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Tips for Buying and Using Gift Cards | Crime

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Tips for Buying and Using Gift Cards
Tips for Buying and Using Gift Cards

From Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs:

Buying a gift card
  • Know what type of card you want.  Retail gift cards can be used only at a specific business or restaurant.  Bank gift cards can be used at any location that accepts cards from that bank network.   
  • Buy directly from a business or bank!  Avoid online auction or classified ad sites, where the cards may have been stolen or counterfeited.  Be cautious about buying gift cards from a business in financial trouble; a company in bankruptcy may not be able to honor its cards. 
  • Review the card’s terms and conditions before you buy to make sure the card’s a good value.  For example, are there activation and/or transaction fees?  What’s the issuer’s responsibility if the card’s lost?  Does the card have an expiration date?  
  • Gift cards issued by Virginia merchants must include certain disclosures.  If the card doesn’t include an expiration date and/or will diminish in value over time, it must include a telephone number or internet address where you can learn more about the card’s expiration and valuation.
  • As a result of the Credit CARD Act of 2009, effective August 22, 2010, gift cards can’t incur inactivity fees unless they’re inactive for at least a 12-month period.  Look for issuers to compensate for these lost “dormancy” fees by introducing new fees, like a charge to inquire about the card’s remaining balance.
  • Inspect the card before your buy it.  Reject the card if protective stickers are missing or if PINs are exposed.  These are signs of tampering.
  • Register the gift card online if the service is offered.
  • Keep your receipt and any paperwork associated with the purchase.  You may need it later in case the card is lost or stolen.  If you’re giving the card as a gift, give both the card and the paperwork.
Using a gift card
  • Use gift cards promptly to minimize fees and avoid the chance of misplacing them.
  • A gift card is like cash – with one possible exception.  If it’s lost or stolen, you may be able to get a replacement if it’s reported promptly to the issuer and you can both document the purchase and provide the card’s ID number.
  • If you have a problem with a gift card, contact the company or bank that issued it.  Have your paperwork handy when you call!  Most companies will have a toll-free number or internet address for questions and complaints.
  • If you’re unable to resolve a gift-card problem with a retail issuer, contact the U.S. Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).  If the gift card was issued by a bank, contact the Comptroller of the Currency’s Customer Assistance Group by calling toll-free 1-800-613-6743 or by sending an e-mail to customer.assistance@occ.treas.gov.

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Call for Advice: 703-222-8435  TTY: 711 or submit a question via e-mail on our website.

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