Retailers typically do not count a gift card as a sale until the gift card has been redeemed. In order to entice shoppers to use cards quickly, they offer special sales and new merchandise in January.
Online coupons and promotional codes are a great way to extend the value of your gift card and avoid wasting gift card dollars on shipping and handling fees. Before submitting your online order, visit ReatailMeNot for easy access to over 50,000 discounts from 10,000 online merchants and make sure you're getting the best deal.
Put gift cards in a place other than their wallets -- so they won't get lost in a sea of credit cards and papers. Keep them accessible and try to hang them on a cabinet door you open often or put them in your car -- someplace where you will be reminded of them often so they won't go unused.
Some gift cards can only be used at certain merchants. If you're thinking of using your gift card to shop online, be forewarned. An online merchant will often exclude payment with any gift card, even its own. And the merchandise available online may not be available at all from the local store.
It's important to understand the card's terms and conditions. In addition to expiration dates and time penalties, some cards have rules that preclude customers from using the cards on certain items.
While the majority of gift cards have no expiration dates or dormancy fees, shoppers should be careful and read the fine print, particularly with bank-issued gift cards, advocates say. Card issuers such as Visa and MasterCard are more likely to expire and tack on activation, maintenance, transaction and inactivity fees. Bank-issued cards often have monthly maintenance fees that run to several dollars and kick in after six to 12 months. Unlike normal gift cards, bank gift cards come at a hefty premium. You can easily pay $7.95 for a $25 card. (If you're determined to buy one, shop around for the best deal!) Bank gift cards may allow ATM access--but at a stiff price, usually between $1.50 and $5.00 per transaction. A merchant who accepts regular credit cards may decline the use of bank gift cards similarly labeled.
Thanks to new technology, many retailers have the ability to let shoppers register their gift cards through the store's website to protect against loss. Registering your card online will enable you to check your balance online and receive a replacement if your original card is lost.
If you keep the customer service number and the card number separately, it should be simple to call and get a new card. Keeping the customer service number handy is also an easy way to keep track of the card's balance.
Check the terms and conditions on your gift card as soon as possible to see if your card comes with an expiration date or depreciating value. Many states have laws which require retailers to treat unredeemed gift cards as abandoned property after a period of time and turn over unused gift card dollars to the state government. Last year, consumers lost nearly $8 billion because of unredeemed gift cards, according to Massachusetts-based research firm Tower Group. Even if there's no expiration date, cardholders may be hit with a monthly "maintenance" or "dormancy" fee if they don't use them soon enough or often enough. Bank gift cards are particularly notorious with these add-on charges.
Some retailers won't let you use your gift card to make purchases on their websites. Gift cards issued by credit card companies also have limits: You might not be able to use them to rent a car, buy gas or book a hotel room.
If you receive a gift card to a store you don't like, you still have options. Gift cards sell for close to full value on eBay, and several websites - Swapagift.com - Giftcardbuyback.com - offer to buy back or help you trade unused gift cards. You can also always re-gift cards that don't expire.
When you give a gift certificate, often you might force them to pay some of their own money to use it. A ten dollar gift certificate isn’t a whole lot at some fancy outlets and technology stores. You may be forcing your recipient to spend another ten or twenty dollars in order to use your wonderful gift.
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