NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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The Gift of a Gift Card

The Gift of a Gift Card


          Gift cards top a lot of people’s holiday wish lists again this year. According to a survey done for the National Retail Federation, 57 percent of Americans say they want to receive a gift card and 77 percent plan to buy at least one this holiday season.  Gift Cards are greatly improved for this holiday season- and we are not referring to just the sparkles, gift tins to hold them and even sound buttons that are part of some gift cards’ design.  Thanks to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, or CARD, of 2009 gift cards are improved this year, but not perfect.  The new legislation removes many 'gotchas', but consumers should still use caution

          Use it or Lose it.    A survey done last holiday season by Consumer Reports found that one in four people who received a gift card the previous year had not used it yet.  Now any card sold after August 22, 2010 cannot expire for at least five years from the date of purchase or the last time money was loaded onto it.

          Fees. You cannot be charged an inactivity fee until the card has gone unused for at least 12 months. You can never be charged more than one fee of any kind per month.

          Replacement Charge. If your card expires and there’s still money left on it, call the card company and ask them to send you a new one. They must do this for free or return the remaining balance. There can be a fee to replace a lost or stolen card.

          Some but Not All.  This new legislation does not apply to rebate cards, promotional cards or those purchased at a charity event. Paper gift certificates are also exempt.

          Check the Back.  The CARD Act requires companies to list the fees and any expiration date on the back of their cards. But that won’t happen in every case this holiday season. This past summer, Congress voted to delay the date for mandatory disclosure until January 31, 2001 if the card was made before April 1. In such cases, card companies are required to post signs at the point of sale, but obviously the person receiving the card never sees that information. 

          Online Card Thieves   Theft has now moved to cyberspace and the Internet where cyber crooks promote fake gift card offers. Their goal is to steal your money and snag your personal information to sell to identity thieves.  For example, a short-lived webpage or Facebook posting might offer a free gift card to the first thousand people who sign-on to the facebook page.  The promised gift card is to arrive after providing personal financial information.  Yes, some individuals provide the info and no, the card never arrives.

          Buying a Second-Hand Card. There are also websites, such as Plastic Jungle, Gift Card Granny, Cardpool, GiftCards and GiftCardRescue that specialize in discounted cards. These sites buy unwanted cards at less than face value and pass along the savings.  Never use an unknown site unless you check it out with the Better Business Bureau or search the Web for complaints.

          Record the Numbers.  When you receive a gift card, the first thing you should do is write down the number of the card and put it in a safe place. You’ll need that number if the card is lost or stolen.




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