With the holiday season right around the corner and the economy putting thesqueeze on budgets, many shoppers are going to be looking for the best giftoptions this holiday season. For those looking to give gift cards to family andfriends, BBB is recommending that you do your research before purchasing a giftcard.
BBB receives hundreds of complaints each year for the gift card industry. Insome cases, consumers are disgruntled when they are given an expired gift cardwith loaded cash that isn’t usable until the expiration date is corrected.After sending the expired card in for replacement, the consumer is left emptyhanded when the card fails to ever return to them.
“Consumers need to be on the lookout for gift cards that appear to be ‘open’or out of their original package, and cards that state an expiration date thatis coming up or that has passed,” says Judy Pepper, BBB Serving CentralFlorida President. “Shoppers should be wary of online auction sites thatpromise ‘full value guaranteed’ gift cards. It’s sites like these that areprone to selling old, valueless cards that leave the gift giver and receiverdistraught.”
BBB recommends the following tips for both givers and receivers of giftcards:
Know the rules. New federal rules that took effect in August of2010 are designed to protect consumers, and will restrict fees and affect giftcard expiration dates. These new rules apply to two types of cards: Retail giftcards, which can only be redeemed at the retailers and restaurants that sellthem; and bank gift cards, which carry the logo of a paymentcard network like American Express, Visa, or Mastercard and can be usedwherever the brand is accepted.
Check it out. Make sure you are buying from known and trusted source.Always check out a business at www.bbb.org. Avoid online auction sites, because the cardssold there may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently.
Read the fine print before buying. Isthere a fee to buy the card? Are there shipping and handling fees for cardsbought by phone or online? Will any fees be deducted from the card after it ispurchased?
Inspect the card before buying it. Verifythat no protective stickers have been removed, and that the codes on the backof the card haven’t been scratched off to reveal a PIN number. Report anydamaged cards to the store selling the cards.
Provide the receiver with back up. Givethe recipient the original receipt in case the card is later lost or stolen.Also, before you buy retail gift cards, consider the financial condition of theretailer or restaurant. A card from a business that files for bankruptcyor goes out of business may be worthless. If the business closes a store nearthe recipient, it may be hard to find another location where the card can beused. A business that files for bankruptcy may honor its gift cards, or acompetitor may accept the card. Call the business or its competitor to find outif they are redeeming the cards, or if they will do so at a later date.
Treat the gift card like cash. Forreceivers, it’s important to report lost or stolen cards to the issuerimmediately. Some issuers will not replace cards that are lost or stolen, whileother issuers will, for a fee. Make sure to use gift cards as soon as possible,because it’s not unusual to lose or forget about them.
For more consumer tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org.