Christmas has come and gone and many of us find ourselves the grateful recipients of gift cards. Let’s face it, they are easy to purchase as you see them just about everywhere - hanging by the cash registers at WalMart, Home Depot and even Macy’s. Not only do we receive these cards as gifts but recently some companies have begun sending rebates in the form of gift cards instead of paper checks.

However, you need to be sure that those gift cards that you are carrying around in your wallet don’t have an expiration date or maintenance fee that can render the card almost worthless. Around the country, expiration dates and “processing fees” are the bane of gift card users. Shoppers might find the value of their cards eaten away by fees charged by retailers and banks - or stripped to zero if too much time elapses between when the cards were purchased and redeemed.

Another problem that you may experience is trying to get the person at the cash register to split the transaction between the gift and another form of payment if you are purchasing items that exceed the gift card amount. I have seen this hold up lines often. BTW, I do recommend that you use the value of the card and then some. It is just too easy to throw a card away that has a very small balance rather than make another trip to the store to spend $4.95. This is money that reverts back to the retailers and banks that loaded the cards initially and money that you have just tossed away.

Pay special attention to prepaid cards like those from Visa and American Express. They can be used at any store but have the highest processing fees, monthly service fees, and expiration dates.

Take a few minutes today to gather up your gift cards and read the small print on the back. You may need to use them soon to retain some value.

Happy spending!

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Author's Bio: 

Theodore Henderson is a professional speaker and business person. However, he is not a speaker who uses “canned” presentations, but one who speaks from personal experience, business know-how, and from his heart on issues that resonate with a wide audience. He coaches using universal themes of financial education, faith, perseverance and self development.

Despite 20 plus years in sales and sales management in Fortune 500 companies, when it comes to public and professional speaking, he proudly considers himself first and foremost a Communicator and Entrepreneur.

He is a winner of Toastmaster International Speech Competitions and currently holds advanced Toastmasters certifications in speaking and leadership. He also conducts training and workshops in Business Planning and Personal Financial issues.

Theodore is an MBA graduate with concentrations in Finance and Information Systems and has consistently applied that knowledge throughout his career in technology and information systems. In addition to being certified as an instructor with the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship . He is the team leader for the Riverside Church Youth Entrepreneurial Development Program (RYED) in New York.