The 2006 Deloitte report on gift cards is out, and it’s official. Gift cards are the single most popular gift this holiday season. But are they a good buy? Sort of. It seems that due to consumer pressure, and FTC pressure, stores are improving their customer service/disclosure of fees when it comes to gift cards. But that doesn’t meant there aren’t still a lot of problems. The Montgomery County, Maryland, Office of Consumer Protection which assesses dozens of cards annually, has released their 2006 report. The report evaluates 40 different gift cards, looking for things like whether or not the card can be replaced if lost or stolen, whether the cards have an expiration date, and whether fees are assessed to the card’s balance. Basically, you want to avoid the following cards:
•Blockbuster, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, because of expiration dates.
•Pizza Hut, and Shell for dormancy fees
•CompUsa, Home Depot,Kay Jewelers and Kmart, because the card can not be used on the store’s website.
Bank cards, which are “gift cards” that can be used like a credit card, have tons of hidden fees and bullshit—and should be avoided. Also, when giving a gift card, be sure to include the original receipt…so the card can be replaced if lost or stolen if that service is available. Or just give cash. We love cash.—MEGHANN MARCO