Help! I Lost My Gift Card

This post comes from Mary Hiers at partner site MintLife.

For some people, there’s nothing quite as exciting as receiving a gift card. Take that excitement and flip it backward, and that’s the level of disappointment you’ll have when you realize your card is MIA.

‘Tis the season for hectic activity, where you might lose or misplace a gift card. It’s also the season for an unscrupulous person to lift it when you aren’t looking.

Regardless of why it’s missing, you’ll need to know how to replace it, or if you can replace it at all.

If possible, register the gift card as soon as you get it. Some retailers allow this, but others don’t.

Here are a few steps that you can take to recover your losses, but they don’t apply in all situations.

Save that receipt!

Your receipt is proof that the card is paid for and belongs to you. If you received the card as a present, ask the giver for the receipt. If she doesn’t have it, contact the store where the card was purchased.

It’s best to worry about the receipt before a card is lost or stolen, but there still might be luck once it’s gone. No promises there, though. It’s important to know that even a receipt won’t help with replacing some gift cards.

For instance, GameStop, one of the most popular video game and game equipment retailers in the country, has a strict “no replacement” policy, except where the law prohibits it. This policy is in place, regardless of whether you do or don’t have a receipt. In fact, its gift card help page specifically states that cards “will not be replaced if lost or stolen.”

Call or visit customer service

Time is of the essence because gift cards may or may not require a personal identification number to spend the funds. Most don’t, so anyone who has the card can use it to make purchases.

If the card did allow you to register it, you’re a bit safer, but again, that’s not common.

One retailer that’s more secure is O’Reilly’s Auto Parts. They require a PIN to use their gift cards, so there’s more hope for replacing one that’s lost.

As soon as you know it’s gone, call or visit the customer service department of the retailer where it was purchased. And be ready to give them as much information as you can about the card and where it was purchased.

Brace yourself for unrecoverable funds

Although many retailers, such as Walmart, will replace a stolen card with your receipt, you might be out of luck if the card has been zeroed out.

Replacements are often based on the balance that the card has remaining at the time you report it missing. The retailer will transfer that balance over to a new card, and you can go on your merry way.

If the card was stolen and someone’s already gone shopping with it, don’t expect the retailer to assume that those purchases weren’t made by you.

Target and Best Buy are two other retailers that transfer the remaining balance to a new card if you have a receipt. Keyword: Remaining.

With no identifying information at the point of sale, there’s no way to know who used the card and spent the funds, so what’s left is what you’ve got.

Online gift cards

Online retailers such as Amazon.com may require more information to recover a lost or stolen gift card.

It’s a bit more difficult to know if a digital gift card has been stolen until it’s used, and losing one usually means the information has been deleted by you or someone else.

As with all other gift cards, the first thing to do is contact customer service. If the card is registered to you, you can give them the information that they need to replace it, including the order number from when the card was purchased.

A lost or stolen gift card is a disappointment, to be sure. But you might have options.

The best thing to do is save your receipts and register every card you receive, if possible, as soon as you get it. If you can add a PIN, all the better.

The more identifying information that you can offer, the more likely your chances are for recovering the loss.

Retailers don’t necessarily want to make it difficult for you, but they have to protect themselves against loss, too.

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