To find that "perfect gift" for the holidays, sometimes it is easier to give a gift card to allow friends and family to choose. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), eight in 10 shoppers will be looking to include these as their holiday gifts. With consumers spending an average of $160 on gift cards, BBB cautions consumers to be careful where they get gift cards and what information they provide to receive them.
Buying a gift card is simple and convenient — recipients can buy what they want or what they need — yet some drawbacks remain. As when making any purchase, awareness and caution when buying gift cards will go a long way toward preventing problems.
To help make sure you don't fall for a deal that's too good to be true, BBB provides the tips when purchasing or using gift cards this holiday season.
Buying a gift card:
Research before you buy. Buy from a known and trusted source. Research businesses at bbb.org to see a company's BBB Business Review.
Read the fine print. Fully understand how the card works, if there are any fees associated with buying or using the card and if any fees will be deducted from the card after it is purchased.
Inspect the card before buying. Verify that protective stickers have not been removed and the PIN Number on the back of the card is not exposed. Report any damaged cards to the store selling the cards.
Provide receipt with gift card. Give the recipient of the gift card the original receipt in case the card is lost, stolen or there is a discrepancy with the balance.
Using a gift card:
Know the terms. When you get the card, read the fine print for any conditions. Check for an expiration date or fees.
Check the date. If it appears that the value of your card has expired, or that fees have been deducted, contact the company that issued the card. They may still honor the card or reverse the fees.
Obtain proof of purchase. Ask the person giving you the card for the original purchase receipt, or the card's ID number; keep this information in a safe place.
Use before you lose. Use your card as soon as you can. It's not unusual to misplace gift cards or forget you have them; using them early will help you get the full value.
Treat your card like cash. If your card is lost or stolen, report it to the issuer immediately. You may recover some of the value that was on the card. Some issuers will not replace cards lost or stolen, but other issuers will, for a fee. You may need to show proof of purchase and the ID number on the card. Most issuers have toll-free telephone numbers you can call to report a lost or stolen card.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer this holiday season, go to bbb.org. To report a fraud or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373.