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.

By Andra Chantim
Updated May 27, 2014

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. First visit the website of the company named on the gift card and check its policy on lost or stolen cards. Most retailers won’t offer a reimbursement, according to ScripSmart.com, a gift-card rating site. But 35 percent of companies will offer a replacement card under certain circumstances. In most cases, you’ll need the receipt for the gift card’s purchase or the gift card’s serial number. 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). You can also try speaking to a customer-service rep 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 e-mail address where the gift card was sent.

To avoid this sort of hassle in the future, take these steps. 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.