We’ve recently explored whether gift cards denote laziness. If you do buy a gift card, be careful. We’ve been trained to think that gift cards are as good as cash in the store that offers them. Now that we’ve been trained, the stores like to throw curveballs, catching us off guard. Here are some questions to ask before you purchase any gift card:
1. Where can it be used? Some are are only valid in one store and some are not usable online. Check the rules.
2. When does it expire? Stores love having expiration dates on gift cards. How else can they get people to pay money and not have to lose any product? Sometimes the amount available decreases by a few percentage points each year. That’s something to look out for as well.
3. Are there shipping and handling fees? If you buy gift cards online, it is likely you’ll be hit with a shipping fee.
4. Is there a service fee? This is another way stores can charge fees regardless of shipping. There is no reason other than the fact that they can get away with it.
The article lists several additional basic questions for which you should know the answers before you spend money on a gift card.
Updated February 7, 2012 and originally published November 17, 2005. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.