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Giving Gift Cards and Gift Certificates

Giving Gift Cards and Gift Certificates - The Beacon


By: Amanda

Giving Gift Cards and Gift Certificates

Do you plan on purchasing a gift card or gift certificate for someone this holiday season? Your BBB® has the following tips for you.

Whether buying or receiving a gift card always check the expiration date. An expired gift card does not make a good gift and no one wants to be stuck with one. Even if there is no expiration date or if the date is a long ways off, check for reductions in value over time. Some stores reduce the value of a card if it is not used within a certain time frame. There may also be a time limit to register the card or a limit on certain incentives. Policies vary by retailer so be sure to understand the terms and conditions.

If the card can be registered with the store it is always a good idea to do that right away to prevent someone from fraudulently using the card number rendering your card worthless. When giving a gift card, make sure you give the person proof of purchase such as the receipt in case the card was not properly activated or the number comes up stolen. When receiving a gift card, make sure you receive proof of purchase for the same reason.

Another reason to use the card in a timely fashion is that if a business closes, any unused cards are typically of no value. This is also something to keep in mind if you are considering buying a gift card from a business that might be unstable or is only a seasonal location and may not continue operations.

There are now online sources for gift cards. Keep in mind that if you are buying a gift card secondhand there is the risk that you may receive a used card with little or no value remaining, a stolen card that cannot be redeemed or a phony card that never had any value. Contact your BBB and check on an online gift card site before purchasing. Never give the card number to anyone as they may be able to drain the card with just the number even if they do not have the physical card.

Keeping these tips in mind can help avoid losing the value of a gift card you have or help to avoid the embarrassment of giving a gift that ends up having no value. For more information you can trust, visit your BBB at

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Amanda is the Director of Bureau Affairs and is a regular contributor to the consumer education blog. She is one of our go-to colleagues for answering complex consumer inquires. Amanda also manages our charity reporting program.