Know the ins and outs of gift cards before buying them

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Savvy Shopper: Tips To Get The Most Out Of Gift Cards

CROMWELL  The main reason holiday gift cards are so popular for buyers and recipients can be summed up into one word: convenience.

Gift cards and certificates essentially give the end user the freedom to buy whatever they want, however, Connecticut Better Business Bureau says consumers should understand the various gift card options, their benefits and consequences.

According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Gift Card Spending Survey, consumers are expected to spend $31 billion on gift cards by the end of this year, up from $26 billion in 2014.

In 2003, Connecticut became one of the first states to prohibit fees and expiration dates for cards bought in the state or ordered online or by telephone by a Connecticut resident.

There is an exception for gift cards that fall under federal law, such as cards issued by financial institutions, and in some cases shopping malls. Federal regulations do allow certain fees in such cases.

What happens if a business closes its doors before I use my gift card?

A competitor or another nearby business may offer some sort of credit for the gift card to attract you as a new customer. It is also why rule number one if you get a gift card: use it right away. You also want to use it as soon as possible because we tend to lose them. Typical estimates indicate 20% of gift cards are never redeemed.

What if I don’t want the gift card?

There are reputable websites where you can buy and sell gift cards and certificates.
Some cards are worth more than others, but you can receive up to 70% of their value selling them online. If you want to purchase a gift card from one of these websites, you can find cards discounted up to 30% of their value. Check the company or website first with Better Business Bureau to make sure you are dealing with an ethical business.

BBB warns gift card fraud continues to be a problem, and offers these tips to avoid becoming the victim of gift card fraud:

Inspect the card at the cash register – A growing problem is that criminals scratch away the wax on the back of the card to reveal its serial number, put it back into its packaging and empty the card with that information. If you can see the card’s number on the back-so can everyone else. Inspect gift cards bought from corner stores which may be on a rack away from the eyes of the merchant. The safest gift cards are found at the cash register.

Avoid buying gift cards through classified ads – Buyer beware. You may end up with a counterfeit or empty card if you receive anything at all.

Register your gift card – Most issuers have a telephone number or website to register the card, check its balance and file a report if lost or stolen

Give recipients the original receipt – It makes things a lot easier for them if the card is lost or stolen.

Beware of email or texted “giveaway” cards – This is prime time for scammers. If you click on such a link in an email or text, you will likely get a virus in your computer – but no gift card.

Howard Schwartz, CT BBB Executive Communications Director