Reasons to be careful of gift cards

Don't Waste Your Money

(WCPO) - Buying a gift card this holiday season? The good news is that thanks to new consumer laws, they don't expire in a couple of years as they used to.

The bad news: They can still come with a catch.

The average consumer is expected to spend $155 on gift cards this year, a new record, according to the National Retail Federation.

But before you snap one up, here are a few reasons why you may not want to buy one.

What if it gets lost?

Catch #1. In many cases, if the recipient loses it, the gift card can't be replaced.

That happened to Barbara Mills. After one she gave her daughter was stolen, she told me "I gave them the code on the the back, and they verified yes, $50, and they canceled the card.  But they would not issue another one.  It was ludicrous."

Someone activated it!

Catch #2:  A gift card that has already been used or activated.

It can happen with cards hanging in store displays and it happened to Nancy Parrot. "Before I went to use them I registered them online," she said. "And when I did that it said I just had a $50 balance and it's a $100 gift card."

What's that extra fee?

Catch #3.  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 you as much a $5 each.

Will it be used?

And Catch #4:  The recipient may never use it:  As many as one-third are never redeemed, often because the card was for a store where the recipient never shops.

or Catch #5:  The recipient will put it in a desk drawer and forget it.

So read the fine print on gift cards before you make a purchase. And if possible, buy one from behind the counter, where there's less chance of tampering.

And that way you don't waste your money.
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