The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


December 2, 2013

The Color of Money: Gift cards, explained


     -- Leftover money. A gift-card recipient may still be able to get a replacement gift card, even if it's expired, if there is still money left on the card. If your card expires and there is unspent money, you can request a replacement card at no charge, according to the Federal Reserve. Tip: When you give a gift card, make an effort to highlight the expiration date, which is often in small print on the back of the card. If the person you are giving the card is like me, he or she might want to save it for a special occasion to honor your thoughtfulness. But like me, he or she might tuck it away somewhere and forget about it.

     -- Fee limits. I hate to admit it, but I've lost the value of gift cards often because of fees. However, many fees are limited because of the CARD Act. Generally, fees can be charged if you haven't used your card for at least one year. Restrictions apply to maintenance fees, inactivity fees for not using your card, usage fees, or fees for adding money to your card. Often general-purpose gift cards will charge a monthly fee after 12 months of inactivity. Gift cards issued by banks, malls and credit-card companies are more likely to have expiration dates or activation, maintenance, inactivity and transaction fees. Tip: Understandably, if you want to give someone the maximum flexibility to shop at any store, you might buy a general-purpose gift card. But help people out by again pointing out any fees that could be assessed on this type of gift card. Just include a little note or sticker that lists the date at which fees will be assessed. After all, if recipients don't use the card, it's money wasted.

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