Avoid expiration dates and fees. Many gift cards have banished
expiration dates and dormancy or maintenance fees altogether. Unless
there's another strong reason to choose a specific retailer or provider's
card, these pitfalls can usually be avoided altogether. Terms and conditions
are often printed on the card or the packaging but sometimes are included
in an accompanying pamphlet. Most companies also list them on their website.
your local and national laws. Laws regarding gift cards vary greatly
from state to state and can provide consumer protection. Many states do
not allow gift card issuers to charge any fees, but this mostly applies
to retailer-issued cards. Only a couple of states restrict fees on bank-issued
cards. Under the Credit CARD Act of 2009, gift cards may not expire until
at least five years after the date they are issued and monthly maintenance
or dormancy fees are not permitted unless the card has been inactive for
at least 12 months.
Purchase from reputable sources. Fraudulent sellers can lurk at
online auction sites or classified-ad sites, selling cards that are
either invalid or obtained fraudulently.
Protect your card. Register your card;
several companies will not replace a lost or stolen card unless it
was registered first. This can usually be done at the issuer's website.
The card's PIN should be covered with a plastic scratch-off coating. You
can also note the card number and PIN and keep it in a separate location.
You'll need it to replace a lost or stolen card.
Keep the paperwork. Hold onto your receipt
and give it to the recipient along with any terms and conditions that
come with the card. Most companies require an original receipt in order
to replace a lost or stolen card.
Shop online and at sister stores. Many store gift
cards can also be used online where there are no lines and the selection
is better. Some cards, like Gap and Pottery Barn gift cards, can also
be used at sister stores (Banana Republic, Old Navy, etc., for Gap; Williams-Sonoma
and West Elm for Pottery Barn).
Make complaints when there is a problem. Contact the issuer first. If the problem cannot be resolved
with the issuer, contact the appropriate authorities, namely the Federal
Trade Commission for retail cards at (877) FTC-HELP (877-382-4357) or online.
Contact the Comptroller of the Currency's Customer Assistance
Group at (800) 613-6743 or by email for
Profit from unwanted cards. Some sites let you swap
cards with others, typically for a listing fee of $2. Also, try listing
your card for free on Craigslist or listing it on eBay. You can also
sell cards through reputable reselling websites. You lose value, but
if you really want the cash, these sites will buy your gift card for 60
to 80 percent of its value, depending on the store. If profit isn't the
goal, charities, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, are happy to accept
many unused gift cards as donations. Schools and churches can use gift
cards for raffles and fundraisers.
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