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Shoppers need to check terms before buying gift cards
Shoppers this holiday season may feel like minnows in shark-infested waters. While there may be some good bargains out there, watch where you step because there are some pitfalls especially if you're buying gift cards.
Yes, these cards make the perfect gifts for a lot of reasons -- no gift wrapping, the person you are giving it to can purchase what they really want you can give them a card for their favorite store, restaurant or hobby. But buyer beware. You need to read and understand the fine print -- sometimes VERY fine -- on the cards before purchasing them. According to Consumer Reports, last year shoppers were out $8 billion because of unused, lost or expired gift cards.
Here are some gift card shopping hints:
1. Watch out for fees added to the purchase of the cards -- especially those offered by major credit card companies.
2. Beware of expiration dates on the cards that may render them worthless if Aunt Nellie leaves hers in her desk drawer for too long. It would be nice to inform the person you are giving it to about that date.
3. Will the cards be honored? In this roller coaster economy we are in, it is possible that some stores may go out of business and the cards will be worthless. You need to choose gift cards from companies that have staying power and will stand behind their cards.
4. Make sure the gift card has a toll-free number with it that you, or the person you give the card to, can call if there is a problem.
For more tips about gift cards, go to this Consumer Reports article:
The Federal Trade Commission also offers some good information: