If you have gift cards on your shopping list, you’re not alone. Industry experts estimate gift card spending will top $32 billion this year – both for cards you can use at a specific store (department store or coffee shop), and for bank or credit union cards that are accepted at many businesses (Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, etc.). When you’re giving gift cards, here are a few things to know:
• Are there fees to buy or use the card? Read that tiny print to find out what kind of deal you’re giving – or getting.
• Does the card’s packaging look okay? Inspect it to be sure. If the PIN is showing, a thief might already have it – which could mean the thief can get any money you load onto the card.
• Buying gift cards through online auction sites? Those could be fakes. Stick to sources you know and trust.
• Sending a store card to your nephew in Oregon? Make sure that store is close enough for him to shop there.
On the receiving end, there are things to know, too. For example, if you lose the card, you’re out of luck. Sellers don’t have to replace it. And there are reasons to use gift cards sooner rather than later; some cards start charging fees if you don’t use the card for a while. If the store goes out of business, your gift card is also out of business.
A final word to the wise: whether you’re giving or receiving gift cards, keep track of the receipt. Whoever uses the gift card will need it in case problems arise with the card.
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