If you don’t know what someone would like or it’s too late to ship a gift, you might be looking at gift cards as a perfect, one-size-fits-all gift. Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to check the fine print on gift cards and make sure security seals are intact before buying them for holiday gifts.
Gift cards may seem like a good alternative to buying and shipping presents, but it pays to read the fine print before you buy one. BBB advises that you may be better off giving cash or a check instead of plastic.
Gift card sales have topped $100 billion in recent years, as widely scattered families and friends see them as an attractive way to remember loved ones over the holidays while avoiding the hassle of finding the right size or saving on shipping costs. However, more than $2 billion in gift cards went unused last year.
The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, which took effect in 2010, provides some protections to consumers who receive gift cards, such as requiring that card balances remain valid for five years after issuance or after they were last loaded with money. Fees and expiration dates may still apply, however, balance inquiries and fees can erode the value of the cards.
Some online retailers offer gift cards that can be delivered directly to the recipient. BBB encourages consumers to be sure that the website where they buy gift cards is secure and check for any limits on how the cards may be redeemed. A secure website will display “https://” in the website address of the pages where a shopper enters payment information.
If the website displays a BBB Accredited Business seal, click on the seal to confirm that it is authentic. A valid seal will link to the firm’s BBB Business Review.
More BBB tips on buying gift cards: