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Giving or Receiving a Gift Card

Giving or Receiving a Gift Card - The Beacon


By: Amanda

Giving or Receiving a Gift Card


We all have those hard to buy for people in our lives, and sometimes instead of trying to find something they’ll like, we purchase a gift card to their favorite store instead. Whether you get or give a gift card this holiday season, your BBB® would like to provide you with the following tips.

Always check for an expiration date. No one wants to receive a card that can’t be used because it expired. Even if there is no expiration, check to see if the card with lose value over time due to non-use as 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.

Make sure the card’s id number and/or security code hasn’t been scratched off. If you can see these numbers, the card may be compromised as some schemers have been known to go to stores and write down all the information from a gift card. When the gift card is purchased by an unsuspecting consumer, the schemer will drain the cards funds before the consumer receives or uses it.

Register the card with the store, if possible. If the store provides you the ability, register the gift card with them 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.

Use caution if buying or selling a gift card online, especially from second-hand online stores. 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.

Use the card as soon as you can.  Gift cards are easy to lose or misplace, and some retailers won’t replace them if they are lost or stolen. In addition, if you purchase a gift card from a business that files bankruptcy or goes out of business, the card could be worth less than you anticipated or nothing at all.

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.