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Gift cards make excellent presents, especially during the holidays when you’re unsure of what to buy for a family member or friend. But, BBB warns, like everything else, gift cards may have strings attached. It’s important to read the fine print before buying and giving.
New rules for gift cards went into effect in 2010. Some rules include:
· Money on a gift card cannot expire for at least five years from the date the card was purchased, or from the last date any additional money was loaded onto the card.
· Inactivity fees can be charged only after a card has not been used for at least one year, and you can be charged only once per month.
· The expiration date of a card must be clearly disclosed on the card, and fees must be clearly disclosed on the card or its packaging.
Here are some helpful tips from BBB regarding gift card purchases:
· Only buy from sources you trust. Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites, because the cards may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently.
· Read the fine print before purchase the card. 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.
· Inspect the card before you buy it. Verify that none of the 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. Report any damaged cards to the store selling the cards.
· Consider the finances of the retailer. If you buy a card from a company that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business, the card may be worth less than you had anticipated.
· Give the recipient your original receipt so they can verify the card's purchase in case it is lost or stolen.
For more tips, go to www.bbb.org.