Tracking holiday gift cards

By glblguy


I’m sure many of you received holiday gift cards just as I did. I know many people don’t like gift cards, but I actually prefer them, especially Visa gift cards. I’m fine with store specific cards as well, but Visa gift cards are great because you can use them anywhere.

I’m a fan of gift cards in general for two reasons:

  1. Many of my interests make it difficult for people to buy things for me (i.e. banjo, saltwater aquariums, model trains)
  2. I am often not sure what to get people, and giving gift cards allows them to get what they want and/or need.

For example, my wife needed some clothes this year and while I could have picked some things out she liked, her and I are both fairly particular about our clothes. I elected to get her a gift card to Old Navy instead, which she promptly used!

The one downside to gift cards is that I tend to spend more than I normally would. For example, my in-laws gave me a $50 dollar gift card to Best Buy. I needed new new case for my Blackberry and wanted to get a cheap blue tooth headset to use when I am on calls in my car. The case was 31.99 and the headset 19.99. Total 51.98 plus tax. I ended up spending some money out of pocket. Had it been my own $50.00, I probably would have skipped the headset and waiting for one to show up on Woot or Dillyeo for next to nothing.

Tracking gift cards with a spreadsheet

Another big down side for many is not properly tracking gift cards and the remaining balance. Many gift cards don’t ever get fully used and frankly when this happens people are giving the merchants fee money. I’d rather spend a little more than not spend the whole gift card!

To avoid this, I built a very simple tracking spreadsheet that lists off all of the cards we currently have, their balance, and separate tabs for tracking purchases. Each year my parents usually give our whole family a Visa gift card for one large amount along with a card saying how much money is for each member of the family. This particular gift card is a little more difficult to track, but I’ve even set-up the spreadsheet to manage that card as well.

The spreadsheet is free to download and feel for you to distribute to whomever you would like. I figured if it benefited me, it should benefit you as well. I also put some basic instructions for using it on the first page.


How do you keep track of gift cards you receive and their remaining balances? Do you like receiving gift cards? Share your thoughts, add a comment!

Photo by: arvindgrover

14 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Tracking holiday gift cards”

  1. Gina Says:

    I like them too. I’ve never gotten so many that I would want to track them on a spreadsheet. And I tend to use all of the funds in one trip. I carry them in my purse, clipped w/my coupons. My husband carries them in his wallet like a credit card.

  2. Monroe on a Budget Says:

    I’ve tucked a piece of paper behind or around that gift card that lists the balance. But your idea makes a lot of sense too.

  3. Scott Says:

    I’ve used in the past.

  4. MoneyGrubbingLawyer Says:

    I’m generally quite happy to get gift cards because I tend to be particular about some of the things I buy. Your point about “niche” interests is right on the money- I’m big into model railroading as well, and it’s usually infinitely easier for someone to either give me a Visa gift car or cash with a note saying “buy one of your silly toys”, or even a gift card for my local hobby shop. I appreciate the thought, and the gift giver gets to avoid having to figure out what “kadee couplers” are, or what a “GP40-2” is…

  5. Lorri Says:

    I love gift cards and so do my children. I had read on the internet what a lame gift it was. But I completely disagree. When you recieve a giftcard, and use it after the holidays, you actually get a better deal than if the gift was bought before the holidays. There is no stress involved in buying them, all we do is add a thoughful card and it is done.

  6. glblguy Says:

    @MoneyGrubbingLawyer – Hey! I know what both Kadee couplers and a GP40-2 are…Although I tend to be more fond of GE units than EMD…I do like SD40-2’s though :-)

  7. Pamela @ Frugal Vet Tech Says:

    I didn’t know you liked model railroading. That’s a hobby of my husband’s and as such, I’ve tagged along (been dragged along?) to a few train shows. I could even make sense of the train-related jargon in the comments!

    Part of the fun of gift cards is being able to buy something you wouldn’t spend your own money on. Maybe you wouldn’t have bought the headset if you had to pay for it out of pocket, but since you used the gift card you got the thing you needed plus the thing you wanted for $1.98 – not a bad deal at all.

    Overall, I’m really not a fan of giving gift cards – they seem so impersonal to me. I do realize they can be useful though.

  8. Mrs. Accountability Says:

    I have a couple of cards with a dollar or two left on them – nice reminder to figure out what’s left on them and use them! I love gift cards, too but don’t usually have too many. I think we actually have four gift cards right now that we need to remember to use. Thanks for following me on Twitter! :-)

  9. Craig Says:

    I’ve never heard of the excel sheet to tracking gift cards before, that’s new to me. I can see it’s purpose, but most people don’t get that many gift cards to really set a system in place. I try to spend it all at once for that reason, not always the best strategy, but if there’s something I want them, I don’t have it lying around after. That’s my only issue with Visa cards. I like company cards better because if you are under, you usually get the cash back, extra pocket money then.

  10. Clare Says:

    I love gift cards, thats quite a collection there santqa must have been very busy :)

  11. uppervalleymom @ Kids Meal Crowd Says:

    I usually have a handful of gift cards to track at any given time, and what I tend to do is either use a small sticky note on the card itself and keep it in my wallet, or if there are more than 2 I will put them into a recycled envelope and write the name of store and amount left on the envelope. I’d then keep the card envelope in my purse or tote. Thanks for sharing your spreadsheet!