It’s gift-card season, so don’t get caught holding some worthless plastic. Here are some tips from the Connecticut Better Business Bureau:
Connecticut and federal laws protect consumers from many unpopular aspects of gift cards such as expiration dates and multiple fees for activation, use, balance checking and inactivity, however different laws apply to cards issued by financial institutions.
Store card or pre-loaded?
Retail store cards do not have fees associated with them. The retailer benefits from getting the recipient into the store. However, if the recipient doesn’t want to be locked into using a gift certificate at a particular establishment, consider using prepaid cards sold by financial institutions.
Buy from sources you know and trust. Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites, because they may be empty, counterfeit or stolen.
If you get one – use it! – Billions of dollars of cards go unused. Don’t just tuck them away in a drawer. If you don’t want to use it, there are sites that will give you 90 per cent or more of the value if you want to sell it.
Read the fine print before you buy. 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.
Give the recipient your original receipt so they can verify the card’s purchase in case it is lost or stolen.
Consider the financial condition of the business if it’s a local retailer or restaurant. BBB encourages consumers to use gift cards as soon as possible. If the retailer or restaurant goes out of business before the card is redeemed, there will likely be no recourse for the card holder top get any money back.
Be wary of any offers for highly discounted coupons and cards through e-mail, social media links, online auction and classified ad sites.