The Only Asset We Haven’t Spent

In an era when people have cashed out home equity and raided their 401(k)s, it’s hard to believe there’s an asset left untapped. But there is, even if a small one per capita. In Deloitte polling in September and October, 47 percent of respondents said they have at least one unused gift card.

Among such consumers, the average number of unused cards is 5.9, up from 3.7 last year. Fourteen percent said they have “too many gift cards”; the same number said it’s unlikely they’ll ever redeem all the cards they’ve got; 24 percent said they’ve had at least one card expire before they got around to using it.

Deloitte speculates that redemption rates could be higher than usual this coming January, due to the tough economy. For one thing, 23 percent of respondents fear that, if they tarry, a store might go bust before they redeem its cards.