13 On Your Side: Holiday gift cards
With Thanksgiving just nine days away, the holiday shopping season is well under way. We're expected to ring up billions in gift card purchases this season. But there are some rules, regulations, and fees you should know about.
News 13's Jon Chrisos is On Your Side to help bring gift card givers and recipients the most bang for the buck.
Gift cards are a popular and convenient way to give. But they're wrapped up in a warning from Maine's Bureau of Financial Institutions. It's urging shoppers to always read the fine print that goes along with gift cards.
The gift card game has changed over the last few years. The card act of 2009 extended many provisions regarding fees, terms and conditions to gift cards, but a new survey shows consumers still need to be aware of what they're buying.
In the lead-up to the holiday shopping season, Bankrate looked at 63 gift cards, 8 issued by banks and credit card companies, and 55 from retailers and restaurants. General use gift cards were far more likely to have fees attached. Purchase fees ranged from $2.95 to $6.95. Inactivity fees could eat up 3 dollars per month after the first year. The trade off: more freedom.
That's the biggest advantage of one of the general purpose gift cards is the flexibility it gives to the person you give the gift card to. Store branded gift cards you have to use at the chain or the brand so that limits it, but there are fewer fees that come with those cards.
Two-thirds of issuers said they would replace lost or stolen cards, though some require that you register the card or have a receipt. Consumers should look on the back of their gift card to find out what they really need to do to protect themselves. And 95% of the cards surveyed did not have an expiration date.
Under Maine law, expiration dates can't be imposed on gift or pre-funded bank cards. Maine law also says if the balance on the card is less than $5, the merchant has to give that amount to consumer if he or she asks for it.
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