Feature Articles: Miscellaneous
Gift cards are great to give
Janet LaFon, Family Financial Education Specialist, Jasper County, University of Missouri Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org
With the holidays rapidly approaching, your thoughts may be on how to find those perfect gifts. One possibility that fits everyone is a gift card. Many shoppers like giving gift cards because they are easy to buy, you don't have to visit a lot of stores and it can be a way to get shopping finished early. For those who receive the cards, there is freedom to buy what they like and no unwanted gifts to exchange.
New laws protect you
Before shopping for gift cards, you should be aware that there are new Federal Reserve rules for gift cards that went into effect in August 2010. The new rules cover store gift cards and gift cards that carry a brand logo like MasterCard, Visa, American Express or Discover. Here’s an overview of the new rules and how they protect consumers:
- Under the new rules, the money on gift cards is good for at least five years from the date the card is purchased. If the card has expired and there is still unspent money on it, you may request a free replacement card.
- Read the information that is available with the card to see if expiration dates apply.
- All fees must be clearly disclosed on the card or its packaging.
- There are limits on the fees that can be charged. Fees are allowed if you haven’t used the card for at least one year and you are only charged one fee per month. There are restrictions that apply to fees, such as dormancy or inactivity fees, usage fees, maintenance fees and fees for adding money to your card.
- You can be charged a fee to purchase a card or a fee to replace a lost or stolen card.
Gift cards are available from a variety of stores, online or through financial institutions.
Use caution before you buy a card
- Buy from sources you know and trust. Be cautious of online auction sites, as the cards may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently.
- Take time to read the fine print before you buy. If you don’t like the terms and conditions, buy elsewhere.
- Before you buy a card, check for expiration dates and fees, such as fees to purchase a card, shipping and handling fees if purchased online and/or fees to use the card. If you don’t see this information, ask. Be sure to give the recipient a copy of the information if it's separate from the gift card.
- Inspect the card before you buy it. Check to see that none of the protective stickers have been removed and that the codes on the back of the card haven’t been scratched off to reveal a PIN number.
- Give the recipient the original receipt so he or she can verify the card’s purchase if it's lost or stolen.
For more information, visit these websites:
Originally published in Silver Threads newsletter
Last update: Monday, December 05, 2011