According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), $23.6 billion was spent on gift cards during the 2009 holiday season with an average of $40 spent per card. The two most popular categories for gift cards were restaurants and department stores. It's no wonder why gift cards are all the rage; they are simple, fun and almost always guaranteed to please.
Unfortunately, in a down economy some consumers may try to cut corners and purchase "discounted" gift cards from auction Web sites. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) gift cards bought from such sites or classifieds often turn out to be fraudulent or stolen.
BBB's do's and don'ts for giving gift cards:
from online auction sites – only buy gift cards from reputable retailers. Gift cards sold at online auction sites are more likely to be counterfeit or obtained by fraudulent means. It's even possible these cards could have no value when purchased.
Do examine gift cards closely before purchasing them at stores. Do not purchase cards that appear to have been tampered with. Criminals have been able to get info off of cards and wipe out their balances leaving you with a worthless purchase. It may be best to buy them from the customer service counter as opposed to a public rack.
Do read the terms and conditions that are required to be clearly disclosed on the card’s packaging prior to purchasing. Understand any associated fees and expiration dates.
Do give the recipient the original receipt to verify the card's purchase, in case it's lost or stolen.
BBB's do's and don'ts for receiving gift cards:
treat your card like cash. If it's lost or stolen, immediately report it to the issuer.
Don't wait to use your card. It's not unusual to misplace gift cards or to forget you have them. Using the card early will ensure you get its full value, as some terms deplete the balance over certain time period.