Gift cards can still come with a catch - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Gift cards can still come with a catch

(WTOL) – As the final weeks of the holiday season approach, many shoppers will head to the gift card section. Gift cards are now a billion dollar business each year. However, take caution before buying one.

Gift cards are bigger than ever this holiday season with the average consumer expected to spend $155 on gift cards, according to the National Retail Federation.

The good news is due to new consumer laws, gift cards do not expire after a few years as they did in the past. The bad news is they can still come with a catch.

Number one, in many cases, if the recipient loses the gift card, the gift card cannot be replaced.

That happened to Barbara Mills.

"I gave them the code on the back, and they verified yes, $50, and they canceled the card. But they would not issue another one. It was ludicrous," said Mills.

Catch number two is a gift card may already have been used or activated. This can happen when gift cards are simply hanging in store displays.

That happened to Nancy Parrott.

"Before I went to use them I registered them online. And when I did that it said I had a $50 balance, and it's a $100 gift card!" said Parrott.

Catch number three is surprise fees. New federal laws eliminated fees on store gift cards and prohibit inactivity fees for one year. But reloadable cards offered by Visa, MasterCard or malls are exempt and can still cost as much as $5.

Catch number four is the recipient may never use it. As many as one-third of gift cards are never redeemed, often because the gift card was for a store where the recipient never shops.

Be sure to read the fine print on gift cards before making a purchase. If possible, buy a gift card from behind the counter, where there is less chance of tampering.

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