/ Money

Why I don’t want a gift card this Christmas

I hate to sound so Scrooge-like just before the big day but… I really don’t want a gift card this Christmas. Aren’t they just cash with strings and a deadline?

It may be more convenient, it may feel nicer, but your loved one could be left clutching a worthless bit of plastic if the shop goes bust or the gift card expires before they have the chance to use it.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m fully appreciative of any presents I’m lucky enough to receive, but the risk of a shop going bust isn’t as remote as it might once have seemed.

Just think of the once-familiar names that have disappeared over the years; Dixons, Maplin, Toys R Us, BHS, Woolworths and, of course, Thomas Cook.

As our December magazine arrived with members, Mothercare’s 79 UK stores became the latest to be under threat.

Don’t forget the small print

Perhaps an even bigger risk to your well-intentioned gift is the small print on the back of the card.

Last Christmas, as a known lover of the great outdoors, I was given a voucher for a luxury camping trip.

A lovely gift, you might think, but there was a catch. The campsite was in a particularly remote part of the Scottish Highlands and the voucher needed to be redeemed within three months.

Needless to say it went unspent. On the plus side, I avoided hypothermia, but on the downside I’ve been avoiding questions about that ‘lovely trip to the Cairngorms” all year.

The UK Gift Card and Voucher Association (UKGCVA) recently estimated that as many as 98.6% of vouchers are spent within a year, but in a £6 billion industry, that could still mean millions of pounds going unspent.

Research published five years ago by the UKGCVA found that as much as £300 million wasbeing lost in unspent and expired gift cards each year. That’s almost £6 million lost every week.  

It’s not surprising. We’ve found that some gift cards expired within weeks of purchase.

Should we change the gift card rules?

There could be a solution. In the US, gift cards have a minimum expiry period of five years.

This was brought in to protect consumers and the amount lost to unspent gift vouchers is half per person than in the UK.

Our research has found that most people say they bought a gift card for someone because they didn’t know what to buy for them.

We’ve probably all faced that dilemma at some point, but unless we can be sure they will spend it, maybe we should just hand over the money instead.

Will you be buying a last-minute gift card for someone this year? Is it just not the same if you give cash as a gift?


I have resorted to giving gift cards in the past, but not for some years now.

In my family, we’re beginning to realise that it is smart to communicate what we’d like for Christmas Gifts, e.g. money or other items. Traditionally that was done by writing letters to Santa Claus, at least in the case of children.

I’m hoping to receive some expensive luxury OEM printer ink cartridges and another family member has asked for a specialised piece of electronics, to power some of his antique instruments.

I have never used any kind of gift card as they have always come with a catch and act as a warning that the organisation is on its beam ends !

I was going to get my husband a gift card for game downloads but our internet was out for 4 days thanks to a careless workman in SW London. Only then did it occur to me how odd a thing it was to do so I just told him to get what he wanted and I got him some socks, chocolate and a couple of books to open on the day!

Dixons still here. They changed the business type and now own Currys.

Dixons retail shops were rebranded Currys, after the merger with Carphone Warehouse in 2014 to form Dixons Carphone plc. The Dixons name persists in the Dixons Travel outlets in many UK airports, as well as Dublin and Oslo.

I am not aware of Dixons defaulting on gift cards. House of Fraser, who still has a high street presence, on the other hand … .

I seem to recall a year or two ago, I suggested that Which? campaign to remove expiry dates on gift cards.

Expiry dates are nothing more than legalised theft if the cards are not spent before they expire. The cash in your purse/wallet doesn’t expire so why should gift cards as they are also money?

A year ago, it was reported that retailers rake in £300million from expired gift cards.

There is no reason in this tec age why the buyer of the gift should not be contacted to let them know the gift is unspent, so they can remind the recipient to spend it. That of course would be too easy for retailers they make lots and lots of easy money! I wonder just how much? I had a couple of Apple gift cards some years ago and needed to travel to London in order to spend them. London being the nearest store. It would have cost me more in train fares than the value of the tickets. I still have them with the receipts can I get my money? No! In my opinion they are a fraudulent con which are best avoided.

I had a better idea a few years ago. My friends and I agreed not to buy each other gifts at Christmas, just for our birthdays. It saved a lot of hassle, unnecessary expenditure and worry about what to get. We now tell each other what we’d like within a budget limit or treat ourselves to a meal in a restaurant.