How To Get the Most from Your Gift Cards

Published 11/12 2012 09:24PM

Updated 11/12 2012 09:43PM

This holiday season, Americans are expected to spend billions of dollars on gift card purchases.  So with all that plastic going around, what's the best way to get the most out of your gift card?  Karin Caifa has the details.


The gift card game has changed over the last few years.  The Card Act of 2009 has extended many provisions regarding fees, terms and conditions to gift cards, but a new survey shows consumers still need to be aware of what they're buying.

In the lead-up to the holiday shopping season, Bankrate looked at 63 gift cards:  8 issued by banks and credit card companies, and 55 from retailers and restaurants.  General use gift cards were far more likely to have fees attached.  Purchase fees ranged from $2.95 to $6.95.  Inactivity fees could eat up three dollars per month after the first year.

The trade-off:  more freedom. credit card analyst, Janna Herron, says, "That's the biggest advantage of one of the general purpose gift cards is the flexibility it gives to the person you give the gift card to. Store-branded gift cards you have to use at the chain or the brand so that limits it, but there are fewer fees that come with those cards."

Two-thirds of issuers said they would replace lost or stolen cards, though some require that you register the card or have a receipt.

Herron says, "Consumers should look on the back of their gift card to find out what they really need to do to protect themselves."

And 95 percent of the cards surveyed did not have an expiration date.

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