The giving of “gift cards” that are like ATM cards is very popular. The “gift cards” are loaded with a certain amount of money for the gift receiver to spend. They are a debit card for the amount loaded into the credit. You can use them like a credit card until the amount that was loaded is gone.
But there are some important “dirty little” secrets the consumer should know:
• First, many of the “gift cards” are limited to the places where you can use them. Some stores will only let you use their “gift cards” in their stores and they will take no others. Also there are limits to where you can use them. The consumer cannot buy airline tickets with them or pay debts, like your phone or utility bills.
• Second, Many of the “gift cards” have built in limits in them, like four months or six months. If you try and use them after the time limit you have to pay a fee of several dollars.
• Third, almost all the “gift cards” have expiration dates on them. After the expiration date the card is dead and if the consumer has not used it he or she lose the money on the card.
Merchants love to sell “gift cards” because it will bring customers into their stores.
Plus 12% of the cards are not redeemed by people, and that makes the merchants Four-to-Six-Million dollars richer each year.
The “gift cards” are different than “gift certificates.” In California and many other states it is illegal to put an expiration date on the “gift certificate” that you bought for a cash value. It would be like putting an expiration date on your money. In California “gift certificates” given as awards or as prizes by a charity can have expiration dates. The U.S. Congress will soon be looking into putting a ban on expiration dates for the new “gift cards.”
When giving a “gift card” make sure the person who receives it understands all the rules in the fine print.