LAS VEGAS - The gift card game has changed during the last few years. The Card Act of 2009 extended many provisions regarding fees and terms and conditions of gift cards, but shoppers still need to be aware of what they are buying.
With the holiday shopping season in full swing, Bankrate, Inc. looked at 63 gift cards - eight issued by banks and credit card companies and 55 from retailers and restaurants.
General use cards have numerous fees attached. The fees range from $2.95 to $6.95.
The cards also contained inactivity fees - eating up three dollars per month after the first year. The trade-off though is more freedom for the gift card recipient.
"That's the biggest advantage of one of the general purpose gift cards is the flexibility it gives to the person you give the gift card to," said credit card analyst Janna Herron. "Store branded gift cards, you have to use at the chain or the brand, so that limits it, but there are fewer fees that come with those cards."
Two-thirds of issuers said they would replace lost or stolen cards, though some require you register the card or have a receipt.
"Consumers should look on the back of their gift card to find out what they really need to do to protect themselves," said Herron.
Most gift cards examined by 8 on Your Side did not have expiration dates. Ninety five percent of them could be used forever.
Shoppers can also find great gift card deals if they know where to look. Restaurant gift cards can often be purchased at wholesale stores. Shoppers can get two $50 gift cards to popular restaurants for $80.
If you have a consumer issue or complaint you want investigated, contact 8 on Your Side at 650-1907 or email us.