How to Use a Gift Card

Chances are you probably received a gift card or two this holiday season. In fact, approximately 8 out of 10 shoppers bought such cards this season, spending an average of $163 on them but, they aren’t used as quickly as cash. A whopping  $1.7 billion in gift cards went unspent in 2012. Partly as a result, federal law now says gift cards must be valid for at least five years before they expire. BBB advises before planning on your next shopping spree for getting the gifts you didn’t get under the tree, make sure the gift card you got is legitimate.

  1. Inspect it carefully by verifying none of the protective stickers are removed, and that the codes on the back of the card are not scratched off to reveal a PIN number. If they have, notify the gift giver.
  2. Check to see if you have a receipt with the gift card just in case the card is later lost or stolen.  Some issuers will not replace cards that are lost or stolen, while other issuers will, for a fee.
  3. Double check the retailer, restaurant or establishment the gift card is for is still in good financial standing. A card from a business that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business may be worthless. If the business closes, it may be hard to find another location where the card can be used. A business that files for bankruptcy may honor its gift cards, or a competitor may accept the card. Call the business or its competitor to find out if they are redeeming the cards, or if they will do so at a later date.
  4. Treat the gift card like cash. Make sure to use gift cards as soon as possible, because it’s not unusual to lose or forget about them. If you plan to use the gift card online for purchases, check with the issuing bank for restrictions.

Follow these tips and enjoy your gift. Not sure where to go to spend it? Start with someone you Trust. Visit

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About Howard Ain

Howard Ain has been reporting consumer news on Cincinnati television for the past 38 years. He also writes a newspaper column alerting readers to consumer scams. He now joins BBB|Cincinnati as a correspondent.