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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, “The gift card industry in the United States will continue to grow over the forecast period and is expected to record a compound annual growth rate of 9.2% during 2020-2024. The gift card market in the country will increase from $163 billion in 2019 to reach $221 billion by 2024.”

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, & 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. If you’ve spot a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim. To find trustworthy businesses, go to