Tips on Gift Cards and Gift Returns

For those hard-to-buy-for people on your Christmas list, many of us turn to gift cards. Experts predict that gift card sales will reach $131 billion this year. Your BBB® has some tips for buying and using gift cards.

First of all, consumers who buy and receive gift cards are protected by the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD). One of those protections is that requiring that card balances remain valid for five years after they are issued or loaded with money. Unfortunately, fees and expiration dates may still apply which can decrease the value.

Here are some tips from our BBB colleagues at the St. Louis BBB:

*“Check for limits on how the cards may be redeemed.

*If ordering online, make sure it is a secure website. A secure website will display ‘https://” in the website address of the pages where a shopper enters payment information.

*If a BBB Accredited Business seal displays on the website, click on the seal to confirm that it is authentic. A valid seal will link to the firm’s BBB Business Review.

*Be cautious about buying gift cards from online auctions because it is virtually impossible to tell whether the cards have any value remaining, to determine whether they’ve been tampered with or to see if they’ve expired.

*When buying gift cards in a store, check the packaging and any security seals to be sure they are intact and haven’t been tampered with.

*Check the fine print to see if there are fees associated with the card. Some typical fees could include transaction fees or inactivity fees. In some cases, an organization may charge a service fee to issue the card or a replacement card.

*See if the card has an expiration date. In some cases, the plastic card may expire before the five-year redemption period. Are there fees to obtain a new card?

*Check the terms and conditions on a gift card. If you are giving a card to a friend who wants to shop online, make sure the card can be used that way and not just in a store.

*Consider the financial condition of the retailer or bank issuing the card. If you think the store may be on shaky footing, you may want to pass on buying a card.”

Some other helpful tips:

*Always keep your receipt as proof of purchase as long as there is money stored on the card.

*Never give your Social Security number, date of birth, or any other unneeded private information when you purchase a gift card. Reputable companies will not ask you to give this information.

No one likes to have to go through the hassle of returning a gift that didn’t fit or wasn’t what you wanted, but it does happen. A recent survey, found that more than one in three consumers were expected to return one or more gifts they received. And did you know that businesses are not required to issue a return or refund? You might want to check your state’s laws regarding returning merchandise.

Here are some tips to make your gift return experience a bit less of a hassle:

*Read the return policy. If the return policy is not posted, ask about it. Ask if they offer full refunds or store credit or exchanges.

*Always ask for a gift receipt and enclose it with the gift.

*Find out if the return policy is different for on-sale and clearance items.

*Don’t take electronics products out of the box. Some stores require the item to be in its original packaging, while other stores charge as much as a 15 – 25% restocking or open box fee.

*Find out if the online return policy differs from the in-store policy. Sometimes merchandise ordered online can be returned to a store’s physical location; otherwise, you may have to pay a shipping fee to return or exchange the item.

*Don’t wait too long to return the item. Many stores have a limited time frame from the date of purchase in which you can make a return.

We hope these tips are helpful in making your holiday a bit less stressful. From the BBB Serving Evansville and the Tri-State, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org/evansville.

About Jackie 239 Articles
Jackie is the Operations and Education Foundation Assistant with the BBB. She assists consumers with business inquiries, and does presentations to senior groups and high school students. She is a regular contributor to the blog.

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