Holiday shopping? Make sure gift cards bring you cheer, not tears

November marks the start of holiday shopping for countless Tennesseans and shoppers everywhere. Here is how consumers can keep gift cards’ policies from dumping snow on their holiday season.

FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2009 file picture stickers on a window show which credit cards are valid in a shop in Frankfurt, central Germany. Head to the checkout at an Ikea in Stockholm to pay for your new Karlsfors leather corner sofa and with the simple swipe of a Visa card and a signature it's all yours. But don't try that in Berlin - that'll be 1,699 euro cash or on the debit card please. But just as an American or any number of others wouldn't hesitate to whip out a credit card for a morning coffee on the way to work, a German wouldn't think twice about having to pay cash for a television. It's that financial culture - an aversion to debt and an emphasis on savings - that makes Chancellor Angela Merkel's hardline approach to resolving the European economic through austerity and budget reforms so popular among her constituents. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- More holiday shoppers seem to be choosing gift cards as their present of choice. And why not? There is no need to worry about size, color, or style.

Still, economic experts say there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a gift card as a present,

* Check expiration dates and fees. In the state of Tennessee, expiration dates, fees and other terms must be clearly disclosed at the time of purchase. The expiration date and fee must be legibly printed on the gift card.

*Ask about restrictions. Some card issuers deduct a monthly fee from the card or apply inactivity fees, if a card has not been used for a period of time. These fees will reduce the value of the card.

*Some gift cards do not allow cash refunds for a remaining balance on a card. You will have to either forfeit the balance or buy additional items.

*Know what it will cost. Major shopping mall operators charge fees for gift cards. Gift cards issued by banks and credit card companies often expire and tend to add fees. Fees – including activation fees, transaction fees, maintenance fees and inactivity fees – can lessen a card’s value.

*Ask what to do if the card is stolen. Always keep a receipt. Because gift cards are not usually registered to an individual purchaser, they can be easily stolen. Some stores urge customers to access their website and register cards in case they’re stolen.

*Check on purchase exemptions. Ask if the card may be used at both a store’s physical location and the store’s website. Also ask if the card may be used at other locations, not just the specific store where the card was purchased.

*Get as much information as possible for the card’s recipient. Ask for a toll-free phone number, in case there are problems with the gift card. Ask if a website that provides gift card details is available.


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