What You Need To Know About Christmas Gift Cards

What You Need To Know About Christmas Gift Cards


All week we’ve been examining how to get the most out of Christmas this year. On Monday, it was all about getting your Christmas shopping done early. On Tuesday, we reviewed five Christmas shopping tips for savvy shoppers while on Wednesday we looked at rethinking your Christmas giving altogether.

Gift Cards

gift cardsToday, the discussion turns to gift cards and what you should know about these immensely useful and thoughtful presents. Not everyone likes to give them, preferring to buy a special item and wrapping it themselves, but for many recipients a card is the preferred gift as it allows them to decide what they really want. Honestly, gift cards can be a bit of a mystery, especially since their “rules” vary from retailer to retailer. Personally, there are some shops I would never buy a gift card from, fearing that they’ll tack on a fee that will diminish the value of the gift or in some cases the retailer may be headed for bankruptcy rendering the card and gift worthless.

Bankrate Advice

To help matters, we’ve turned to Bankrate.com a leading aggregator of rates and financial information for a variety of financial products including gift cards. Bankrate notes that gift cards have been the number one gift for the past five years, something not likely to change this year. However, they’re quick to warn consumers that reading the fine print is important before making a purchase, taking into consideration the following data as well:

  • Beware of fees on your major credit company gift cards if you don’t spend the card after the first 12 months: Three credit issuers charge a $2.50 monthly maintenance fee after 12 months of inactivity on their gift cards;
  • All store gift cards don’t charge a fee for purchasing their card in-store (Starbucks charges a $1.50 handling fee for cards purchased online), however all credit issuer gift cards charge a $3.95 fee upon purchase;
  • Keep an eye on your credit issuer gift card’s “Valid Thru” date: While it’s not an expiration date, your gift card will have date on it which indicates when it’s valid through (reportedly due to the shelf life of the magnetic strip). Gift card owners will have to call the issuing company to swap that card for a new one to use it;
  • When buying a retailer gift card, make sure that the card you’re buying can also be used online. While most retailers do allow online purchasing, major retailers such as CVS, T.J. Maxx, and Marshall’s do not allow their gift cards to be used online;
  • February 2010’s Credit CARD Act will also have an impact on the gift card industry: While the CARD Act does not prohibit an inactivity fee, it does mandate that gift cards cannot expire in less than five years;

Shop Now!

Gift cards certainly come in handy, but not all cards are equal. Know what you’re buying and the restrictions of each can certainly make a difference. Of course, if cards are used right away, then a number of issues disappear just as fast, therefore encourage your recipients to hit the stores ASAP in order to find bargains and get full use of their gift cards.

Source: Bankrate.com

Photo Credit: Ivan Prole


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Categories: Consumer Tips

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".