Gift Cards Are The Most Popular Gift

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

Montgomery Country Gift Card Report [PDF]
Gift-card gotchas [Consumer Reports]
Say it with plastic [Delaware Online]

Comments

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  1. juri squared says:

    State laws vary, too. I’m pretty sure it’s now illegal for gift cards to expire in Illinois.

  2. infinitysnake says:

    Should note that gift cards in California & Washington cannot expire, but this applies only to retail, not ‘credit’ type cards like the Vias GC.

  3. acambras says:

    Same for Connecticut — no expiration date. And I don’t think CT allows dormancy fees either.

  4. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I hate gift cards. I think I posted this elsewhere…but….

    If someone is going to buy me a $10 gift card, I’d much rather have them try and buy a gift. Something a little more personal. Even if it is something I hate, at least they put the time into it. It shows they care. A gift card is lame, and often times just forces you to spend more money at a store than the card is valued for. For instance, I got a $10 gift card for Gamestop. The only system I currently own is an Xbox 360. What the HELL can I get for my 360 for $10? Right off the bat, I have to spend money just to use my gift. Lame.

  5. kerry says:

    It is indeed illegal for cards to have dormancy fees or expiration dates in Illinois. If you have a card purchased in Illinois and it says on the back that it expires or will assess dormancy fees just ignore it but check on the balance if you’ve still got the card a year later (or whenever the expiration date is).

  6. peejaybee says:

    Actually, here in Illinois, expiration dates aren’t illegal, but funds that are left on the card after five years are considered abandoned property that must be reported and tendered to the Treasurer. Gift cards are exempted if there are no post-sale fees or expiration dates imposed.

  7. peejaybee says:

    I don’t think expiration dates are illegal in Illinois, technically, but if a card expires or has post-sale fees, after five years any unspent funds are considered unclaimed property which must be reported and tendered to the Treasurer. Cards that don’t expire or decay are exempted from the unclaimed property act.

  8. kerry says:

    peejaybee – a few years ago I got a card that was supposed to lose value after a year, but then a year or so later Illinois passed a law saying gift cards couldn’t do that, and the full value on my card was restored. Ever since then I haven’t seen a single card with a written disclaimer of expiration or value loss after a certain time frame, and I figured it was because you couldn’t sell cards like that in Illinois and the companies produce cards that comply with state law.

  9. yarstberry says:

    Pizza Hut gift cards leave mutch to be desired:

    http://www.wordsandpicturesonline.com/01-08-07.html

  10. micricde says:

    PIZZA HUT GIFT CARDS. Not really a gift, more of a way to make your visit an unpleasant one! I bought a gift card to use at my local Pizza Hut in Sevierville, TN used it one time for around $7.00 and still have yet to be able to use it again, even though I have tried three times each Tue night (buffet night)for the last 3 weeks. When the card gets swiped the cashier claims it comes up an “invalid” card. I explain to them that I do have a balance on the card, I checked it just before I left to go eat! They say, “sorry, there is nothing that they can do! We even got into an argument….once again they say, sorry, nothing we can do!” I made a call to customer satisfaction and only got a letter of appology and absolutley nothing done about the gift card. I am stuck with a useless piece of plastic that is now worth nothing to me if I cant use the remaining $18.00 balance.