How To Organize Gift Cards & Loyalty Cards & Keep Track Of Balances
Below I've compiled tips from readers about how to store and organize gift cards and loyalty cards, and to keep track of the balances left on them.
Here was the reader question which sparked this whole discussion:
How do you organize your gift cards to keep track of them? I tend to either completely misplace them and therefore never use the money on them, or use some of it and then can't easily tell how much is left on the card without going through the process of calling the number on the back to get a balance? I would love some tips to make this easier and not be literally leaving money on the table.
Only Make This As Complicated As Necessary For It To Work
The discussion below is mainly geared to those of you who have lots of gift cards for use.
In addition, after some discussion I realized that loyalty cards are also an issue for many people, so I added tips about these cards as well since they can be organized in a similar way.
Some people just don't like gift cards or loyalty cards though, or don't get many of them so it really isn't too hard to keep track of them.
However, the more cards you've got, such as after a holiday or birthday, the more you need an organizational method to keep track of all of them.
Remember That Gift Cards Are Like Cash: If Stolen They're Gone
The final thing to consider when deciding how you want to store and organize these cards is that they're basically the equivalent of cash.
Would you keep hundreds of dollars in cash in your wallet or purse at all times? If you feel comfortable with that, OK.
If, however, you're more like me and wouldn't like to carry around that much cash all the time then really the same thing should apply to the cards as well, which is why, in my list of items not to keep in your wallet, I list excess gift cards.
Here's a quick story from Amie to illustrate this:
Amie said: "I used to keep them neatly in a small zipper pouch in my purse. It was handy and well organized...until my purse was stolen and I lost over $500 in various gift cards! I now keep them in a small box in my desk drawer and only take them when I know I will use them...not as convenient but I learned my lesson...!"
Below I've shared tips and ideas for keeping track of these cards, as well as knowing how much money the card contains at any given time.
Top photo courtesy of of a reader, Maureen, second photo from Helen
Many people shared that they used either a credit card or business card holder to hold all their gift cards in one location.
For example, a reader, Cindy, suggested the Card Cubby shown above, saying, "I found this nice holder called a Card cubby. It has alphabetical dividers so you can alphabetize the cards and there is room to wrap the receipt around the cards and put them in."
Many of these holders are small, and can be put right in your purse, but using them instead of keeping them in your wallet keeps your wallet less cluttered.
Another example is from another reader, Dee Dee, who shared the photo below, saying, "I use the Brighton Twister Photo Album for my credit cards, a separate one in a different color for insurance cards and loyalty/gift cards. Compact to fit in even the smallest of purses but still easy to put your hands on when you need them. I also use another one at home for business cards for companies I use (furnace repair and other maintenance companies, banks, etc.)"
However, if you've got more than about 5-7 cards I would suggest a bigger business card holder that has flippable pages. There are huge ones that are binder size, but those are very difficult to carry around with you, so I don't recommend them for this purpose, unless you plan to keep them at home.
Instead, I would suggest the sleeker thinner versions of business card organizers that hold up to typically 70-90 cards (although I seriously doubt you'd have that many gift card), and which can still be stowed in your purse (well, a big enough purse) to take with you into the store.
Here are some available holders:
BUT, if you want to keep your cards organized, and leave them at home, a larger binder will work quite well. Here's an example from a reader, Jen, who had all these cards in a jumbled mess, originally, in her junk drawer. She said, "Here is the after of the junk drawer. This is where we used to store all membership cards, gift cards, store return credit cards, etc. I bought business card holders for our family binder three ring notebook and put them in there. I found about $400 worth of gift cards and store credit."
You can purchase binder pages similar to Jen's here:
Put All Gift Cards On Key Ring To Keep Them Together
Here's another idea for keeping all of these cards together -- punch a hole in the corner of each one and put on a key ring.
Obviously, don't put all these cards on your main key chain, or you will weigh down and make cumbersome something you use all the time.
However, key rings are quite inexpensive (see some for sale to the right) so just grab one just for these gift cards.
If you've got a lot of store loyalty cards you might want to consider yet another ring for those as well!
One reader, Amanda, said, "I prefer the hole punched on a key ring method. They are easily accessible, and easy to flip through. Less likely to forget what I have also that way."
Are They Easy Enough To Remove This Way?
I've gotten the question of whether this method allows you to remove the cards easily enough.
First, this would work really well for rechargeable cards that you're going to use over and over, and many don't find it to be too much of a hassle.
However, if you are concerned about using a regular key chain for this reason here's another idea from a reader: "I use a ring that is often used to hang a towel on a golf bag. I've also heard the called shower curtain rings. Or if you're in Texas - it's the rings the coupons are hanging on at HEB. These rings are easier to get hole punched cards on than the key rings."
Another idea is to just use a easier to open and close key ring.
A really popular one is called the Lucky Line Key Ring, and you can see it to the left. It screws open and closed so it might work better for this purpose.
You can use this keyring idea for other types of cards as well, such as membership cards, or full size loyalty cards. Here's an example shown by a reader, Santiago.
Use An Index Card Holder With Alphabetical Divider Tabs
For those who do not want to carry all their cards around with them, but instead wish to keep them at home, a common suggestion was to use an index card holder to organize them.
For example, Teresa said, "I use an index card box with alphabetical dividers. File them that way."
Similarly, maddashin said, "My favorite tool for organizing cards is the card caddy. It is large, has an alphabetic index and tons of cards can fit into it. I don't carry around tons of cards because it takes room in my purse but i love it."
Here are supplies you could use (note to make sure to get dividers that fit your holder, the common sizes are 3x5 and 4x6).
Tips For Organizing Loyalty Cards & Avoiding Keyring Overload
Originally the question from a reader was about organizing gift cards, but I've quickly found out that many people also need help organizing their loyalty cards, and membership cards.
Many of the same ideas that we've been discussing in this article that apply to gift card organization apply to loyalty cards as well, but the main difference is that loyalty cards are more long term.
Often the companies that provide them want the cards to be handy, so they provide both a regular sized card which you can place in a wallet, but also a smaller keychain sized card which they hope you'll just add right to your keychain.
So, that's what most people do to organize their loyalty cards, and honestly, it works pretty well. The picture above, for example, is from a reader, Miranda.
Similarly, here's another example from another reader, Felisha, who also uses a keychain to organize her cards.
The issue with loyalty cards and keeping them organized really occurs when we accumulate too many of them.
This is a common problem, because just about every company these days tries to give you one of these cards. Here's what happened to a reader, Erin, who ended up taking many of these cards. She explained, when showing the picture below, "My 'giant pile of crap' has gotten so bad that my husband won't use/carry it with him. I have cards from 4 different states and I rarely use more than 5 cards...it lives at the bottom of my purse."
Does this sound familiar? If so, the answer is to get rid of the vast majority of them. If you don't want to completely get rid of them then at least get most of them off your keychain and instead organize them in one of the manners I've suggested above for gift cards. It will work for loyalty cards as well. But you don't need to have all those cards on your keychain!
Instead, your criteria for which ones can stay on your keychain is that you need to use it, in my opinion, at least once a week, perhaps even several times a week. Otherwise, you don't need to fiddle with them every single time you pull out your keys.
Make sure to take the declutter key ring mission if you're struggling with too much on your key ring! Click the link for more tips and instructions. You'll thank yourself every single day when you're not dealing with such a cluttered key ring!
Ditch The Card & Add To An Electronic Account When Possible
Several readers also suggested getting rid of the actual cards when possible, and just adding them electronically to an account when that is possible.
That means you can't lose them, which is always a good thing, although you might also forget they exist -- so you just have to weigh the pros and cons of this method.
Gretchen said: "I add mine to electronic accounts whenever possible. For example Starbucks cards can be added to my phone app and then my phone is scanned for purchases.
Also Barnes & Noble will allow me to add their gift cards to my online account as well (maximum of three at a time). Because I'm a teacher, these are the majority of gift cards that I get."
Similarly, Laurie said, "Did you know that for Amazon gift cards you can put the credit on your account for future purchases? I like to do this ASAP so I don't misplace the cards."
Several Apps Also Available For Electronically Organizing Loyalty Cards & Gift Cards
Similarly, several readers have mentioned apps that can organize these cards for you.
I have not personally tried these, so I'm not endorsing them, just passing along information from other readers who suggested them. I would love to hear more detailed thoughts about these apps though, so if you've used one please share your app review here and I'll add it to the site.
The first one was mentioned by a reader, Donna, who provided the screen shot above of the app she uses, CardStar. She said, "iPhone for me. Sometimes it won't scan and then they have to punch numbers in. All in all though, I like it on the phone."
Another app mentioned for gift cards is called Gyft. A reader explained, "Gyft allows you to put all your GYFT cards on your phone and then you always have them with you!"
Finally, two readers mentioned the KeyRing app. One reader stated, "There is an app called Key Ring. Take a photo of each loyalty card. Stores on phone. Clerk scans. What could be easier?"
Further, Janice M. said, "For all those shoppers rewards card my sister turned me onto a free APP called Key Ring. So far it has worked great."
Gift cards have real money on them, but often we don't use all of it at once.
No one can deny, however, that it is a big pain in the rear end to have to call the number on the back of the card to find out the current balance of it.
So, after you partially use a card, but haven't quite finished it up yet, don't just slip it back into your wallet or other organizer right away.
Take just a moment and add some information to the card so you can easily know how much money you have left.
There were two popular ways readers did this, each with their pros and cons, which I'll discuss below.
Write Balance On Card With Sharpie:
The most popular answer, by far, for keeping track of the balances for these cards was just to write it on the back of the card with a sharpie or permanent marker that you carry in your purse.
In fact, my mother does this. It works really well. She suggests the thin markers, for ease of writing more legibly in a small space.
Eventually the sharpie ink can wear off if you've got the cards in a place with lots of area for them to rub on something, but it would have to stay in your purse for a long time for that to happen. At least in my house we use our gift cards faster than that.
Can Also Keep Track Of Whose Card It Is This Way
Also, a reader, Anne Marie pointed out that you can also use a sharpie to keep track of whose gift card it is in your house. For example, I've got three kids and they might all get a Target card for a birthday present. I need to then keep track of both the balance but also which child has how much on their card.
Anne Marie suggested, "I have 5 kids and myself to keep track of so I have a school box, and sharpie to keep them organized. Names and amounts."
Wrap The Receipt Around The Card:
If, however, you don't want to carry around a sharpie (and I get why if you're the mother of small children like I am and don't want to risk a disastrous coloring session) there are other options as well.
Currently, I personally wrap the receipt from the previous purchase around the card. The receipt, at the bottom, typically says the current balance and you can reference that.
Just remember that with age many of the inks on these receipts fade.
In addition, if you're using a business or credit card holder for organizing your gift cards, these receipts wrapped around them can make it difficult to place the cards in the organizer.
Do You Have Ideas Or Pictures To Share?
Basically, I think that about covers the ways to organize your gift cards.
However, I'm always pleasantly surprised how creative people can be in how they get things done, so if you've got another tip or a picture of your system to share I'd love to see it.
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