gift cardsGift giving isn’t always easy.  The plethora of options is limitless and can be overwhelming when trying to choose that special gift. Not only are gift cards an easy purchase for the giver, they offer a one-size-fits-all gift allowing the recipient to get the perfect present. However, even something as simple as a gift card warrants some safeguards. According to the National Retail Federation, spending on plastic or digital gift cards will top all previous records in 2014, with total spending to reach $31.7 billion.  New rules for gift cards were established by the Federal Trade Commission in 2010 offering better protection for consumers, although Better Business Bureau says precautions are still necessary as some exclusions apply.

BBB offers the following five tips to consider before buying gift cards this holiday season:

  1. Know what you are buying.  There are two types of gift cards: retail and bank. Retail gift cards are sold by retailers and restaurants and can only be used with those entities. Bank gift cards are from a payment card network like American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa, etc., and can be used wherever the brand is accepted.
  1. Buy from a trusted source.  Be wary of purchasing gift cards from an unknown company, online resale site such as Craigslist, or from people off the street. To be safe, consumers should purchase gift cards directly from the merchant.
  1. Read the fine print. Fully understand how the card works and know if there are any fees associated with buying or using the card, and if any fees will be deducted after purchase. Bank gift cards may also have a set-up or purchase fee.  Also, some companies will charge fees if the card is inactive for 12 months.  Ask about fees, expiration dates and any additional rules or limitations applicable to the card.
  1. Inspect the card before buying. Verify protective stickers have not been removed and that the PIN on the back of the card is not exposed. The safest gift cards are those behind the register on in protective casing.
  1. Provide receipt with the gift card. Give the recipient the original receipt in case the card is lost, stolen or there is a discrepancy with the balance.  Encourage the recipient to use the card sooner rather than later; the longer it’s held, the higher the chance it could be forgotten, lost or incur fees.

For additional consumer tips and more information, visit www.bbb.org.

Elaine CullenDirector, Mohave County
Better Business Bureau serving Greater Arizona
Main Office: 60 S. Acoma Blvd Ste B102, Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403  | 928-302-3701 Phoenix: 602-264-1721 | Yavapai: 928-772-3410 | Yuma: 928-919-7940

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