Gift Card Advice, Tips
Many consumers take the guessing out of shopping by purchasing gift cards. New rules are in place this year to cut down on the fees, but you still need to make sure the receiver really gets what you pay for.
New Gift Card Rules:
- No expiration for 5 years
- Each time the card is reloaded, the five-year clock starts over
- If your card expires and there's still money left on it, call the card company and ask it to transfer your money to a new card.
- No dormancy fees for 12 months
Exceptions to the Rules:
- Prepaid Debit Cards – pre-paid credit and phone cards are not covered by the new rules.
- Rebate and Loyalty Cards – if you send in a rebate and get a gift card in return, the new rules do not apply.
- One-time Transaction Fees – companies can still charge an activation fee at the time of purchase.
Angie's List Gift Card Buying Advice:
- Read the terms and conditions of all gift cards before purchasing.
- Understand how and where the card can be used. Is it a card specific to one retailer, or a mall-issued debit card that can used at a variety of stores?
- What additional charges might be associated with the card?
- Loading – an upfront charge to purchase or activate the card.
- Shipping/Handling – cards purchased online often have this fee to cover shipping costs to the recipient.
- Customer Service – a fee charged in relation to any phone inquiries.
- Reissue – a fee charged if the card is lost or stolen.
- Be aware of gift card scams. Gift cards on a display rack in the store are prone to fraud. Thieves can copy down the card number and check the balance a few days later. Once the card is activated, they will begin spending it online.
- When you go to the store, ask to purchase a gift card that was kept behind the counter.
- Buy gift cards that have a PIN associated with them. When you purchase the card, inspect it to ensure the PIN is not tampered with.
- Once you activate the card, keep your receipt and check the balance periodically.
- Purchase the gift card at a store or for a service that the recipient will use. A gift card to a store you can’t use isn’t much of a gift, really.
- If you’re buying for someone in a different city, check that the company has a location in that area.
- Buying a gift card for air travel? Check that the card is for an airline the recipient flies often.
- Also check that you and the recipient understand how and when the card can be used.