Gift cards can be a convenient gift-giving solution when it gets down to the wire or if the recipient lives far away. Before you buy, Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to check the fine print and fees on gift cards and make sure security seals are intact.
Gift card sales are expected to exceed $100 billion this year, with a third of sales occurring during the holiday season. More people see them as an attractive way to remember loved ones while avoiding the hassle of finding the right size or saving on shipping. Six out of 10 consumers say they’d like to receive the cards, according to the National Retail Federation. But more than $2 billion in gift card value goes unused every year.
The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, which took effect in 2010, provides some protections to consumers who receive gift cards, such as requiring that card balances remain valid for five years after issuance or after they were last loaded with money. Fees and expiration dates may still apply, however, and fees can erode the value of the cards.
BBB receives hundreds of complaints about gift card purchases every year, and some consumers have reported problems with sites that sell gift cards online. Some online retailers offer gift cards that can be delivered directly to the recipient.
BBB encourages consumers to be sure that the websites where they buy gift cards are secure. A secure website will use “https://” in the website address of the pages where a shopper enters payment information.
More BBB tips on buying gift cards:
- Be cautious about buying gift cards from online auctions because it is virtually impossible to tell whether the cards have any value remaining, to determine whether they’ve been tampered with or to see if they’ve expired.
- When buying gift cards in a store, check the packaging and any security seals to be sure they are intact and haven’t been tampered with.
- Check the fine print to see if there are fees associated with the card. Some typical fees could include transaction fees or inactivity fees. In some cases, an organization may charge a service fee to issue the card or a replacement card.
- See if the card has an expiration date. In some cases, the plastic card may expire before the five-year redemption period. Are there fees to obtain a new card?
- Check the terms and conditions on a gift card. If you are giving a card to a friend who wants to shop online, make sure the card can be used that way and not just in a store.
- Consider the financial condition of the retailer or bank issuing the card. If you think the store may be on shaky footing, you may want to pass on buying a card.