Gift cards make excellent presents, especially during the holidays when you’re unsure of what to buy for a family member or friend.
But like everything else, gift cards might have hidden fees and strings attached. It’s important to read the fine print before buying and giving.
Both the United States and Canada have recently made changes in federal laws to improve consumers’ chances of getting full value out of the cards they buy and give.
These rules generally apply to gift certificates, store gift cards and general use prepaid cards.
Here are some tips regarding gift card purchases:
• Buy from sources you know and trust. Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites, because the cards might be counterfeit or might have been obtained fraudulently.
• Read the fine print before you buy. Is there a fee to buy the card? If you buy a card by phone or online, are there shipping and handling fees? If you don’t like the terms and conditions, buy elsewhere.
• See whether any fees will be deducted from the card after you purchase it.
• Inspect the card before you buy it. Verify that no protective stickers have been removed. Make sure that the codes on the back of the card haven’t been scratched off to reveal a
PIN number. Immediately report any damaged cards
to the store selling the cards.
• Give the recipient your original receipt or ask for a gift receipt so the card’s purchase can be verified in case it is lost or stolen.
• Consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant. No one wants a gift card for a company that goes out of business.
Despite ongoing issues with gift cards, sales of gift cards are still expected to increase this year. Experts predict that more than 70 percent of consumers are planning to buy gift cards this holiday season.
REACH KELVIN COLLINS, THE PRESIDENT/CEO OF THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU OF CENTRAL GEORGIA AND THE CSRA INC., AT (800) 763-4222 OR WWW.BBB.ORG.