Lots of gift cards will be given this holiday season, and lots of them will go unused. However, the State Treasurer says even when expired, their cash value still holds.

The Christmas shopping season is in full swing and along with gift purchases come lots of gift cards and gift certificates. The State Treasurer’s office says the best advice if you have received a gift card is — don’t lose it. But if you do, or if it expires before you’ve had a chance to redeem it, State Treasurer Clint Zweiful says state statute mandates merchants still honor them.

The State Treasurer is charged with making sure that money is returned to its rightful owner, along with money and property from other unclaimed assets and safe deposit boxes.

“Those new gift cards and gift certificates may one day become Unclaimed Property,” he says. “The key is keeping the physical card or certificate. Even if a gift card or certificate expires, any remaining value is required to be turned over to Treasurer Zweifel after five years and can be searched for at www.ShowMeMoney.com.

Jessica Machetta reports [Mp3, 1:08 min.]

Nearly $60,000 in gift card and certificate credit has been returned to Missourians from Unclaimed Property since January 2010, and more than $5.2 million is waiting for account owners.

“We receive Unclaimed Property constantly, and at this time of year helping Missourians get money back in their pocket is particularly important to me. This is money they can use to buy gifts, pay utilities and fill up the gas tank for holiday travel,” Zweifel says. “As you give and receive gifts, be sure to keep track of your gift cards and certificates no matter how long you have had them – if it’s been five years, check www.ShowMeMoney.com to see if your credit has been turned over.”

Individuals who have unused gift cards and certificates with credit should first check with the establishment that the gift card or certificate is from to see if it is redeemable. If the business will not redeem the card or certificate, owners should then check www.ShowMeMoney.com to see if their name is listed, Zweifel says.

If the owner’s name is not listed and he or she has a gift card or certificate with value a business will not redeem, the holder should call Treasurer Zweifel’s office at (573) 751-0123 and check since not all credit from gift cards and certificates is turned over with account owner contact information.

There is more than $600 million for 3.5 million account owners waiting to be claimed at www.ShowMeMoney.com, Zweifel says, reminding Missouri residents that his office has returned a record $35 million in Unclaimed Property to a record 92,000 owners in fiscal year 2010.

About Treasurer Zweifel’s Unclaimed Property

State law requires financial institutions, insurance companies, public agencies and other business entities to turn over assets to Treasurer Zweifel’s office that belong to a customer, client, employee or other owner if there have been no documented transactions or contact with the owner for five or more years. Most Unclaimed Property consists of cash from bank accounts, stocks, bonds and contents of safe deposit boxes that have been abandoned. It also can include uncollected insurance policy proceeds, government refunds, utility deposits and wages from past jobs. Treasurer Zweifel’s office does not handle real property such as land, houses, cars and boats. There is $600 million in Unclaimed Property maintained by Treasurer Zweifel. Treasurer Zweifel never charges for the return of Unclaimed Property.