Attorney general offers tips on gift cards
Iowa Attorney General has offered tips on gift cards or certificates.
• Gift certificates are issued by a merchant for goods or services with that merchant. They’re generally issued on paper, as opposed to a card, and they entitle the recipient to goods or services;
• Retail gift cards can be used only with the issuing merchant;
• Bank gift cards are issued by a bank or financial institution through Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover networks and can be used wherever the network’s credit cards or debit cards are accepted.
Retail Gift Cards
Retail gift cards must disclose expiration dates, and the card or packaging must disclose any fees. You cannot be charged inactivity or service fees for cards purchased after Aug. 22, 2010, unless the card has not been used for at least a year, and then you can be charged once per month. Cards cannot expire for at least five years from the purchase date or from the last date any additional funds were added to the card for cards purchased after Aug. 22, 2010. If the expiration date listed on the card is earlier than these dates, the money can be transferred to a replacement card at no cost. You may be charged a fee to buy the card and to replace one that has been lost or stolen.
Buying a Gift Card
Buy from a trusted source. Be leery of cards from online gift card resellers because they could have been already used, fraudulently obtained or counterfeit. Read the fine print and be aware of the fees, including any costs to purchase the card, and any shipping and handling. Know the expiration date. If you’re buying the card as a gift, include the original receipt in case the card is lost or stolen. Make sure the protective stickers have not been removed or scratched off to reveal a card’s Personal Identification Number.
Using a Gift Card
Be sure you understand the terms, including any fees and the expiration date. Ask the person who gave it to you for the receipt in case you need a replacement card. Some retailers may not issue replacement cards, but others might with proof of purchase.
Use a gift card or certificate as soon as possible. You’ll minimize the chances of losing it, the opportunities to incur fees.
Free Gift Card?
Be very wary of letters, emails or text messages claiming you won a gift card. You may be required to provide personal information or pay an “activation fee.” You should not pay for something that’s free, and you should not provide any personal information. If it’s a text message or email, it likely asks you to click on a link. That link could infect your computer or cell phone with a virus.
To file a complaint or get more information, call the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 888-777-4590.