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BBB Tips on Gift Cards

Finding the perfect gift during the holiday season is not an easy task. Gift cards are a hassle-free present that allows the recipient to choose something they really want or need. Better Business Bureau serving Eastern MA, ME, RI and VT (BBB) offers tips on how to choose a gift card that will best suit the both the gifter and recipient.

“When purchasing a gift card, it is important to choose the right one for the recipient,” stated Paula Fleming, Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the local BBB. “Consumers need to understand the type of gift card they are purchasing, as well as, the fine print and policies associated with it.”

Giving gift cards has been on the rise for years and according to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend roughly $29.8 billion on gift cards this year. The survey also states that gas station, department stores and restaurants are top choices for gift cards. Gift cards are popular for their convenience and the freedom they give to the recipient.

BBB offers the following tips when purchasing a gift card:

  • Inspect the card before buying it. Verify that no protective stickers have been removed, and that the codes on the back of the card haven’t been scratched off to reveal a PIN number. Report any damaged cards to the store selling the cards.
  • Know the rules. Understand the different types of gift cards: retail gift cards, which can only be redeemed at the retailers and restaurants that sell them; and bank gift cards, which carry the logo of a payment card network such as American Express, MasterCard or Visa and can be used wherever the brand is accepted.
  • Check it out. Make sure you are buying from a known and trusted source. Always check out a business at bbb.org. Avoid online auction sites, because the cards sold there may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently.
  • Read the fine print before buying. Is there a fee to buy the card? Are there shipping and handling fees for cards bought by phone or online? Will any fees be deducted from the card after it is purchased?
  • Provide the recipient with back up. Give the recipient the original receipt in case the card is later lost or stolen. Also, before you buy retail gift cards, consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant. A card from a business that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business may be worthless. If the business closes a store near the recipient, it may be hard to find another location where the card can be used.
  • Treat the gift card like cash. It’s important to report lost or stolen cards to the issuer immediately. Some issuers will not replace cards that are lost or stolen, while other issuers will, for a fee. Make sure to use gift cards as soon as possible, because it’s not unusual to lose or forget about them.

For more advice on finding reputable businesses around the holidays, visit bbb.org.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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