What You Need to Know About Gift Cards

Whether you love or hate giving or receiving gift cards, these little plastic cards are about to get more popular because of the holidays. So before you buy or use, check out a few gift cards tips and laws compiled by Lifehacker.

Store-branded gift cards are better
Look into store-branded gift cards (i.e. Target gift cards, Starbucks gift cards, etc). In most cases, these cards don’t come with a purchase fee ($2.95 or higher) and won’t carry a dormancy fee or expiration date.

Learn the state and federal laws to protect yourself
Speaking of expiration dates, did you know that the state of California does not permit the expiration of gift cards? If the gift card is issued in California, any expiration date is rendered invalid. You can also exchange your gift card for cash if the balance is $10 or less. Know your rights!

There are also new federal laws to protect you even further (especially if you’re outside California). You can use your store or bank-issued gift card for at least five years without expiration if the card was purchased on or after August 22, 2010. After five years, the funds will expire unless the vendor or state laws state otherwise.

“If you can reload a gift card, any new funds cannot expire for five years. This only pertains to the added funds and does not extend the life of any leftover funds currently on the card.” Again, keep in mind that if the gift card is issued in California, expiration dates do not apply. [source]

Transfer your gift certificates to gift cards
Every now and then, I will receive $20 gift certificates (from stores like Nordstroms) for being a frequent shopper, but these usually come with an expiration date. In such cases, talk to a store manager or representative about transferring your gift certificate amount to a gift card to avoid losing your rewards. This trick might not work with all retailers, but it’s worth a shot.

Final tips

  • You cannot be charged a replacement fee if your gift cards needs to be replaced. However, replacement fees can be charged for lost or stolen gift cards.
  • Vendors may charge you a small fee for unused gift cards after one year.
  • The laws and regulations posted above do not include prepaid debit cards and free promotional/rewards cards.

So now that you know your rights, are you more inclined to buy and accept gift cards? Why or why not?

[Via: Lifehacker]

About the Author

Alejandra Gutierrez Alex is the new Social Media Specialist for the ILWU Credit Union. She's a 'nerd' at heart who enjoys community building. Her obsessions: baked goods and old mariachi ballads.