If you’re like most people in the U.S., chances are pretty good you’re facing one of two dilemmas – or maybe both – following the 2015 Christmas holiday season:
- You received at least one Christmas gift that’s just not to your liking and you want to return it.
- You received a gift card – either to a specific retailer or a generic card – and you’re wondering what’s the best way to use it.
Luckily for you, we’ve got some tips to help you out:
- If a gift receipt wasn’t included, ask the giver if you can have the receipt to make returns a lot easier. Don’t feel comfortable asking? Most retailers will make a return even without a receipt – but chances are you’ll only get the lowest price, which means if the item has ever gone on sale, you may not recapture the price that was actually paid.
- Return the item as soon as possible to ensure you’re well within the return deadlines set by the store. Some items like electronics have short return deadlines, while other items may be returned up to 90 days or sometimes longer, depending on the retailer.
- If an item was purchased online but has a brick and mortar store near you, returning in person can result in far fewer hassles than trying to return an item online, especially if you don’t have the receipt or order slip. Most online retailers require the order number in order to process a return.
- To avoid the crush of shoppers returning items after Christmas, try to hit the stores early in the day or later in the evening if possible. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a wait.
- Be mindful of expiration dates. Most cards are good for at least five years and some never expire, but check the dates and any fees associated with the card to avoid unpleasant surprises.
- Combine your card with a coupon or sale to get the most “bang for your buck.”
- If you received a card to a retailer you don’t like, use it to buy gifts for someone else during the year or regift the card directly (just be sure the recipient doesn’t know the original giver, and only regift it if the card doesn’t have a holiday theme).
- Another option for unwanted cards: Sell the cards online. There are several reputable sites for reselling gift cards to reap some cash. Two to consider: GiftCardGranny.com and PlasticJungle.com.
Of course, another option is to donate the gift or card to a charity and take a tax deduction. And remember: Even when a gift isn’t exactly what you’d choose for yourself, just the thought, time and effort a person placed into your gift should be plenty to make you smile.