Experts advise reading the fine print before purchasing a gift card

Related Story

COLUMBIA — Experts are telling people to read between the lines before purchasing a gift card this holiday season.

The Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to check the fine print and fees on gift cards to see if there are special restrictions or an expiration date.

Danny Trim, the owner of Tiger Pawn, said the store goes through a specific process and all customers looking to sell a gift card are required to have a receipt.

"We'd like to have that receipt. It's mandatory so we know that they got the gift card from the store. There's a scratch off spot on the back that needs to be unscratched so we can make sure that we are the first person to scratch it and see that pin number," Trim said.

Trim said Tiger Pawn will not accept gift cards that have been purchased with a credit card.

"We only take gift cards if they are returns. So, if you have loaded up your gift card with a credit card you can simply take that credit card back with the receipt that shows you bought the gift card and say 'I lost my gift card. Would you issue me a new one?' And then the store will cancel the old card and reissue them a new one. So that's why we don't buy gift cards that are bought with a credit card. We only buy them if they are a merchandise return," Trim said.

The BBB said that more than two billion dollars in gift cards go unused every year. 

Jordan Armstrong, a consumer, said they don't even think about a gift card having an expiration date when making the purchase.

"I feel like gift cards are so quick and easy. That's why I gravitate toward them, so I don't even look at the expiration date," Armstrong said.

Levi Bachmann, a consumer, said he would be really "irritated" if he tried to use a gift card and found out it had expired.

"If I receive one and it's written on the front, like a small business gift card might be, than I would know. Otherwise I wouldn't look at the fine print as to how long it lasts," Bachmann said.

The BBB has tips when buying gift cards which include:

  • Be cautious about buying gift cards from online auctions because it is virtually impossible to tell whether the cards have any value remaining, to determine whether they’ve been tampered with or to see if they’ve expired.
  • When buying gift cards in a store, check the packaging and any security seals to be sure they are intact and haven’t been tampered with.
  • Check the fine print to see if there are fees associated with the card. Some typical fees could include transaction fees or inactivity fees. In some cases, an organization may charge a service fee to issue the card or a replacement card.
  • See if the card has an expiration date. In some cases, the plastic card may expire before the five-year redemption period. Are there fees to obtain a new card?
  • Check the terms and conditions on a gift card. If you are giving a card to a friend who wants to shop online, make sure the card can be used that way and not just in a store.
  • Consider the financial condition of the retailer or bank issuing the card. If you think the store may be on shaky footing, you may want to pass on buying a card.