Archive for the ‘Gift Cards’ Category

Service of Billions in Limbo–Not in Recipient’s Pockets

Thursday, February 4th, 2021


Are you accessing all the money due you? Banks and businesses have pots of money left behind.

We’ve heard of gift cards with unused balances that reside in wallets, bureau and desk drawers. “At any given time, 10% to 19% of gift card balances remain unredeemed — and around 6% of gift cards are never even used,” wrote Zachary Crockett in In 2019, Americans bought some $171 billion worth.

And what about the cards themselves? Crockett reported that 70 percent of gift cards are redeemed within six months but after a year, almost 80 percent aren’t. That’s a tidy sum for the issuers in addition to the fees many charge while they also make money on the interest.


It’s not just gift card balances that are unclaimed. Without proper documentation or an estate bank account, checks made out to an estate cannot be deposited in a widow, widower or other beneficiary’s retail bank account even if they are named executor in the will. For some, the cost to pay a lawyer to acquire documentation may represent more than the lost money. A friend said that each of several checks for interest on an investment made to her husband’s estate were for less than $100. The issuer of the checks kept the money because two banks in her town refused to cash or deposit them.  Long after the checks had expired someone said she could have helped her retrieve the money.

Another friend got a check from a bank made out to his wife’s estate for well over $3,000. It had a life of 180 days. The issuer said that no other check could be cut after that and it could not write a check to his name. Predicament was solved because a proactive customer service person figured out a solution. Otherwise, if the lawyer hadn’t open an estate account in time this money would have remained in bank coffers unclaimed.

This must happen to the bereaved countless times a year.

Do you use gift cards immediately? If you’ve not spent the entire amount, do you remember to use the remainder? Do you prefer gift cards from a business or ones  like American Express? Have you forfeited money because you weren’t able to cash a check in time for any reason?



Service of Stationery That’s Not

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Card by Jesse Levison, Gold Teeth Brooklyn

My visit to the National Stationery Show at the Javits Center is always a treat as I love fine paper, eye-catching graphics, fancy giftwrap and embellishments and there was plenty this week to satisfy from wrapping paper stunning enough to frame, magnificent ribbon displays especially by May Arts Ribbon and Ampelco Ribbon, paper party plates, favors, banners and accessories, books, candles, portfolios, boxes, balloons, and a riches of note cards for birthdays, holidays—you name it.

Jesse Levison of Gold Teeth Brooklyn’s whimsical, well rendered motifs in saturated colors screen printed on superior paper [photo above] appealed to me. She wasn’t alone: Talented artists abound at this show. I worry that there may be too many of them, but then I could say the same for gifted writers and musicians, journalists, filmmakers and so many others with training and talent that may go unrewarded in a financial sense.

Neon flamingo by Sunnylife

I play a game with myself when I cover such a trade show. Would I order this or that for my imaginary stationery store? That’s when I noticed exhibitors who were selling items that didn’t fit my idea of stationery. Examples: Barware; bath and body creams; fragrances; tea pots and tea; neckties; leather luggage; backpacks; baby clothes; jewelry; sunglasses; Sunnylife’s pool toys, neon birds, lobsters and cactus [that I loved] and decorative pillows.

And then I remembered that supermarkets and drugstores sell stationery as well.

In addition to art, music, journalism, filmmaking and writing, what other industries are overcrowded with talent? How and where will these gifted people find a way to be paid? What items have you been surprised to see in any store that you’ve traditionally visited to buy something else?

Ampelco ribbon

Service of Taking Stock of an Unusual Gift Idea

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Gift card

Here’s a new idea: Spend $29.95 for a gift card [$4.95] worth $25 of stock in a choice of some 20 companies such as Tesla Motors, Nike, Coca-Cola, Apple or Facebook. You’ll find the cards in stores like Office Depot and Kmart [and before the holidays expect to see them in Safeway, Toys “R” Us and Lowe’s]. You can also buy cards worth $50 and $100.

To activate the card, the recipient registers it on the Stockpile website. That’s the company that invented the concept. While there are no monthly or activation fees, wrote Robin Sidel in “Shopping List: Milk, Bread, Equities,” in The Wall Street Journal, it costs 99 cents per transaction to sell or buy.

Savings bond“The cards work like traditional gift cards but recipients receive stock instead of merchandise when they cash them in. If they want, customers can swap the shares they have received for other stock.” Sidel quoted a market strategist as likening the cards to savings bonds that children received as gifts in days of yore. [The buyer paid, say, $18 and in x years the recipient could redeem the bond for $25.]

Gift cards are popular with consumers. Last year, wrote Sidel, we bought $93.9 billion worth. “Only 13.8% of U.S. families own stock directly, down from nearly 18% before the financial crisis,” according to the Federal Reserve, Sidel reported.

Two old womenMany years ago a friend gave his elderly housebound mother and aunt, who lived together, small amounts of stock. It gave them something to look forward to: They followed the market daily, and had skin in the game–but not enough to jeopardize their or their nephew/son’s futures. It was a delight to see their enthusiasm on a subject about which they knew nothing before he’d introduced them to stocks.

It’s too early to tell whether the concept will change the investment landscape, wrote Sidel. Do you think it has a chance to do that? Would his kind of purchase appeal to you as a gift? Do you think it will make money for the recipient or just for Stockpile? I wonder what the tax ramifications will be, if any.

Gift card 2

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