Consumer Handbook: Gift Cards Make Great Last-Minute Gifts, But Take A Close Look Before Purchasing

Dec 11, 2019

Credit 401(K) 2012/Flickr, License: http://401kcalculator.org/

Are you short on time? Need a last-minute gift? The answer just might be the gift card hanging on the rack near the register or in the greeting card aisle. 

But, before grabbing a gift card for a favorite store or restaurant, know that thieves are just as eager to use these gift cards before they’re presented to the intended recipient. Also, some retailers have terms and conditions as to how the gift card can be redeemed. 

Take a closer look. No matter where gift cards are displayed in the store, thieves are known to remove gift cards from the display rack and record the numbers associated with that card, including the activation PIN. Before purchasing a gift card, look carefully at the packaging for any tears, wrinkles, or other indications of tampering, and see if the PIN is exposed. If anything looks suspicious, it’s probably best to take a different card, and turn in the compromised card to the store’s Customer Service Desk. 

Research how to use the card. Not all retailers have the same policies when issuing a gift card. Double check the terms and conditions on the type of gift card purchased. The FTC has information about retail gift cards and bank gift cards. 

If the retailer allows the option to register the gift card, take full advantage. This makes it easier to protect the balance, that way you can report it sooner and potentially end up saving the money that is stored on the card. 

Finally, treat it like cash. If the card is lost or stolen, report it to the issuer immediately. Most issuers have toll-free telephone numbers to report a lost or stolen card, which you can find on the card or online.