Retailers sometimes earn millions of dollars when shoppers fail to cash in the full amount of their gift cards. But not always.
States vary in their rules for handling unredeemed gift cards. In some areas, never-cashed-in gift cards are considered unclaimed property and their cash value must be turned over to the state.
But in states like California that prohibit expiration dates on gift cards, retailers are allowed -- after several years -- to record leftover balances as revenue.
After a clarification of the financial reporting rules on unused gift cards, several retailers in 2005 and 2006 reported multimillion-dollar one-time gains from unused gift cards. Here is a list of some of them.
* Home Depot Inc., 2006: $7 million; 2005: $43 million
* Best Buy Co., 2006: $43 million
* Limited Brands Inc.: 2005: $30 million
* Nordstrom Inc.: 2005, $8 million
* Michael's Stores Inc.: 2005: $7.9 million
* Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp.: 2005: $1.2 million
* Abercrombie & Fitch Co.: 2006: $900,000; 2005: $300,000
-- Abigail Goldman