You may not have noticed in the post-holiday blur, but this year’s gift card industry experienced some major scams and setbacks. From unactivated gift cards at Target and elsewhere, to hidden fees and other scams, many shoppers may be swearing off the popular gift altogether. With a few smart shopping tips though, gift card buying can be risk-free, and you can continue to give your friends and family the freedom to choose a gift they love with gift cards to their favorite spots.
1. Watch out for hidden fees! These often pop up when buying general purpose gift cards, like those from American Express and Visa. This chart from BankRate can help to find out what fees might be lurking on gift cards, and will help you decide if you might be better off with a cash gift.
2. Save the receipt from your gift card purchase in case there was an error in its activation. Slip the receipt in with your gift, and your recipient will avoid the awkward encounter of a malfunctioning gift card at the store! This also lets them know the amount on the card without having to ask you or check online.
3. Think twice about purchasing reloadable gift cards if you’re not sure how often your recipient will use it. Reloadable cards are convenient for heavy users, but aren’t subject to the same laws as traditional gift cards and may expire at any time (whereas other cards cannot expire for at least 5 years after issue). Read the fine print before you buy.
4. Buy gift cards in bulk when possible to scoop up extra savings. During the holiday season, many retailers will throw in bonus gift cards if you purchase a certain amount, and Sam’s Club and other retailers offer bulk savings all year long. If you have a long list for gifts, plan your shopping to save a bit with bulk purchases.
5. Make your gift card personal by choosing a retailer that is unexpected or that you know your recipient will love. Customize your gift card on a site like Giftly.com or choose from one of the hundreds of unique retailers on GiftZip to find the perfect match.
6. Scope out your favorite deal sites, like LivingSocial or Groupon to find gift cards at less than face value. These deals don’t come along every day, but vigilant shoppers can score major bargains.
7. Don’t get burned by bankrupt companies. When a company goes bankrupt, all its gift cards lose their value, so beware of small companies without a proven track record or retailers that your gift recipient may take a while to redeem a card for. Strong performers like iTunes and Amazon are always good bets for gift cards.
8. Don’t pay shipping when ordering gift cards online! Save a few bucks by going to the store to pick one up, or by sending an e-Gift Card from GiftZip. They’re hassle-free, instant, and eco-friendly!
9. If you have unused gift cards of your own, you can swap them in for cards to other stores, or even cash to buy gifts or anything else you’d like! Sites like GiftCardGranny.com offer swapped-in gift cards for bargain prices.
10. Keep an eye out for ways to redeem points from your credit card, airline, or even market research survey sites for gift cards. These sites sometimes partner with retailers and offer gift cards for a lower point value than you might expect!