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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Before You Buy or Use a Gift Card - Check for Fees and Restrictions

Before you buy or use a gift card this holiday season, you should check out the card for potential fees and restrictions.

Below are things the Comptroller of the Currency says you should watch for.

What to Watch for
  • The fine print - First, look at the fine print on the card or call the toll-free number listed. You may find that some cards come with fees. A fee could be charged when you buy the card or make a high number of transactions. Fees can also be levied if you haven’t used the card for a year and then you may be charged a fee every month. Other fees may be applied when you make a balance inquiry, add funds to the card or replace a lost or stolen card.
  • The expiration date - Next, see if the card has an expiration date. By law, gift cards issued after August 22, 2010 may not expire for at least five years after purchase. Also, money added to a card is good for at least five years after being added. If an expired card still has money left, find out whether the card can be reissued with a new expiration date.
  • Replacement if lost or stolen - For lost or stolen cards, find out whether you can get a replacement. Is there a fee for the new card? If someone else uses the card after it’s lost or stolen, is that money credited to the replacement card? Keep the receipt for the gift card purchase and write down the card number. These may be needed if you or the person you give it to needs a replacement.
  • Where you can use the card - Find out where you can use the card. A store gift card can often be used only at the store where it was purchased (or related stores). Other gift cards, such as those with a connection to American Express, Discover, MasterCard or Visa, can be used at many locations around the world. Some gift cards can even be used to withdraw cash at an ATM machine.

For more about gift cards, visit