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Tips for Using Gift Cards

Tips for Using Gift Cards

            If you have or hope to receive a gift card this holiday season, you can count yourself among the millions of other Americans who will receive a gift card in 2009.  Effective August, 2010, the laws for gift cards will change drastically, but for now consumers will be protected by the current, not-so-strict guidelines.  Before you and that gift card head out to spend it, be sure to        

  • Read the terms and conditions of the card, and check for an expiration date or any fees.
  • If you didn’t receive the card’s terms and conditions, the original purchase receipt, or the card’s ID number, ask for them from the person who gave you the card, and then keep them in a safe place.
  • Treat your card like cash. If your card is lost or stolen, report it to the issuer immediately. You may be out the entire amount on the card. Some issuers don’t replace the cards, but others do if you pay a fee. If an issuer charges for a replacement card, you’ll most likely need to document the purchase and provide the ID number on the card. Most issuers have toll-free numbers to report lost or stolen cards.
  • Use your card as soon as you can. It’s not unusual to misplace gift cards or forget you have them; using them early will help you get the full value. However, should your card expire before you’ve had a chance to use it or exhaust its value, contact the issuer. They may still honor the card, although they may charge a fee to do that.
  • If you have a problem with a gift card, first contact the company that issued the card.  For cards issued by retailers, contact the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov or call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.
  • For cards issued by national banks, contact the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC) Customer Assistance Group by calling 800-613-6743 or sending an e-mail to: customer.assistance@occ.treas.gov. The OCC charters, regulates, and supervises national banks.
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