The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Business

December 2, 2013

The Color of Money: Gift cards, explained

I get a lot of gift cards and I bet you do too.

     Since it's often hard to buy for people, our friends and family have resorted to giving us these cards. Once seen as the lazy person's go-to present, gift cards have become a practical and acceptable way to give.

     This holiday season, eight in 10 consumers said they would be buying gift cards, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation. Shoppers are expected to spend an average of $163.16 on gift cards, the highest amount in the survey's 11-year history. The gift-card market is estimated to top $130 billion in sales by 2015, according to research by CEB TowerGroup.

     Since 2010, gift certificates, store gift cards, and general-use prepaid cards come with some pretty good protections, thanks to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, also known as the Credit CARD Act.

     So as you begin your holiday shopping here are some tips if you plan on giving a gift card:

     -- Expiration date limits. The money you load on a gift card is good for at least five years from the date the card was purchased. Any funds that might be added to a gift card later must also be good for at least five years. Tip: A friend gave me a gift certificate for a chain restaurant. I put up the certificate for safe keeping until a special occasion when I might go to the pricey restaurant. The problem is I forgot about it. I recently found it as I was organizing my office. But thanks to the CARD Act, I had a really nice meal several years after I got the certificate. To eliminate the possibility of losing gift cards, create a file folder and put the cards in it immediately after receiving them. 

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