AMARILLO -- "Gift cards are popular gifts for hard to buy for friends and relatives. Whether you give a gift card or receive one, beware of scams and be aware that using your gift cards quickly will bring you and the giver the most joy. Using gift cards right away is a win-win for you, the giver and the retailer," said Janna Kiehl, BBB CEO.
A gift card can come up empty when you decide to spend it. Here's how:
- A crook copies down the numbers on the back of gift cards displayed on retail store racks. Hoping the card is sold and loaded with a balance, the crook calls the store several days later asking for the balance on the card. When they find a card with a balance, they go online for a free shopping spree using that card number, essentially picking the pocket of the legitimate customer who paid for the card AND the gift card recipient.
- An unscrupulous cashier can pocket newly loaded cards and hand customers blanks.
What you can do:
- Buy from reputable sources, preferably directly from the store and, if possible, not off a rack. Many experts discourage buying gift cards online because it's difficult to know whether the card is stolen or will arrive with the promised amount.
- Immediately after buying a gift card, ask the cashier to scan the card itself to ensure the card is valid and has the proper value.
- When buying a gift card, keep the original purchase receipt with the card as proof of purchase.
Use gift cards promptly.
Gift cards are intimidating; after all you may never be quite sure how much money is on the card, which can be embarrassing at the register. If you have a gift card that is partially used, the value remaining may be minimal, prompting you to avoid spending it or you may have forgotten the amount on the card.
Use your gift card soon after you receive it and if possible, take the gift receipt along with the card when shopping.
A Billion Dollar Business.
Consumers spend billions of dollars purchasing gift cards; thats money already in your pocket. Do you have your share of it somewhere, not being used? If you leave gift cards lying around thinking you will spend them someday, you may run into problems when you do.
Some gift cards can lose value with fees for non use or other restrictions. The longer it goes unspent, the higher this risk becomes. Some gift cards have expirations dates. Designate a time to spend your gift cards then call grandma and tell her all about the great gift she bought you!
"Someone has already paid to allow you to shop; make that gift giver happy by using your gift cards soon after you receive them," says Kiehl. "When you use your cards quickly, you help avoid fees and other charges and you also reduce the risk of misplacing or even losing it."
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