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Protecting Your Gift Card

December 4, 2013, 10:10 PM by Angela Kennecke

Protecting Your Gift Card
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

They cut down on the wrapping and they don't take much space under the tree--gift cards are more popular than ever this holiday season. 80 percent of shoppers will buy them for someone and spend on average more than $163 on gift cards.

Vivian and Jesse Hofer have nine children, 20 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren and they give them all gift cards. 

"It's just easier to buy gift cards because they run from $13 to $27; so what do you buy them? The answer!" Vivian Hofer said as she held up the gift cards.

Retailers are making gift cards easier than ever to buy just about anywhere.  Hofer likes this one-stop shop at the mall.   But when cards are on racks, the Better Business Bureau says look them over carefully.

"Look for one that is sealed. Look for one the pin number isn't scratched off on," Jessie Schmidt of the Better Business Bureau said.

Because you wouldn't want your card to be drained of its balance after you activate it, but before you give it away.  According to the law, gift cards must be good for at least five years. Those from Visa and American Express, usually charge fees because that's the only way their issuers can turn a profit. In the case of the mall's cards that fee is $3 or less. Store cards typically don't come with fees.

"Retailers love gift cards, because let's face it, many of them end up sitting in a drawer going unused. For those that do get used, 30 percent of people say they spend an extra $25 over the balance on the card. 

Register your gift card with the store's website if possible, in case you lose it and when you give a card also give a receipt.

"Give a gift receipt with a gift card. That really gives the consumer protection from the retailer they bought it from," Schmidt said.

You can buy discounted gift cards online, but watch out for phony sites that will send you cards with no balance. In the future, look for a rise in mobile gift cards that you'll be able to use on your smartphone. 

Many churches and schools in the area have a script program that sells gift cards. It's a great way to get them while benefiting non-profit organizations.

Reputable online giftcard exchange sites:

http://www.cardhub.com/us/gift-cards/

http://www.cardpool.com/

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