If a gift card goes missing, does that mean the money on the card is gone forever, too? Not necessarily. Here's what to do to get that cash back.

By Andra Chantim and Hiranmayi Srinivasan
Updated April 14, 2021

You know that $50 Home Depot card from Aunt Rosie was on your desk, but—poof!—it disappeared? Is the money on the card gone forever, too? It depends, says Luke Knowles, the founder of Gift Card Granny, an online gift card exchange. Usually, you will need to show proof of purchase—whether that's the receipt, the gift card number, when and where the gift card was bought, or the receipt from something you purchased using the gift card. There are a couple of ways to track down a lost or stolen gift card, and while there is no guarantee that you will get it back, here are some ways to try.

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1 Check the company's policy on lost gift cards.

First, visit the website of the company named on the gift card and check its policy on lost or stolen cards. If your gift card is lost or gets stolen, most stores will help you recover the balance—but you'll need the receipt for the gift card's purchase or the gift card's serial number, according to Consumer Action, an organization focused on advocating for consumer rights. With luck, your aunt kept the receipt and can give it to you.

If she didn't—or if you cringe at the thought of telling your aunt that you misplaced her present—check to see if the card number is stored on any of your online accounts. For example, if you registered the card or used it to buy something previously, or if the gift card was bought online. 

2 Talk to a customer service representative.

You can also try speaking to a customer service representative to see if other information, such as the purchaser's contact information or the current card balance, would suffice. For example, Amazon will issue a replacement with the purchaser's name, the recipient's name, and the physical or email address where the gift card was sent. 

Talking to customer service might help you track down whether the card has been used, by you or someone else if it got stolen. According to GiftCards.com, if your gift card got stolen and used, the company can cancel it and give your a replacement gift card—but you might have to pay a fee for it. 

3 Look for the activation receipt.

If you can, try to track down the activation receipt of the gift card. This is the receipt that comes with the card when it was bought. It is sometimes a separate receipt, and might have been tucked into the card when it was given to you. Or if you're comfortable, you can ask the person who gave it to you for the receipt, or if they can contact the store on your behalf and have the store look up the details of the transaction. The receipt will have a the gift card number on it, which is really helpful to have when looking for it.

4 Register your gift card online.

To avoid this sort of hassle in the future, register your gift cards online when possible. Then write down every card number, or upload the cards to a free mobile gift-card wallet app, such as Gyft. What's more, you can redeem the gift cards through the app, ensuring that you never have to worry about the whereabouts of that pesky plastic again. 

5 Buy your gift cards online.

It's difficult to track down a gift card with limited information, and it's not guaranteed that you will recover it. So to avoid that altogether, use an online gift card site like Raise, CardCash, or eGifter to buy gift cards. Put your family onto these sites too, so they can give you gift cards online next time—it will save you an awkward conversation trying to ask a relative you see once a year for a receipt.