Gift Cards Have Some Strings Attached

Don’t know what to buy everyone for Christmas? Just found out about a birthday party and need a last minute birthday gift? The easy solution is to buy a gift certificates or gift card, especially if the person you are buying for has a favorite place to shop. But there are some issues you should remember before buying that gift card. Example, some gift cards expire, others can only be used at the location you bought them from. There may be activation fees, transaction fees, inactivity fees, and replacement fees that can eat up a lot of the value of the card. Now the gift card isn’t looking like such a good idea, is it? It’s not all doom and gloom, lets have a look at what you should be looking for before you hand over your hard earned cash.

Retailers that sell gift cards do not normally charge for the card itself. Banks however do for the most part charge a fee whenever the card is used. Most bank issued cards come with a Personal Identification Number (PIN) that can be used like an ATM card. You should definitely read the fine print before you buy the card, by law they have to list all the charges. If you don’t have time to read them you can always talk to a representative and remember to document their name. If you are not satisfied with the terms them buy from somewhere else. You want to consider the fees because you really don’t want the recipients money wasted on fees alone. Finally before buying a store card make sure that the recipient can use the card in any store or on line.

Your gift card should be treated like cash, if it is lost or stolen you can report it but some issuers might not replace the card. If they didn’t use the card and it expired then contact the issuer of the gift card. The might be able to extend the expiration date but they will charge a fee for that. If you live in California your in luck the by law that gift cards or certificate can never expire. So if you find a certificate from years ago and it has an expiration date most companies will still take it.

If you, for any reason, have problems with the card or certificate you should contact the issuer. If they cannot help you, then file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

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