There's a 50/50 Chance You're Making This Financial Mistake, Data Shows

Experts say that half of U.S. adults are making this all-too-common error.

Whether it's spending too much money on frivolous expenses, running up credit card debt, or not saving any of our monthly income, most of us have felt bad with money at some point in our lives. Usually, we're well aware of our money mistakes, but experts are now warning about one bad financial habit that we have a 50 percent chance of making—and that we don't even realize is hurting our finances. Read on to find out what mistake 1 in 2 U.S. adults need to knock off.

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A new survey has found that more than half of adults have unused gift cards.

card at a discount of 15% is a lot of discount cards
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If you've been holding onto unused gift cards, you're not the only one. Consumer financial services company Bankrate conducted a survey with YouGov among more than 2,000 adults to gauge their gift card and credit habits. According to the data, 51 percent of U.S. adults have unused gift cards. Nearly three-quarters says they've held onto gift cards for at least a year. Bankrate says this adds up to around $15.3 billion dollars in unused credit, with an average of $116 per person.

Not using your gift cards could put you at risk for losing your money.

Unrecognised woman shopping, holding paper bags and paying by credit card.
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Stop sitting on those unused gift cards and start using them. According to the survey, 29 percent of people weren't able to use a gift card because it expired, 27 percent lost a gift card, and 21 percent reported that the business their gift card was for closed before they used it.

"My advice is generally to use gift cards, vouchers and credits promptly. The longer you hold onto them, the more likely it is that the store will go out of business, the value will expire, or you'll lose track of it," Ted Rossman, a senior analyst for CreditCards.com and Bankrate, said in a statement.

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Some gift cards start accumulating fees if they go unused for too long.

Montreal, Canada - March 22, 2020: Visa gift card in a hand over gift cards background. Visa is an American multinational financial services corporation headquartered in Foster City
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If you have Visa or MasterCard gift cards, use them ASAP. Although these cards are flexible in what you can spend them on, they may start charging fees over time, Bankrate says. Inactivity fees are typically triggered anywhere from 90 days to 12 months for various cards when they go unused. For example, there is a $10 per month inactivity fee after one year for Visa gift cards. Shelly Hunter, a spokesperson for Giftcards.com, says people should consider purchasing multi-store gift cards for added flexibility with no fees.

You can also sell, donate, or regift your gift cards.

A gift card and cash. Very narrow depth of field.
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For some people, keeping up with different gift cards and worrying about when they expire or what kind of fees they might accumulate is too much work, Adam Selita, CEO and co-founder of The Debt Relief Company, said in a statement. He recommends that these people consider selling, donating, or regifting their gift cards. By selling them, you'll typically lose 20 to 25 percent of the value, but you'll get cash to spend however you'd like and be less likely to miss out on any money altogether by letting your gift cards expire, get lost, or become unusable because of shuttered companies.

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