Gift Cards: How to Purchase and Spend Wisely

Gift cards are a boon to harried holiday shoppers looking for just the right gift to please “hard to buy for” friends and family members According to SVM Global, sales of gift cards are expected to reach $160 billion by 2018. Digital gift cards are also growing in popularity and will account for more than 11% of total gift card sales by 2018. Here are some guidelines to help you get the most out of your gift card – whether purchasing or spending.

  • Gift card sales and redemption are governed by Federal regulations.
  • An inactivity fee cannot be charged until the card has not been used for 12 months.
  • Gift cards cannot expire for at least 5 years.
  • No more than one fee (of any kind) can be charged to the cardholder in a single month.
  • Information printed on the card must disclose fees and an expiration date and provide a toll-free phone number or website where you can get more information.
  • A one-time fee can be charged when you buy the card, though this generally only applies to gift cards purchased through your credit card company – not those purchased directly from stores and restaurants.
  • If a third-party gift card seller violates any of these rules, contact the BBB and file a report with the FTC.

Source: BBB North Alabama, SVM Global & CEB TowerGroup.

Note: These rules do not cover reloadable cards, such as prepaid phone cards or debit cards from the big credit card companies. Rebate and loyalty reward programs are also exempt. If you receive a gift card, you should redeem it promptly if possible.

To report a scam, go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, go to

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