy gift cards during the 2011 holiday season, the Journal reports.
They also tend to be better received than fruit cakes or festive sweaters, the survey finds: for the fifth year in a row gift cards remain the most requested present, with 58 percent of shoppers saying they’d like to receive one.
Financial-consulting firm TowerGroup estimates that gift-card sales will reach $100 billion in 2011.
So where does the lost money go?
"The lion’s share of money lost on gift cards from 2005-2009 came from fees and expiration dates," The Wall Street Journal reports.
"All that changed with the passage of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 that was signed into law last year. The Act largely forbids fees on cards sold by retailers (cards given away as promotional items can still charge fees), and it prohibits expiration dates less than five years after the card is purchased."
For some, however, gift cards themselves can be a little passé.
Meet the e-gift card.
Delivered to someone's email address, the e-gift card allows the last minute shopper to come through literally at the last second.
"If you're like me … and occasionally forget something that's coming up, they are extremely convenient," says Ben Jackson, senior analyst at Massachusetts-based Mercator Advisory Group, a research and consulting firm for the payment processing industry, according to the Contra Costa Times.
A 2011 Bankrate.com survey shows that e-gift cards were offered by 24 of 40, five more than in 2010.
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