Tips for Buying and Using Gift Cards

Where is my gift card? That’s probably a question many of us have asked at some point and—if we’re not careful—may be asking again after the rush of the holiday season has passed. Gift cards have become a popular option for that hard-to-shop-for person on holiday lists.  In fact, Americans spent an estimated $87 billion on gift cards in 2009.  

Although gift cards may be at the top of everyone’s list, surveys have shown that gift cards often become misplaced or simply go unused.  The American Bankers Association Education Foundation offers the following tips for buying and using gift cards wisely:

 Buying gift cards

  • Only buy gift cards from reputable sources.
  • Check for an expiration date before you buy.
  • Consider practicality, like a grocery store or gas station card, to help ensure the gift card will be used.
  • Understand the policies and fees before purchasing gift cards.

 Using gift cards

  • Keep gift cards in a secure place to avoid misplacement.
  • Spend gift cards within the first year to receive full value.
  • Consider swapping unwanted cards at card-swapping and card-selling websites.
  • Re-gift cards unused or with minor balances to charities who distribute them to the needy.

The prepaid gift card provisions of the 2009 Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) took effect Aug. 22. The provisions prohibit inactivity fees for the first year and within 12 months following activity on the card.  Funds credited to the gift card will remain for at least five years after they are added, even if the printed expiration date has passed.

These tips are provided by Iowa State Bank in partnership with the Iowa Bankers Association.

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