Americans are expected to spend $25.9 billion on gift cards this year – that’s an average of $153.08 per gift card giver, according to the National Retail Federation. While gift cards can be a great choice – gift cards are easy to purchase, simple to send, and often exactly what the recipient wants – the unwary may encounter complications.
Each year we hear stories from consumers who’ve been hit with unexpected fees, lost funds to scammers, or had the retailer go out of business before they could use the gift card. For those reasons, we urge consumers to give cash. That said, gift cards are at the top of many folks’ lists, so if you are giving or if you get a gift card, please check out ours dos and don’ts so that you can get the most out of the gift:
If you give a gift card
Do watch out for purchase fees
State and federal laws have reduced the fees associated with gift cards, but there are still a few general use gift cards that carry purchase fees up of a few dollars or more.
Don’t purchase a gift card that looks like it’s been tampered with
Scammers have been known to tamper with gift cards and use the funds before the buyer gifts the card. Don’t let this happen to you. If you notice anything weird about the gift card, don’t buy!
Do staple the receipt to the gift card package
If the recipient has any trouble using the card, they will need proof of purchase, so you want to provide the receipt.
Don’t purchase gift cards from shaky retailers
When a retailer goes under, gift card holders can be left with worthless plastic, so if you have any concerns about the staying power of the business, DON’T buy a gift a card from there!
If you get a gift card
Do register the gift card
Many retailers will give some measure of protection against lost or stolen gift card funds if you register the card. Registering usually means providing the company personal information. For this reason, you may not want to register your card, but know that if you lose the card, the money is gone, same as if you lost cash.
Don’t hang onto the card
Every year billions of dollars loaded onto gift cards go unredeemed. Don’t let this happen to you! Use the card right away. If it’s from a retailer you don’t like, you may be tempted to resell it. Be very, very, very careful: gift card sales and purchase scams abound and we don’t want you to get taken. Don’t use the local classifieds; too many scammers ! Use only fully vetted, dedicated gift card resale sites. For tips from the FBI, see here.