Holiday Gift Cards

December 2004 - Holiday Gift Cards

The holidays are upon us and everyone wants to give the "perfect" gift. What is it that will please our favorite people? While there are many ways to buy and send gifts, among this year's favorites is the holiday gift card.

"Whether you give or receive a gift card, consumers need to be aware of the terms and conditions that apply to various gift cards," stated Roger C. Bogsted, Nassau County Commissioner of Consumer Affairs.

FEES -- Some gifts cards may not have fees, but others do charge various types and amounts of fees. Some fees may be paid in cash while others may be deducted from the value of the card. Some common charges include:

  • Purchase Fees that are charged when you buy a gift card. These are in addition to the money you pay in exchange for the value of the card.
  • Monthly Fees or other regular charges (such as service fees, administrative fees or maintenance fees) that are deducted from the gift card balance.
  • Inactivity Fees that apply if you do not use the card within a certain time period (for example, a monthly fee that is deducted from the gift card balance if the card's value has not been used up within 6 months after the card is purchased).
  • Transaction Fees for using the card - either for all transactions, for a high number of transactions, or for certain types of transactions (for example, ATM withdrawals).
  • Miscellaneous Fees for balance inquiries, replacing a lost or stolen card, or other services related to the card.

EXPIRATION DATES -- Make sure you know whether there is an expiration date for the card. If a gift card expires, you may not be able to use it, and the company that sold it to you may keep whatever money is left on the card. If there is an expiration date, you should also find out whether you can ask for the card to be reissued with a new expiration date, and what the fee would be for issuing a new card.

One should know their recourse with regard to lost or stolen cards, where the card can be used, whether the issuing agent is financially viable, and how problems and complaints should be addressed. Check to see if the gift card, or its packaging, includes full information on all the terms or conditions, or provides a toll-free number or website with information about fees connected with the card. The peace of mind gained by being a discerning consumer goes a long way in enhancing a truly happy holiday.