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If you received a gift card or two for the holidays this year, you’re not alone.
The National Retail Federation anticipated spending on gift cards - the most requested present - would reach over $28 billion this year. In fact, 81.1 percent of shoppers intended to purchase at least one gift card this holiday season.
With holiday shopping behind us, it’s time to start thinking about gift returns and exchanges, as well as the best way to spend those gift cards. Before you blow your gift card’s balance on unnecessary items, consider these seven tips for savvy shopping:
1. Register it.
Gift cards are like cash in that if they get lost or stolen, there's no way to get your money back. Unlike cash, however, registering you gift card provides you with protection. Take a few moments to register you card with the retailer or restaurant via their website. This way, you can cancel the card if it goes missing. You may also find added perks upon registration, like a free coffee on your birthday from Starbucks.
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2. Review the details.
Consumer protection laws ensure plenty of time to redeem the card, but it’s still a good idea to read up on the rules and review potential restrictions. Gift cards from credit card companies may include redemption fees, while promotional gift cards - those received for free with a purchase - are usually considered a coupon and may carry product restrictions and rapid expiration.
3. Exchange it.
Gift cards seem like the easiest gifts to get right and yet, there are plenty of people who still get it wrong. Even though it’s the thought that counts, it’s frustrating to receive a gift card to a store or restaurant you don’t like or isn't nearby. Luckily, you can exchange gift cards for cash using sites like GiftCardGranny.com, enabling you to spend the majority of the card’s value on something you really want.
Under the new CARD Act, consumers with gift cards are protected from mounting inactivity fees and early expiration dates. Since 2009, retailers are prohibited from adding fees to cards that haven't been used for at least one year, and cards cannot expire for at least five years. That means you have plenty of time to think about a purchase and buy when you’re ready. This ensures you don't spend the funds just because you’re up against the clock.
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