Five Things to Know About Gift Cards

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We all love gift cards, they're easy to give and even easier to get. But, there's a cost to the convenience... fine print. Here's what you need to know to make your gift card buying experience a good one.

We all love gift cards, they’re easy to give and even easier to get. But, there’s a cost to the convenience… fine print. Here’s what you need to know to make your gift card buying experience a good one.

Stay away from troubled stores

This one should go without saying, but if you’re buying a gift card, buy it from a store that’s going to be around for a little while.  If the retailer goes into bankruptcy, they may put weird restrictions on gift card usage or stop accepting them altogether.

Buy bank issued gift cards

Last year the FDIC expanded it’s coverage at member banks to include prepaid gift cards.  So, as long as you buy your gift cards from an FDIC insured bank, the card will always be good.

Check the fees

Here’s the one drawback to bank issued gift cards: purchase fees.  Buying a gift card from someone like Discover or American Express does come with the freedom to use it almost anywhere, but you’ll be paying a couple bucks for the privilege.  So check to see if there are any fees associated with the gift card you plan to purchase before buying.

Buy them at the last minute

Gift cards are one gift that you’ll want to pick up at the last minute.  Why?  Many gift cards have expiration dates or “maintenance fees” that kick in a few months after buying them.  If you wait until the last minute to get your gift card, the person you’re buying it for will have more time to use it before the fees kick in.

Trade out cards you don’t use

At sites like SwapAGift.com you can sell your unused gift cards at stores you don’t visit.  If you’ve got a gift card more than 1 year old, trade it in for a different card that you’ll use or sell it outright.

Stacy Johnson

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